When you remake a beloved franchise (and in this case, when I say franchise I mean “a film that amassed a number of television shows, comics, and websites about it”), you run the risk of angering the fans who have followed it since its release. It’s just common nature to complain about a remake ruining the “atmosphere” of the original; based on the track record of Hollywood’s remake machine, it’s difficult to blame people for anticipating the worst. So when Ghostbusters was announced, there was an inevitable backlash against it, and I think that most people can relate to the reasons behind it: we don’t need another one, some would say, or we don’t need a big-budget blockbuster to obliterate the allure of the original. Even I get it: I vehemently opposed the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street remakes, and I had a little twinge of self-aggrandizement when I saw both of those films and proved that I was right.
But no normal, regular person should have expected the ridiculous amount of hate-speech that Ghostbusters has created. It’s one thing to be upset that, in some small way, a remake could detract from the original’s appeal for current audiences who never saw that first film. But being self-righteously angry, being so brutalized by the announcement of something that will literally have no effect on your life or well-being since you can choose to forego seeing it, makes me question your sanity. And it certainly makes me question whether these self-pronounced “fans” really care in the first place, or if they’re just trolls slapping away at their keyboards in some grand delusion that they actually mean something.
That’s why I wanted to write this review a little differently than usual. For one thing, I’ve been mulling over exactly how to formulate my key points into a readable review. For another, it gets boring writing the same old format over and over again. Without further ado, I’d like to segue into this review of Ghostbusters by initially documenting that, why yes (and thank you for asking rather than shouting at me about even bothering to go see it), I did very much enjoy this new addition to the franchise.
Paul Feig and Katie Dippold co-write this Ghostbusters remake, and in a lot of ways, the story is quite similar to the original film besides a swapping of characters and gender reversals. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a physicist and amateur paranormal investigator, joins forces with Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her teammate Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) initially because she’s worried that Abby’s use of their co-written paranormal book will affect her tenure at a prestigious college; but once their ghost hunt leads to multiple ghastly apparitions caused by Rowan North’s (Neil Casey) apparition-luring devices, they realize that they’ve got to do something or else all of New York City will be infested with dangerous high-class ghosts causing tons of mischief. They team up with Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who is able to chauffeur them around the city in a suped-up hearse fashioned into the classic Ghostbusters Ecto-1.
Sounds reasonably similar to the original film, right? That’s because this is, for good and bad, a fairly standard remake, ditching the dudes and importing chicks instead. And it works, because the idea is classic and because Feig and Dippold’s script, and Feig’s actresses, are able to handle the brunt of the work. This is a classic Feig film, and Wiig and McCarthy are playing versions of characters they’ve done before. Wiig’s more straight-laced character is combined with her usual brand of awkwardness that translates into charm, and for Erin, that makes sense – she’s the neutral party here, not strongly aligned with Abby’s obsession with the paranormal and yet not a disbeliever either. McCarthy is less abrasive than her usual characters warrant – see Feig’s recent films Spy, The Heat, or Bridesmaids for an example of how aggressively raunchy she can be – but she’s still operating on similar levels of sarcasm and wry – often immature – humor.
Jones admittedly doesn’t get a lot to work with, often relegated to standard tropes and subtle jabs of humor about how positively upbeat she can be. It’s not her fault, though, mostly an issue with the script rather than her acting ability. But McKinnon gets the most well-written and uproarious parts, given free reign to go wild in a part that closely resembles Harold Ramis’ Egon; those who found Ramis’ portrayal funny will get a kick out of McKinnon’s extended version of him, played to even greater lengths. Even Chris Hemsworth gets a huge amount of excellent scenes, another memorable character who’s written as a generically stereotypical gag.
Ghostbusters‘ follows the formula pretty closely, and it’s hard to fault it for that – it takes risks in certain situations, like changes to ghost designs that rely heavily on CGI, but for the most part Feig keeps the plot simple and entertaining. While the humor is exponentially different and the technology both more advanced and nonsensical, the same feeling is here: a light-hearted portrayal of hauntings mixed with a villain who’s more zany than outright evil.
Ghostbusters did not kick me in the balls and challenge my manhood.
While Ghostbusters sports a majorly feminine cast, there’s no reason for men to get their jock straps in a twist. Feig and Dippold aren’t ramming feminism down the audience’s throats, and the cast change has very little effect on the overall film. Substitute male actors for the female roles and you’d basically have a regular ol’ remake of Ghostbusters, which also probably wouldn’t sit well with fans. Men’s rights activists (let me just clear this up – no matter how much you want to make this activism a thing, it isn’t and will never be a thing) should learn a thing or two from Ghostbusters‘ refusal to push any sort of idea or belief on the audience; it’s almost like this was an outcry against the film because some viewers really do hate women and black people, especially when it’s a black woman! That can’t be true, right?
For the most part, Ghostbusters doesn’t suck as much as trolls who haven’t seen it claim it does.
Feig’s film isn’t perfect, and it certainly has its number of flaws. The humor doesn’t always land, and Ghostbusters often feels disjointed – some scenes can be uproarious, and others can be downright cringe-worthy. That inequality is an issue, but it doesn’t detract from the film nearly as much as one might expect.
Feig and Dippold’s script is pretty generic, though, and that does become tedious during certain long swaths of film. The beginning isn’t the best showcase for what Ghostbusters has to offer, and there’s certainly an uphill battle there with audiences; even the first haunting scene, taking cues from the library scene in the original film, pales in comparison, a poor effort that will leave a bad taste in the mouth early on. Give it some time, though, and Ghostbusters gets inventive, with references to the original film, meta-commentary on all of the terrible YouTube comments on the film’s trailer, and cameo appearances by almost every one of the old Ghostbusters crew. Even Slimer makes a return with a wifey despite getting a very small role.
You’ll want to see this for yourself, even if you’re hesitant.
If you’re truly a fan of Ghostbusters, you’ll need to see this for yourself in order to weigh in on its success or failure. Only you can decide your own opinion, and I’m not here to tell you how to feel one way or the other. For me, Ghostbusters was two hours of fun, albeit with a fair share of imperfections. It’s important to recognize that this remake is not meant to copy everything, and whether that’s a flaw or a boon is up to the viewer to decide. Ghostbusters isn’t a perfect Class 7 apparition, but this is a rather full-bodied Class 5 that deserves a chance to be studied.