Hey! I’m back! And this time, no pictures!
(Seriously, pictures are apparently a HUGE problem. So we’re just not gonna use them. #dealwithit)
Ironically enough, regarding that, let’s talk about the all-new GHOSTBUSTERS (2016.) I almost feel compelled to refer to it that way every time I type it because frankly, I don’t want anyone confusing what I have to say about the Paul Feig-helmed reboot/remake/whatever with my opinion of the 1984 original. Of course, if you know me at all, you’d never do that anyway because in my eye, the original is maybe the perfect movie, and the new one is…decidedly not.
To be fair, I went into my viewing of GHOSTBUSTERS with the most open mind I could muster. I did my best avoid comparisons to the original, but the new movie practically refused to let me get away with that. For a film that tried so hard to distance itself from its predecessors and begin a new cinematic universe, it sure as hell didn’t have any problem with constantly referencing those that came before it. And I’m not just talking about the recycled-but-not-entirely ideas like Ecto-1 and Slimer’s appearance; those are forgivable, since the movie is ostensibly a reboot that is supposed to do exactly that kind of thing. It’s more about reused quotes (“Burn in hell,” “mass hysteria,” etc.) and tongue-in-cheek references to the first two films (“books don’t fly, and neither do babies”…except in GHOSTBUSTERS 1 & 2 respectively, of course) that I’m sure were supposed to be treated as Easter eggs for the diehards but instead just bothered me. As a lifelong GHOSTBUSTERS fan, I think I’m among others who were desperately hoping for a third movie to follow up on the first two; why are you teasing me with the idea that this might be that when it clearly isn’t?
But I digress. My initial expectation was that I would probably like the movie all right on its own but be less satisfied when comparing it to the source material; unfortunately, I just generally wasn’t satisfied all-around. The humor felt flat and forced from all angles, even Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann — make no mistake, Holtzmann is the shining star of this thing as we all expected, but even she only gets a couple of chuckle-worthy lines about the president being a plant in 2040 and how many uses she has for a cadaver today. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are just sort of there, and Leslie Jones…well, at least she isn’t as irritating as I’d anticipated after putting up with her on Saturday Night Live, but that’s about as far as that kindness goes. By far, the worst is Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin, though I really don’t chalk that up to any fault of Hemsworth’s personally. As the ‘Busters’ dim-witted secretary, Kevin is annoyingly stupid at best and problematically stupid at worst, but at least he’s consistently stupid, I guess? It’s an absurd level of idiocy; I recognize that this is a movie about ghosts at heart, but we’re talking about a character who tries twice to put his hand through an aquarium to pick up a phone and mishears the name “Martin” as “Smartin.” He’s almost entirely useless to the women, and yet it seems that only Erin (Wiig’s character) is interested in keeping him around because he’s a beefcake, so why is he still on the payroll, exactly?
At least Kevin has a character, to be fair. Rowan, the heir apparent to the Gozer and Vigo villain throne, is…a guy. One who was bullied all his life (which we know because of one throwaway line he speaks to himself), apparently, but that’s his schtick: he builds little machines that amplify paranormal activity and wants to break the barrier to use ghosts to “pester the living” but also he wants to die and become the leader of the ghosts to bring about the “fourth cataclysm” (never explained outside of “everyone dies”) and do you see how ridiculous this is yet. This guy completely jeopardizes his own plan on the daily by discussing it with anyone who’ll listen and plotting it in a *^&%ing diner because…he’s arrogant, I guess? But he’s also damaged because he was bullied. But he’s also a genius. And most importantly, he’s also a plot device because the most interesting ghost in this whole movie is wasted within the first half an hour after inexplicably puking on one of the leads.
There are so many little threads sticking out of the plot of GHOSTBUSTERS that every member of Weezer will be triggered while watching it. Rowan’s equipment is apparently a reverse-engineered version of the new ‘Busters’ packs. That’s neat! But it never goes anywhere. Hey, the NSA and Homeland Security apparently already know about ghosts and want the ‘Busters to back off! That’s cool! Except we never see any evidence that they have a clue what they’re doing and are only shown doing their jobs very, very poorly. Holtzmann whipped up some boss side-arms for the crew! Awesome! Where’d she get the materials or time to do so in a movie that apparently takes place in the course of less than a week? Good question! At this point, it likely will not surprise you to learn that this film’s original cut was reportedly four hours and fifteen minutes long. Feig did some cuttin’, is what I’m trying to say, and maybe not for the better in a lot of cases.
Speaking of those side-arms, this is where my ability to avoid comparing the new film to the original almost entirely disappears. The ’84 Ghostbusters were essentially paranormal cops/plumbers, operating a small business that specialized in capturing, removing, and detaining rogue spirits. No job was too big, and no fee was too big. The 2016 Ghostbusters capture literally one ghost in their entire film. And they let that one go on purpose. They build a trap before they have a containment unit; they want to “study” their catch but have no way of observing it in captivity, and as a matter of fact, most of their equipment is designed to destroy ghosts instead. Sure, the proton packs are there, but so are some sort of proton shotgun, a pair of pistols, a proton glove for hand-to-spectral-hand combat, full-on *^&%ing grenades, and the piece de resistance, the “Ghost Chipper,” which is exactly what it sounds like, like it or not. These are not beat cops/exterminators. The new Ghostbusters are practically a paramilitary outfit because science isn’t cool, but “I %*$&ing Love Science” is the coolest.
Ultimately, what we have here is a film that borrows not even the aesthetic of its source but simply its ability to be instantly recognized publicly. The plot is lackluster, the jokes are crepe-thin, and the characters are uninteresting. And for the record, I wouldn’t have loved this movie even if they had cast guys. I wouldn’t have loved it with a better cast of women (looking at you, Tina Fey), and I wouldn’t have even loved it if all four of the original ‘Busters were alive to make it. The cast, for the most part, wasn’t the biggest problem with this movie. The movie was.
What I did like:
- The opening sequence at the Aldridge Mansion (right up to the point that we find out the tour guide somehow survived and that Gertrude’s not going to be any kind of major player)
- The general appearance of the new GB equipment (if not their actual utilization)
- The near-ending fight sequence against old New York’s best (save for the fact that there’s nary a trap in sight and everything’s just getting slimed because it’s easier, I guess)
I’m not big on rating on a numerical scale or anything like that, but in general, I’m only glad I saw this in theaters so I could get the disappointment out of the way sooner. And that’s a damn shame for someone who has always thought of themselves as an honorary Ghostbuster.
‘Til next time,