Off Topic: Thoughts on the New Ghostbusters Flick

Never in my life can I think of the lead up to a movie being so divisive than the lead up to this year’s Ghostbusters release. Even before the trailer release fiasco there were scores of complaints over the movie’s choice to reboot with a female cast which ultimately took a great deal of focus away from the movie itself.

I saw the movie this past weekend and it really wasn’t enjoyable. There were some nice pieces to it but in the end a vast majority of the jokes fell flat and the story itself was a tangled mess that didn’t carry any sort of real connection from the beginning to the end.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Paul Feig faced was simply taking on the task of rebooting Ghostbusters in the first place. It’s a property anchored by a movie that’s truly a cultural icon – it’s on AFI’s Top 100 comedies and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. So Feig was going to be fighting an uphill battle with those who were, by default simply going to compare it to the original.

I thought of it almost like if someone wanted to reboot The Godfather by keeping the title, poster art and mob ties but altering the story otherwise. It would be incredibly difficult to evaluate the new property on its own when the specter of the original hung in your mind.

I really did my best to look at it from the scope of a separate movie than that of a story which connects directly to the first two. To Feig’s credit the story itself does a fair bit to distance itself from the originals. Some pieces simply force a comparison (Ecto-1, for example) while plenty of the script keeps this story original, which was key. However, the overall execution that was lacking, in my opinion.

As an aside, the thought that this new version could somehow ruin your childhood in the event it was bad is ludicrous. The beauty of having a favorite movie is that it can never be changed. In fact, if you hated this movie your love for the original is probably stronger now that you know how well it was written, acted, shot, etc.

The levels of scorn this movie received simply because it was going to remake Ghostbusters with a female cast was unjust and pathetic. There are countless movies with strong, female leads including a few with the stars from this movie. This wasn’t going to be destroyed because of the casting, in fact, I’d say they made the right choices given the comedic talents of the quartet that led the way.

I found Leslie Jones’ performance to be terrific. She was really the only one who made me laugh with any regularity and I thought she was by far the strongest performance of the entire movie. Chris Hemsworth was also humorous in his role which worked well as he was in just enough scenes for his shtick to remain fresh without really wearing you out. I also thought Kristin Wiig was good in her role which was almost that of the straight man at times.

The opposite is true for McCarthy and Kate McKinnon, however. McKinnon’s zany portrayal of her character felt out of place every time she had a line. Every. Time. McCarthy rolled out the same tired tropes that she’s used in everything from Bridesmaids to Spy and none of it worked in this iteration. Perhaps their particular brand of improve didn’t lend itself to this treatment. Maybe they just weren’t written well, I’m not sure. But McCarthy was my least favorite character followed closely by McKinnon.

What was probably the most disappointing aspect of the movie was the lack of any sort of cohesive story. I’m hardly an expert on screenwriting but I never noticed any sort of connected storyline throughout the movie.

At one point it seemed like it was going to follow Wiig’s character’s journey to be respected as a scientist. Then it seemed like it may follow Wiig and McCarthy’s characters reconciling their friendship (which got tossed aside for all but maybe three minutes of the entire movie). Even the idea of catching or busting ghosts never played out. Were they trying to catch ghosts simply to study them? Did they exist as a business or a scientific study?

I’m glad they didn’t pick up the exterminator bit from the 1984 version just as I was glad they chose to lay out a clear and obvious villain. The lack of story made keeping comparisons to the original separate much harder.

While the villain maybe could have used a little more personality or development, choosing to have an obvious antagonist as compared to the general lack of one in the 1984 version was a good choice. There were some holes in really connecting the conflict to the three or four other potential plot lines which float around this movie.

I never felt like Rowan was really part of the story with regard to what the team was working towards. His devices caused the ghosts to show up but both sides sort of followed their own motivations for the most part. I wish they had tied into more of the mythology they created such as the Lay Lines. I think that may have brought more cohesiveness to the story on the whole.

By the climax you get a ghost army (sort of?) with haunted parade floats which leads to a weird action scene where the Ghostbusters are killing ghosts, which I didn’t think was possible. Again, it doesn’t really connect all that well to their original motivations. In the end it feels like a bunch of unfunny SNL skits all tied into a 90 minute package.

Assorted Musings

  • This felt more like an improv-based comedy which happened to be called Ghosbusters. They drove around in Ecto-1 with proton packs and stuff, but it wasn’t as if the comedy was built into the story so much as the story was written around the comedy.
  • I mention this a little bit above but it was difficult to pin down the exact motivation of the Ghostbusters. In the original they exist specifically to eliminate ghosts in a house or business just like an exterminator would. The business is built around their original study of the paranormal. The new movie doesn’t set that up as well outside of simply trying to prove ghosts are real. Their focus is originally about studying ghosts but in the end they wind up “killing” ghosts more than trying to capture them.
  • Also, the idea that you can kill a ghost didn’t make a lick of sense to me. They’re already dead. They’re spirits not a living thing.
  • I also didn’t care much for the ghosts that were in the movie, particularly the dragon. Whose spirit is that supposed to represent? The others were more true to form, if you will, although the ghost CGI was just sort of okay.
  • You’ll see this elsewhere but the cameos really were forced and at times didn’t even make that much sense in terms of the movie’s flow (hi Ozzy Osbourne and Dan Akyrod).
  • Ditto for the product placement which was pretty obnoxious.
  • The one thing I couldn’t help but compare to the original was the gear. Ecto-1 looked super crappy in comparison to the original Miller-Meteor Cadillac ambulance and the proton packs and other gadgets had too much of a steampunk look for my taste. Some of the gadgets just didn’t make sense to me since they were used to “kill” the ghosts, which again, didn’t make any sense.

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