Ghostbusters, reboots and the benefits of low expectations
Ghostbusters is a remake of the 1984 classic, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
One of the most curious criticisms of last year’s biggest film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was that it felt like a remake of the original film. It was not a criticism generally levelled at the second biggest, Jurassic World, probably because it was an inferior film in every respect. While Star Wars replicated the original film in meaningful ways (capped by the reveal that Han Solo named his son after his original trilogy counterpart “Ben” Kenobi), the Jurassic Park sequel played like a remake of the original, only truly coming to life as its new ideas gripped the film’s second act before subsiding and regressing once more into a photocopy of Steven Spielberg’s classic.
When Paul Feig revealed his Ghostbusters remake — and make no mistake, it is a remake of Ivan Reitman’s original — would star not just two, or three, but four women, there was an astonishingly savage response. As the fandom realized its own sexist double-standard — the first two films starred four men as the Ghostbusters — it instead began to argue the film was just a cynical cash-in (as opposed to the long-mooted threequel that Bill Murray was reluctant to participate in.)
To the surprise of no one who saw Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, it’s an enjoyable if sometimes scrappy film populated by talented comic actresses whom you’ll definitely want to spend more time with as the credits roll. Leslie Jones was particularly enjoyable, probably because the character she played would have been relegated to bit player in any other blockbuster. (Contrastively, Chris Hemsworth’s secretary is far too dumb to be believable.) The fact is, the film is a remake, and by that standard it’s one of the most original ones, tipping its hat to moments from the original but for the most part comes up with its own spin on iconic moments like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man (who frankly would’ve lost a fight with the remake’s counterpart.)
Comparing the original and the remake feels like comparing the first draft of a screenplay with a finished film. Perhaps Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold can be criticised for not coming up with a new plot, but it has to be asked then, just how many climaxes can one come up with for a feature film series revolving around ghostly infestations? The climax is at least far more spectacular and emotional than the original, instilling a sense of jeopardy it could not, and even including a nod to Dan Akroyd’s unproduced Hellbent script, as opposed to the dawning realization one had watching Jurassic World that would end just like the original, with the main antagonist being devoured by another reptile.
There’s definitely one area the new Ghostbusters trumps the original; like Ghostbusters II, the villain (played by Neil Casey) is far more creepy than Zuul. Perhaps, sadly, Feig and Dippold could predict the reaction to them taking the poisoned chalice that Sony bequeathed them, and personified their fears with an isolated nihilist whose sense of entitlement turns him into the anti-Ghostbuster. In another life, Casey could’ve played one of the Ghostbusters, but fortunately for us, he did not approach the project with anger and disbelief as so many did.