In 1984 Columbia Pictures released a film that (on paper) shouldn’t have worked. A new horror comedy devoid of the genre-stylized campness that made it’s predecessors so successful. It was a box office hit that spawned a sequel, a cartoon and countless amounts of merchandising.
Having cemented itself in cinema history and in the hearts of its fans, this family favourite film stood the test of time and even managed to age gracefully in the process.
Entering a period of Hollywood filmmaking where remaking and rebooting a franchise (over a new story idea) is becoming more and more frequent – it was only a matter of time before this gem was up for debate. Fans had been clamoring for a third film in the franchise for a number of years – despite the second movie not being as well received but still lovingly-crafted in the style of the first film. Indeed the original creators batted the scripts for GB3 back and forth until it was called off (Largely due to the death of original cast member Harold Ramis and lack of commitment from Bill Murray) and a high end video game was created which made use of the potential films plot.
In 2016 the franchise was rebooted with ‘Ghostbusters : Answer the call‘. When news of the reboot emerged fans were initially skeptical. The film was to be a female-centric cast that didn’t reference the events of the two previous ‘Ghostbusters‘ movies. When the trailer arrived online it became the most disliked film trailer in Youtube history and garnered 24 million views in just 24 hours. Reeling from the negative response of the trailer, Sony and (the films Director) Paul Feig hit back with commentary that labelled the detractors as misogynistic cry babies who hated the trailer because of the feminine representation and not because of the quality of the film itself. Sony embarked on a reactionary spin campaign to promote the film in a more gender political fashion and even went as far to delete the trailers Youtube comments that called into question the film itself (as we learned from the hacked Sony emails), thus adding fuel to the fires of gender-based opinion.
Answer The Call
I must confess I was quite reluctant to see this film. I grew up on the franchise. I was unfortunately even more reluctant to review or write any content on the subject, for obvious reasons. Now that the smoke is clearing on the issue I feel I can talk about it in a more objective fashion.
Any remake of a beloved and groundbreaking franchise is a bad idea. The problem is that this remake is a product of lazy Hollywood. By that I refer to gender swapping, rebooting and remaking franchises because there’s a certain safety from a studios point of view – an existing fanbase willing to give your film a chance. Hollywood largely banks on what will make them money, they don’t care about a films artistic merit. So when they cast men in action films and women in romantic films its because they know the majority audience will pay money to see it. It’s not social statement, it’s business.
The remake as a whole feels like it was born out of spite. It contains a vein of utter contempt for men which overrides any credible plot points. It would be easy to comment on the representation of men in this film (being that all men in the film are represented as incompetent, evil, dickish or as incompetent evil AND dickish), the obviously Vaginal aesthetic of the PKE meter, the objectification of Chris Hemsworth character, Sony’s non-committal to an LGBT character, the horrible black stereotypes Leslie Jones character embodied – but I don’t want to get bogged down in racial, gender and identity politics – it’s not that sort of review. Needless to say this theme is distractingly prevalent and only serves to alienate the viewer from the beginning.
I’m going to assume that Paul Feig has never seen the original movies. It seems unfair to lump all the blame on him but it does certainly feel that he steered that particular ship into that particular iceberg before it went down. The original characters were instantly likeable and distinct from each other whereas the characters from GBATC are either kooky-for-the-sake-of-kooky or otherwise only visually distinguishable.
The original plot saw the Ghostbusters taking their scientific findings and adapting them into functioning business model. There were stakes at play being both financial and emotional. With GBATC they never quite get the audience on board in that aspect. The furthest they reach in that arena is to mention in passing that the fire house is out of their budget.
Was Kevin Murphy involved in this project? Not to toot my own horn, but I’d recognize the absurd over-use of psychedelic pinks and greens from ‘Batman Returns’ chief Lighting technician ANYWHERE! It gives the scenes a nice comic book feel which I found unfortunately to distract me from the Pringles product placement.
I get the impression that they tried to emulate the success of the first film by ad-libbing excessively. In GB the script was abandoned for large quantities of dialogue which made for some very memorable exchanges. This however seemed to slow GBATC down to awkward crawl – with dialogue that never really connects and jokes that never seem to land, which is a shame because these women have fantastic comedy chops and having seen Hemsworth’s ‘Thor : During Civil War‘ short I had hoped for a better delivery. They somehow even managed to poorly execute a fart joke…..
Holtzman is so wacky and alternative, grungy and kooky, vulnerable and weird,flirty and smart AND she knows a repetitive handshake! This was the only character I felt that they fleshed out but handled badly. Her screen presence became an annoyance rather than any comedic relief. Her dialogue in a lot of scenes seemed like a child interrupting an adult conversation. Whereas Patty became the angry shouty-black-woman stereotype that we had all feared since seeing the trailer, whose presence in the team seemed to be (unlike everyman Winston Zeddemore who was an average Joe chasing a paycheck) – “I met you once so I quit my job to join your team!”. Her acting style seemingly to the tune of a completely different film, albeit a slightly better one.
With regards to any expositional gripes I may have had with the film – I found the Proton pack (are we still allowed to call them that? I mean, I know they’re using the name, the logo and branding but completely distancing themselves from the original…….anyway) Scenes to be fairly flimsy. There was no training or testing and very little mention of acknowledging either. There was however plenty of references to lighting them up which seemed a hollow nod to the earlier films(You know, the ones we’re pretending didn’t happen).
The original cast cameos seemed forced, especially in Murrays case. I say that in comment of the performances and not in comment on the legal strong-arming and bribery by Sony. The only one that seemed totally genuine was Ham Akroyd who surprisingly I almost didn’t recognize because he wasn’t trying to hawk his crystal skull vodka.
Luckily I didn’t watch the special edition cut of the film and so was spared the big dance number that appears briefly in the closing credits.
The film is a mess – there’s simply no other way I can put it. So caught up with it’s own third-wave feminist agenda, it relies too heavily on gimmickry and publicity to drive what is just a plain rubbish film. The opportunity to make something wonderful was there and it was hijacked by gender statements and close-minded identity politics which were effectively used to deflect criticism of this failed experiment. The lesson here is that you can’t rely on your core audience after you’ve systematically alienated them from the film. If a remake can’t successfully pay homage to the source material then I believe it’s missing what made the original great in the first place.
On my death bed, hopefully years from now, i will look back on the time i wasted by watching this film and i will be filled with such pure regret that it will finish me off entirely. And when i reach those fiery gates the Devil himself will see the pain within my eternal soul. He’ll shake his head and say “I feel you, buddy”.
Ghostbusters : Answer the call? NO. Hang up the call. Unplug the phone. Put it in the bin. Burn the bin. Burn the house down. Flatten it with a bulldozer and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.