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Commentary: The ‘Ghostbusters’ Remake

Yesterday was Ghostbusters Day. In celebration, the cast of the original Ghostbusters and the cast of the remake appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live together.

When Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts walked out to the movie’s theme song, a smile as wide as the Brooklyn Bridge grew across my face. After hearing so many stories that Mr. Murray was fed up with the series, it was fantastic to see him in high spirits – dancing with Ms. Potts and joking with Mr. Aykroyd and Mr. Hudson.

My smile even stayed when the new cast of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones joined them. Of course, Kimmel brought up the female Ghostbuster haters that have bitched about the new movie since it was announced.

Hating the lady Ghostbusters is moronic.

They are four hilarious women who have chemistry together – an important component that helped make the original work.

Let me stress this: I have no beef with this casting! It’s quite brilliant. Ever since rumors of a new Ghostbusters movie began circulating in 2008, I’ve said that Kristen Wiig needs to be in it.

Lo and behold, she was cast.

Despite that, the new movie looks awful. Rarely do I forge such a bias based on two trailers and the portions of two scenes I’ve seen of a movie. It’s just, in this case, it doesn’t look good.

My beef is with the concept that director Paul Feig devised. In a recent interview, he stated he liked “origin stories” and wanted to set these new Ghostbusters in a world that doesn’t either know, believe, or been troubled by the existence of ghosts. In doing so, his Ghostbusters is a remake that has nothing to do with the original movies.

And that is my beef with the new Ghostbusters – the concept.

It makes no sense. More people probably believe in the existence of ghosts now than when the original movie was released. Ghostbusters ignited the imaginations of an entire generation. I wasn’t even a year old when the it was released; I only saw it on VHS. But to me – and probably millions of other kids – it wasn’t a comedy. It was a serious movie that allowed for comedic moments.

Listen to the commentary on the first movie. In it, director Ivan Reitman comments that the movie worked because it was approached as a serious movie. There are no joke set-ups in the script. The dialogue became classic from the delivery of the actors in the situation their characters were in. From what little I’ve seen of the remake, everything seems like it’s striving to be funny instead of letting it happen organically.

Another reason why the concept is ill-conceived is the existence of hundreds, maybe thousands, of paranormal investigation groups across the United States and around the world. There is NO WAY these ventures would exist without the original Ghostbusters.

Supernatural investigation has even gone main stream. In the last decade, several shows devoted to the topic have aired on television to become tremendous hits. Specifically Ghost Hunters on the SyFy Channel. The show centers around TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson after both had separate paranormal experiences that left them with questions about ghosts and wanting answers. Their hook was that they set out to disprove hauntings. If they couldn’t, and enough evidence was gathered, they’d conclude that there was paranormal activity at a location. And if they caught disembodied voices on recordings or film of an apparition (which they’ve done several times), they’d declare the location haunted. Would there be a market for a show like this without Ghostbusters? Probably not.

The remake wants to make us believe in something that a good portion of the population already does. Mr. Feig’s concept would be viable if he was in original territory. But he’s not. He’s piggybacking on a concept that we already believe.

It dismisses the last thirty years of advancements made in the field of psychical research. Hell, it dismisses the last thirty years worth of Ghostbusters mythology created in video games, cartoons, and comic books.

This is a slap in the face. It seems like the director and writer are somewhat oblivious to what the original movies and mythology mean to us.

Think of Star Wars for a minute. Another franchise that has its own etched-in-stone mythology.

Would anybody be okay if Disney decided to remake the original movie instead of making sequels?

What if the remake had nothing to do with Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader?

What if it centered around a slew of new characters with a new plot that incorporated Lightsabers and the Force, but other than that had nothing to do with the original movies?

That’s a Star Wars movie in name only. But that would never, ever be made. Fans wouldn’t stand for it. Ghostbusters may not be as beloved as Star Wars, but it has its die hard supporters. Why shouldn’t it be given the same respect?

Kimmel aired two clips from the remake.

One showed the new Ghostbusters arriving on the scene of what is probably their first official “call”. They suit up in a series of extreme close-ups of belts, Proton Packs, and other equipment that nervously mirrors Joel Schumacher’s intrusively awkward shots of Batman suiting up in his two lack-luster outings in Gotham. The Ghostbusters, ready to go, then cutely argue about who should take the lead. Guys, you’re about to face down a slimy spirit – this is no time to coyly banter! All this while the new version of the theme song (by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott) farts in the background. If the cutesy word play didn’t kill this make-or-break entrance for me, the music certainly did.

Compare the new entrance to the original entrance – Murray, Aykroyd, and the late Harold Ramis arrive at the Sedgwick Hotel set to a toe-tapping rockabilly song courtesy of the Bus Boys. They simply walk into the hotel, decked out in their equipment, amid curious and offended looks by hotel patrons. Murray’s only line: “Anybody seen a ghost?”

It’s not an overtly humorous line. Yet it sticks with us because of the spectacle of the scene. It still gives me chills when I watch it. That’s an entrance.

The other scene Kimmel showed was Leslie Jones showing the car that will eventually be Ecto-1 to the other Ghostbusters. The women are aghast at the hunk of junk, much like Murray in the original. But the first thing Jones says is, “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”

An Oprah Winfrey reference? Scratch that – a nearly decade-old Oprah reference? Really? This is supposed to be humorous? And because the jalopy is a hearse, there’s the requisite banter about the possibility of there being a corpse in the back. For some reason, this disturbs them… The Ghostbusters. Who are starting a business ridding the world of ghosts. So they’re not afraid of a venomous spirit, but they are afraid of a decomposing, lifeless body? Really?

The scene only exercised a few laughs from Kimmel’s studio audience. And none from me. Although it must be said that Kate McKinnon was the highlight of the scene when she expressed a wide-eyed hopefulness of their actually being a corpse inside the hearse so she could experiment on. So far, McKinnon and Wiig are the only characters that have the possibility of procuring a laugh from me.

Compare this scene to the same one in the original movie. Aykroyd drives up to the firehouse in a bruised Chevy ambulance and says, “Everybody can relax, I found the car.” He then rattles off some of the work it needs. Murray interrupts with, “How much?”, to which Aykroyd replies, “Only forty-eight hundred”, and lists more required maintenance. Murray is in disbelief that anybody would pay that much for a piece of junk.

End of scene.

No forced banter. No jokey set-ups. No pop culture references. Just straight character-driven simplicity.

Yes, Ghostbusters is only a movie. And maybe I’ve invested more in this mythology than the average moviegoer. But it means something to me and millions of others.

There were so many ways this movie could have been done. A remake shouldn’t have been one of them. Aykroyd’s idea of the old team training a new one was the most obvious approach. The new team could’ve been all women. It could’ve be been these same women. Just so that it was an extension of this brilliant concept that stirred millions of imaginations.

Which is what Sony is hoping for with the remake. To inspire a new generation of kids.

It may happen.

But I don’t think it will.

Plenty of Ghostbusters fans throw this argument out: at least we’re getting a new Ghostbusters movie.

Are we?

The magic doesn’t seem to be there.

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