By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter
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Before I get into my thoughts on the new Ghostbusters film, here are few points to get out of the way first. There will be minor spoilers.
*While I like the original Ghostbusters, it’s not in my Top 10 list and isn’t a movie I seek out to watch on a regular basis.
*My first thoughts on a new Ghostbusters film was more against Hollywood making another remake in general and had nothing to do with remaking Ghostbusters itself.
*I like Melissa McCarthy
*I don’t find Kristin Wiig funny and found her to be near unwatchable on Saturday Night Live.
*What I’ve seen of Kate McKinnon, I’ve found her to be entertaining.
*I haven’t seen enough of Leslie Jones to form an opinion of her.
*The first trailer made me think this would be another lackluster remake focusing more on name recognition instead of creating a good story.
As I just stated, I didn’t have much interest in seeing the new version of Ghostbusters until the backlash happened. Once Ghostbusters became the most hated trailer on YouTube, I was curious to see if the film would live down to the hate.
The same reasoning is why I saw Fantastic Four and Batman vs. Superman. Both of those films, while not great, were nowhere near as terrible as the Internet mindset would have you believe. As I entered the theater to see Ghostbusters, I tried to clear my head of both the original film and the collective hatred of keyboard warriors around the world.
The new version started similarly to the original with an unsuspecting person going about their normal work routine before encountering a ghost. From there, the new version creates its own story with some subtle nods to the original. Unfortunately, where the original blended humor and comedy quite well, GB2016 fails to do either subject well.
The humor, what little there is, in GB2016 is bottom of the barrel material or the same joke repeated over and over. When Kristin Wiig’s character first interacts with Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon, they inform her they have an audio recording of a ghost making contact. Wiig’s interest in listening to the tape leads to a recorded fart. From there, there’s an extended exchange with the Dean of the school where McCarthy and McKinnon work which ends with the Dean giving double middle fingers repeatedly while talking about birds. That’s the height of the humor in GB2016. Every “joke” based around Chris Hemsworth’s character relies on his (exaggerated even for a movie) stupidity to the point where the humor is more groan inducing instead of funny.
It is interesting to note the argument for making an all female Ghostbusters was a way to empower women and give girls heroes. In the same movie, the receptionist is then played by a handsome male and is sexually objectified by Kristin Wiig. I guess the people involved wanted to show powerful women can commit sexual harassment as well as men.
The least important aspect of the new Busters is the fact they're women. The disappointing factor is the characters are all bland. Leslie Jones shows the most personality of the four, which isn’t that, big of a compliment. McKinnon’s character of Holtzman is there purely to create gadgets and to have over the top expressions for cutaway shots. Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are perfectly adequate in their performances. However, I don’t see their characters of Erin Gilbert and Abbie Yates being as revered as Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd’s Peter Venkman and Raymond Stantz.
Thinking about the movie, I tried to assign personalities to the four main characters. Kristin Wiig is a scientist who once believed in ghost before pursuing a serious academic career and denying a belief in ghosts only to circle back around to believing in ghosts. Melissa McCarthy is a scientist who believes in ghost. Kate McKinnon, as stated before, is a scientist who’s kooky and makes dangerous equipment. Leslie Jones is MTA employee turned ghostbuster. Beyond what I’ve written, there are no other characteristics to the characters.
The villain in the movie is also one-dimensional. He’s a nerdy guy who’s tired of being bullied so he’s going to release ghosts on New York. He’s so underwritten that after he comes back as a ghost he first inhabits Chris Hemsworth’s body and then the ghostbusters logo character while still having no personality.
Unlike the build up to Zuul and Gozer in the original Ghostbusters, the new version simply unleashes ghosts that are then killed(?) by the ghostbusters with little drama. There’s no emotional investment in the final battle due to there being nothing interesting leading up to it.
Another aspect the new Ghostbusters lacks in comparison to the original is quote ability. Part of the original’s appeal is all the “classic” lines fans use in everyday conversations. As I type this two hours after leaving the theater, the only line that I can recall from the new movie is by Chris Hemsworth’s character, dimwitted receptionist Kevin: “aquariums are submarines for fish.” Not exactly, “we came. We saw. We kicked its ass.” Is it? Maybe it’s unfair to use that as a criticism but when you’re dealing with one of the most quotable movies ever, to not have any memorable lines is quite an accomplishment.
I understand I’m not in the demographic this movie is aimed towards and I don’t want to be a cynical and dismissive simply because a piece of my childhood has been re-imagined for a new generation. I do think though these modern day remakes focus more on name brand recognition than creating movies with heart. And that’s where GB2016 really falls flat. There is so little of a story that it seems the writers involved simply said, “People like Ghostbusters. Lets have our characters in similar outfits and ghosts. We don’t need anything beyond that. Oh, and lets make them women.”
After an hour and fifty-two minutes of watching ghosts being busted my reaction is quite simple. This new version will most likely be disappointing to die-hard fans of the original but at the same time will satisfy the average filmgoer who doesn’t want more than a fun night out at the theater and doesn’t critically think about movies. I do wonder if today’s youth will embrace these characters and movie the way my generation embraced the original. Will kids see something in the movie I am incapable of seeing?
Would I recommend seeing the new Ghostbusters? I guess it depends on how you view the original and what you’re looking for when you go to the movies. Before I started writing this, I was discussing my thoughts with a friend and was hit by an analogy that seems pretty fitting. In the new movie, instead of renting an old firehouse, the ghostbusters set up shop above a Chinese restaurant. Ghostbusters is like a Chinese meal; satisfying while you’re watching it but an hour after it’s over, you’re going to want something else to fill your appetite.