Ghostbusters revisited: A decent take on an age old classic (3 / 5 stars)
When an all-female Ghostbusters revival was announced, there were two main camps of thought: those who were appalled that it was a gender swap, and those who were ecstatic that it was all female. After its much anticipated release, the same praises and complaints were maintained from those exact groups. I, however, was quite neutral on the gender inversion. I simply did not care if it was men or women who were not scared of any ghost, I just wanted it to be well done. Preferably by respecting its source material, adding a fresh new take, and retaining enough callbacks of the first two movies in order to appeal to its original audience. The result? A decent movie. Not fantastic, but not terrible. In anticipation of Halloween, here is my take on this controversial remake.
Let’s start with the positives. Visually, the movie is diverse and well coloured. The ghost-catching phasers and guns maintain the original colour scheme. There is a nice blend of dark, damp lighting, and brighter images within the New York City setting, which is fitting for a comedy with light-hearted paranormal activity. One of the more memorable scenes takes place in the deep, dark subways. It is a scene that is familiar to those who take the subway, and the blackness creates a unique thrill generally unfound in PG movies.
The characters in the film are interesting and differ from their original counterparts. While they maintain some characteristics, they are lively, awkward, and sassy in their own ways. Each of the Ghostbusters brings a distinct personality and attitude to the table that is arguably even more evident than the original. Some original cast members do make an appearance in the remake, causing great cheers in the cinema audience on several occasions. To avoid spoiling their roles, I’ll limit myself to saying that they mimic their original parts via their language (both oral and body), dress, and attitudes. They fit in quite organically and are an example of a well-executed callback.
The new Ghostbusters includes commentary on gender by calling out sexist double standards, and how women are often taken less seriously in the professional world. Throughout the movie, the women are forced to fight for their passion of the paranormal, against being called the more degrading Ghost “Girls”. They often aren’t taken seriously by against the predominantly male government, army, and police force. Viewers are left feeling uncomfortable as they are given a dose of reality.
Another important message featured in the film is a simple cliché but one of my favourites: friendship always wins. Personally, I found that the ‘Busters had fantastic chemistry and worked very well together, making the film much more family friendly. When I was 6 years old, I watched the original and went into absolute hysterics upon viewing the infamous ghost librarian scene. The film also introduced me to the sex talk when I asked what that pretty ghost was doing to Dan Aykroyd (spoiler alert: it’s ghostly oral) and about the numerous dirty jokes littered around.
Now for the not so great. I was not dazzled by the script, which I found it to be mostly cohesive, but often awkward. It is ambitious to attempt to be new while staying faithful to the original. The film would have likely been better had it contained less forced callbacks and more original plot points. The excessive callbacks did nothing but clutter the story with feeble and unnecessary attempts to create a cutesy, nostalgic effect.. In fact, some of the callbacks were not even from Ghostbusters! There were several references to Ghost, The Shining, and even Scarface. These were definitely not a good match for a family-friendly ghost movie. It ultimately ended feeling cheap and forced, and the constant references to other films felt like a movie version of product placement.
The visuals had a few downfalls as well. Anyone who knows me, knows that I rarely enjoy 3D movies. I find them excessive, flooding the movie industry with a cheap attempt to dazzle the audience. There are simply very few movies that actually deserve the 3D treatment, and sadly, Ghostbusters was not one of them. It felt like an exaggerated attempt to appeal to children. There were many cliched 3D moments, such as spit/vomit/ectoplasm being expelled, ghosts reaching out to seemingly grab the audience, and so on. However, the scenes in which ghosts are flying out and around were quite interesting in 3D, and gave the audience the impression that they were really in New York City. Despite being made decades later with much-improved special effects and CGI, the ghosts continue to look oddly fake and are quite cheesy. In fact, I believe that the CGI ghosts in the original film fit in infinitely better than the new ones.
All in all, the positives outweigh the negatives. It is a well thought out film made with care and passion but is not, in my opinion, better than the original. I would still watch this film again, and intend to do so on Halloween along with the originals. It most definitely does not deserve the intense hatred it received for being female-led, but is also probably not worthy of being frantically praised. It’s good, but not great.