If you’re thinking about seeing the Ghostbusters remake, think about pink dogs instead because that would be more entertaining. The movie that director and co-writer Paul Feig has given us is a wretched rehash that desperately tries to placate hordes of diehard Ghostbusters fans. In the end, it only manages to offend. What possessed Sony that this concept was worth taking a chance on?
Which isn’t to say it isn’t funny. It is. In that Bridesmaids kind of way. Y’know, when the characters volley snappy little banter back and forth? Which is fine – in that kind of a movie. The world of Ghostbusters isn’t that kind of movie.
Kristen Wiig plays Dr. Erin Gilbert, a physics professor at Columbia University on the fast track to tenure until the Dean discovers she wrote a book years ago about ghosts. She’s given the ol’ heave-ho and reteams with the co-author of her book, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), and Abby’s brilliant yet looney tune assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). The fourth Ghostbuster, MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), joins them after seeing a ghost in the subway. Their main objective: stopping some simp named Rowan from starting the apocalypse.
Had the original Ghostbusters never existed, this would be a salvageable story. But the original does exist. And that’s where the remake runs into trouble.
Film students take note: YOU DO NOT WANT TO REMAKE CLASSIC MOVIES. Especially if the movie you intend to remake has thirty plus years of mythology behind it.
From the moment the first trailer hit back in March, it was very clear that Sony didn’t know exactly how they wanted to market the remake. Feig had been saying for months that his Ghostbusters had nothing to do with anything that came before it, be it the movies, cartoons, video games, or comics.
Yet the trailer opened with this: “Thirty years ago, four scientists saved New York City” or something to that effect.
Two problems here:
1) It was three scientists and a retired Marine
2) If Feig intended on his remake having nothing to do with the original movies, why mention them?
The answer is Feig doesn’t know what he wants his movie to be. And it’s evident in the tone and the genres he tries to blend. The original is straight up horror-comedy. The remake teeters madly between slumber party comedy, horror, and action.
Yes. Action. The Times Square bullshitery of the third act is an action movie. The Ghostbusters plow through a gaggle of galloping ghosts using proton-charged gloves, wrangling specters with their proton beams, and tossing them aside like dolls.
That is, when they’re not vaporizing the ghosts. With the same instruments that didn’t have that effect on ghosts earlier in the movie. Or the scene where McCarthy locks herself in a room to hide from a ghost. The ghost can pass through physical objects. You know this. You witnessed a ghost do it on your first call.
It’s like JJ Abrams’ Lightsabers in his Star Wars sequel: suddenly, you can get sliced with one and not lose a limb or die. Feig and co-writer Katie Dipold create the rules of their world and then forget about them. Much like audiences will forget this movie after opening weekend.
Another thing taught in film school: the threat to the hero or heroes must be huge. If the stakes ain’t high, why should the audience care? The threat Feig gives us is Rowan, a possibly schizophrenic (he talks to himself in a mirror) hotel porter hellbent on destroying the world because he was bullied at one point in his life. This plot worked better the handful of times it was executed on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
How Rowan goes about creating an apocalypse is enough to induce a headache. Something about setting off electrical charges at supernatural hot spots across New York to open a portal. It’s very involved. None of the simplicity of a Gozer cult or the reincarnation of a psychotic Carpathian.
And the scientific jargon. My God. It was like ER season one. What the hell are they talking about? The idea behind it is to make the equipment believable. Trouble is, the audience already believes it.
Why? Because it’s not new information. We’ve seen in. SEEN it. Emphasis on seen! In the original, we’re introduced to the proton packs and ghost traps as they’re used. We learned how they worked the same time Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis learned. We see it. We believe it. End of story. No need for exposition.
The special effects are horrible. The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World offers more believable spooks. Even the effects in the original Ghostbusters were infinitely better.
A bright spot in the movie are the Ghostbusters themselves. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, and Jones are stellar together. Their chemistry mirrors that of the original team. And had this been a true passing of the torch, the old Ghostbusters handing off the business to these ladies, they would be an excellent addition to the Ghostbusters mythology.
Instead, Feig again asks us to forget the original Ghostbusters and view his take as a wholly fresh idea.
And once again, we can’t forget the originals. They are engraved in our pop culture psyche. That’s like remaking Star Wars without Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and expecting audiences to eat it up. It doesn’t work.
Speaking of the original Ghostbusters, they all make cameo appearances. Which is the second bright spot in the movie. Bill Murray has the most to do, which is ironic because he was the one who has always held-out on doing another Ghostbusters. If only he was playing Dr. Peter Venkman again. It’s important to note that Ivan Reitman, producer of the remake and director of the originals, hasn’t ruled out a return to his Ghostbusters universe. Maybe he’ll even use the idea of screenwriter Max Landis; which gave me chills just reading it. So here’s hoping.
Because the magic just isn’t there with the remake. Nothing induces chills. There’s nothing new to offer. Which is why Ghostbusters 2016 should have just expanded on the established mythology. If you want true Ghostbusters stories, check out the monthly IDW comic written by Erik Burnham and drawn by Dan Schoening. They are the real keepers of the mythology.
It’s ironic. Paul Feig thought he could remake Ghostbusters for a new generation, but in the end, his version is haunted by the ghost of the original movies.