I’ll be the first to admit, when I heard that they were going to be remaking Ghostbusters, I was more than a little apprehensive. When I heard that it was going to be a twist on the classic comedy, now starring an all female cast, I was even more apprehensive.
Before anyone gets mad at me, let state very clearly that I have no problem with women. Women are great. They deserve all the praise we can possibly offer for the ridiculous amount of work many of them do. This is especially true in Hollywood, where actresses are often taken advantage of in terms of how they’re portrayed. It is still entirely too common to see women marginalized in films, or made into props. Even if the protagonist of a film is a woman, it’s common for a great many of her problems to revolve around men. Particularly if there’s one she’s in love with. Extra particularly if that makes her act out of character.
Developing a good female character is something Hollywood seems to consistently have a very hard time doing, and certainly not for lack of talent. There are tons of absolutely brilliant female actresses and writers. But they’re rarely utilized well. They tend to either be awful stereotypes or just male characters with female bodies.
Which is why I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters. I have no problem with all-female casts, I just think stapling that concept onto a remake is a bad idea. It’s exploitative, in two different directions no less. First for the all-female, second for the remake.
Because Ghostbusters didn’t really feel like it needed a remake to me. It’s a very “of its time” movie. It’s this blend of decent storytelling and cheesy comedy that worked perfectly then. It still works now because it’s not new. There’s nostalgia to go on, and just knowing it’s an older movie.
Basically what I’m saying is, I love the idea of a strong, all-female cast in a movie. Especially one that can end up becoming a franchise of exciting and interesting characters. But I want it to an original movie. Not just a rebooted older film.
Anyway, on to Ghostbusters.
It’s a complete reimagining of the story. Most all of the aspects are the same, as far as the overarching plot is concerned. A trio of scientists with a severe lack of funding discover the existence of ghosts in Manhattan. They team up with subway attendant who knows a lot about the city to try and hunt these ghosts down, capturing them and proving they’re real.
The problem is made worse by a crazy man with a greater understanding of how ghosts work. Bent on getting revenge against those who made fun of him for being strange, he decides to help release ghosts back into the world. If successful, his actions could cause a veritable apocalypse.
It’s not the strongest plot I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the weakest either. It’s pretty dang close to the original, and the original is obviously so good. So we can’t complain there at all.
A number of hiccups occur as the intrepid team try to go about hunting ghosts. They’re outsmarted at some points and caught completely off guard in others. A lot of the story is genuinely interesting, and it develops well. The only real weakness with it is how often things are outside of the main characters’ control.
This isn’t something new to movies of course, but it’s still frustrating. Sometimes characters make mistakes, and the problems in their story should sometimes stem from that. If they don’t, it just feels like a relentlessly bad day.
The pacing of the movie is also a little tilted. It’s pretty neatly divided into three acts, which I personally quite liked. The problem is that the first act took a long time to develop, and the third act didn’t need to be as long as it was. This unbalance didn’t make either act bad, by any stretch. It just left me very aware of the passage of time as I watched the movie. I never got bored or wanted to do something else, but it got awfully close in places.
To it’s credit the movie does a good job of keeping your attention. The special effects are pretty top notch, and a lot of them are really cool. The ghosts managed to look high quality while still evoking the sort of retro feel of the original. The fights in the movie, particularly the dramatic climax, are generally well crafted. I give the movie a lot of props here for not having a million cuts during the fights. That’s a trend I’m starting to get very sick of, personally.
The cinematography of the film is also quite nice. There’s a scene where the four busters all fire their streams at an oncoming tide of inflatable balloon ghosts, slowly burning through and popping them. It looks really, really cool, and would probably look amazing in 3D.
Which is actually something of note here. The movie was made for 3D, and you can really feel it at some points in the movie. Lots of spots see ghosts flying “out of the screen”. Almost every ghost in the movie has some special effect that makes it overlap the black bars. It would probably be really cool if I were able to watch it in 3D. Since I couldn’t though, it kind of just looked weird.
But enough about the little details. How did the cast do? Overall, honestly, pretty great. Kristen Wiig played Erin, who was presented as the main character but didn’t quite develop into one. Erin is a professor trying to get tenure and grappling with her paranormal past. Wiig played her as very believable and relatable however, and it was easy to attach yourself to her as you watched the film.
Leslie Jones played Patty, the subway attendant. She added a much needed dose of levity and reality to the otherwise zany cast of scientists. As an actress that often sees herself in the same role, Jones doesn’t really break the mold here. Still, it’s a good mold. So why break it?
Melissa McCarthy is Abby, another scientist and lifelong friend of Erin. This is one of my favorite performances by McCarthy so far. I think the actress is talented and has a remarkable range, but like Jones she is routinely cast into the same role over and over. her performances in Spy, Tammy, and Identity Thief just never intrigued me, but here she does much better. She’s still over the top and funny, but she acts like an actual human being. It’s much more palatable.
Kate McKinnon plays Jillian, the third scientist and inventor of the gear the team uses. In my opinion she completely steals the show here. She somehow manages to play the straightwoman and foil at the same time. Her reactions to things are completely unexpected and often completely hysterical. At the same time, however, McKinnon comes off as the most earnest and real. Whereas the other three feel like comedy actors playing scientists (and a subway attendant) McKinnon actually feels like a crazy, smart lady who is bemused by all the horrific things she comes across.
All told, Ghostbusters turned out to be a lot better than I expected it to be. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching it, and several scenes left me laughing out loud. I’d rate it well and recommend this just for that. At the same time, I’d be hard pressed to argue that the movie needed to happen. It’s strange, but as much as I liked it the movie didn’t really feel needed. If I had never seen it, I wouldn’t have missed it. It looks like the film didn’t gross enough to warrant a sequel, so it’s not a problem that’ll repeat itself.