Ghostbusters (2016)

No film has had so much stacked against it pre-release like the new Ghostbusters. The online hate for it reached legendary levels of festering bile. The first trailer became the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube, every new snippet of info was greeted by out-and-out hostility and frankly, it’s been exhausting to watch. The trouble is, the hate has become part of the whole package and it’s almost mandatory to mention it in some capacity.

Remaking something like Ghostbusters is a dumb move. The original film is a lightning-in-a-bottle classic that had just the right amount of cool ideas, unique chemistry between the leads and witty, quotable humour. Even the makers of the original couldn’t recapture the magic. The best they could do was the rehash sequel Ghostbusters II. However, in this movie climate where there’s an increasing numbers of suits who don’t know movies in charge, things are going to be remade and you may as well roll with it. I hate the situation, but you have to be realistic about these things.

So now we have Ghostbusters 2k16. I’ve been on board with the women Ghostbusters thing since it was announced, because I’m not a complete shitheel. It was the best pick of bad ideas. I’ve seen many fans angry that the movie isn’t the “passing of the torch” Ghostbusters 3 they’ve been fan-ficcing for years, but fuck them. I can’t think of anything more lame and pedestrian than that idea. It’s irritating that the main conversation about this has turned to classic shitty sexism and whether you choose to see it or not is practically a political statement. Maybe we could have had a discussion about Hollywood remaking beloved properties at some point, but surely even the most ardent arguers hanging out at the shallow end of the anti-Busters pool have to admit that the pool’s now overcrowded, has been pissed in by the “bitches ain’t shit” brigade and now everybody’s eyes are stinging.

Lecturer Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) works at a prestigious university and is horrified to discover that a book she co-wrote years ago with former friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the paranormal is available online, threatening her respectability and putting her chance of tenure in danger. She confronts Abby at a ramshackle college and learns that both Abby and her genius lab partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) have made big advances in ghost detecting technology. The trio end up teaming and manage to document a genuine ghostly encounter, setting them on a path to supernatural investigation and entrapment. Along the way, our team meet NYC Metro worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and enlist her help to uncover a big supernatural plot that has “apocalyptic” written all over it.

The story’s solid enough, if a little by-the-numbers. It’s basically a remix of the first film’s story with the same basic beats. The Ghostbusters have to start their business and become successful amidst scepticism before heroically coming together to fight a potentially world-ending threat at the end. It plays things a little too safe. It’s mostly a remake and similar scenes are to be expected, but the way it kept stubbornly shackling itself to the original was disappointing and I was urging it to knock it off. Having said all that, I enjoyed the cameos and I felt the brief Harold Ramis shout-out was a deft and touching tribute. If this movie does get a sequel, I’ll be excited to see it. Nobody would be dumb enough to remake Ghostbusters II as it is and they’ll have to do something wholly original. Don’t get me wrong, the story we’re given is decent enough and passable, but I want more from this franchise.

The main villain, Rowan (Neil Casey), is exactly the sort of character you’d expect to be posting negative Ghostbusters forum diatribes in real life. He’s an angry loner with a fascination with the occult and a desire to bring about the end of the world. I get what they’ve done and it’s a cute idea, but it doesn’t make him particularly interesting.

The film’s biggest successes come down to the cast. I liked all of the new ‘Busters. Melissa McCarthy tones it down around 11 notches from her usual level, playing it more like her character in Spy, and it works. Kristen Wiig is mostly the straight-woman but she affords Erin a warmth and affability that is not as easy as she makes it look. Like many people, thanks to the terrible trailers I was worried that Leslie Jones’ character was going to be a walking, yelling stereotype.  There are elements of that, and the “hysterical screeching and slapping” scene hasn’t got any less unfunny, but Patty’s portrayed as just as smart as our scientists, just in a different field. Jones was great in the role too. Chris Hemsworth completely gives himself over to the role of exceptionally dim but hunky receptionist Kevin. The Kevin stuff is really silly, but Hemsworth makes it work. He’s got some serious comedic chops.

Hold the phone though, because I haven’t talked about Kate McKinnon yet. She owns this film. Holtzmann’s most obvious counterpart in the ’84 team is Egon, but she takes it in a whole new direction. She’s zany, unhinged and slightly dangerous. I normally hate quirky characters, but there’s something about Holtzmann. I get the feeling her presence may be divisive, but damn, I loved her.

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of the film. The opening was suitably spooky and I loved the way the team slowly formed. The characters bouncing off each other was great and at times, really funny. The movie isn’t as funny as it should be, but there are some great one-liners and gags here. I started chuckling during the beginning, when it was mentioned that a creepy old estate was built with an “Irish-proof fence” and there was always something to keep me amused. There was a real sense of energy and fun that kept it all bouncing along nicely. The humour here isn’t the dry, sardonic humour of the original, but it’s funny nonetheless. One of the scenes that had me laughing the most was a meta-moment when the gang check out some of the dudebro comments left on a ghostly encounter they uploaded to YouTube.

I don’t know what the big deal was with people calling out the special effects for being rubbish. I loved the look of the ghosts, especially the earlier, more humanoid ones. The colourful glowing reminded me of the library ghost in the first film. I was a big fan of the gadgets too. The proton packs got a nice upgrade and I liked their take on the traps. Whilst I wish they’d saved some of the wackier gadgets like the “Ghostchipper” and Holtzmann’s dual proton pistols for a sequel and had waited until the team were more established, this small gripe doesn’t take too much away from the entertainment factor.

Then we get to the third act. Christ, what a mishmash of ideas. It doesn’t manage to spoil what’s come before and it does have its moments, but it simply doesn’t work. Times Square is turned into a grotty ’70s version for some arbitrary reason. There are tons of ghosts from all time periods thrown in and apparently the proton packs and devices now “kill” ghosts instead of trapping them. That shit wouldn’t have flown if professional weirdo and true believer Dan Aykroyd was in charge of scripting. There’s also a huge, synchronised dance sequence that was clearly cut from the final act and plays over the credits instead.  It’s obvious that the finale had been written, rewritten, filmed and cut many times over before they settled on the underwhelming one in the finished product.

All in all, I liked GB 2K16. It’s not the runaway success I’d hoped for and the big finale is a swing and a miss, but I left with a smile on my face. I want to see more of these new ‘Busters, which I would count as a win for the movie. Sorry Ghostbros, it’s pretty good.

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