It has arrived! The review you’ve all been waiting for! Presenting, OutLoudCulture’s review of the most politically divisive movie of 2016! A Ghostbusters remake.
Apparently this is where our society is.
There has been non-stop wave after wave of criticism towards the existence of this movie, met by equally powerful waves of accusations the criticism is entirely sexist. Even though reboots and remakes of classic movies have been met with backlash before, talking about this movie has become a political issue. Again, I think it speaks to how low society is that we cannot have opinions on a movie without political mud being thrown.
So, is the movie itself entertaining? No. Like most pointless reboots/remakes from Hollywood, it is a terrible movie that exists only as a cash-grab and yet another attempt to start a Marvel-esque money machine.
(Disclaimer: I do not dislike all remakes. Some are actually quite good. The Dredd (2012) remake was good because it was to remake a bad movie. The Magnificent Seven is an American remake of a Japanese movie, The Seven Samurai.
Talking about Ghostbusters (2016) is difficult. Not because of the controversy, although it certainly complicates the whole matter. The issue is that this is a comedy movie. Humor is very subjective.
Against my better judgement, I watched this movie, whereas before I would avoid reboots/remakes of classic movies almost entirely, such as Total Recall (2012) and Robocop (2014).
To clarify, Ghostbusters (2016) is a hard reboot, meaning it is a different timeline. The movie is a remake of the original, almost beat-for-beat.
I know you are going to ask, “What’s the difference between this and The Force Awakens, which was a remake of A New Hope and you loved Alex?” The difference is that while TFA is essentially a remake of A New Hope, the overall plot was a backdrop to allow for the development of the new characters and updating us on the status of the universe because TFA is a movie, more than any other Star Wars, that is a character-driven experience. The short version is that JJ Abrams (Regarding Henry, Star Trek (2009)) and Kathleen Kennedy (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies) had a vision for Star Wars that was not terrible. TFA is a gold standard for how to create a soft reboot for a franchise.
This new Ghostbusters does not feel like there was a plan. It feels like Amy Pascal just gave some cash, said “make us a cinematic universe that Spider-Man failed to give us”, and Paul Feig (Knocked Up, Bridesmaids) pointed a camera, said, “do improv”, walked off the set, and had lunch at the beach.
The movie starts with a tour of a haunted mansion with a detailed backstory of how one of the wealthy family members had murdered all her servants and was locked in the basement. Immediately after the floorboards explode to reveal Nickelodeon slime, chairs are flying and the staircase collapses.
Well that was not subtle at all.
I know I’m going to sound like an angry fanboy but the original’s opening is better. Books are floating out of sight of the librarian, she’s hearing noises, we do not even see the ghost. We just hear/watch her scream from the direction of the camera. It’s a complicated process to grade remakes because I want to judge it as its own movie but at the same time, any and all comparisons to the original are completely legitimate because it is a remake of an old movie.
Kristen Wiig (How to Train Your Dragon, Arrested Development) is a professor at Columbia University, and her reputation is being threatened by the publishing of a book she thought was destroyed, claiming ghosts are real. Wiig confronts her friend, who is revealed to be Melissa McCarthy (Charlie’s Angels, Mike and Molly). McCarthy refuses to retract the book, meaning either Wiig legally gave up any claim of the book and McCarthy owns it fully, or McCarthy published something she did not have full ownership over, without the permission of the other claimant, therefore violating US federal law.
McCarthy’s lab partner is Kate McKinnon (Ted 2, Finding Dory), who makes several passes at Wiig. This is because Feig wanted McKinnon’s character to be lesbian, as she is a lesbian in real life, but Sony said no. Anyway, McKinnon and McCarthy pull a prank on Wiig by playing a tape they claim has ghost noises, but it’s just a fart. Then McKinnon says “well actually it came out the front”. Get it? It wasn’t funny as just a fart but because “it came out the front” now it’s hilarious.
The book is completely forgotten about BEFORE they officially become the Ghostbusters! I thought Wiig’s motivation was to clear her reputation and prove she’s not a crazy person but it’s never mentioned again in the entire movie. Another set-up I thought would be a good conflict with the Ghostbusters is this reality TV show team of ghost hunters who McCarthy says “give us a bad name. The real ones like us. It’s why no one believes the real thing”. I thought that was a good setup for competition with the Ghostbusters trying to prove the reality TV team are frauds while the Ghostbusters are the real deal, but it is forgotten about immediately.
Leslie Jones (National Security, Sullivan and Son) is an MTA employee who sees a ghost after a bizarre man, Rowan (Neil Casey) creepily walks up to her and talks about how meaningless everything is. They might as well have had him wear a neon sign saying “I’m the bad guy”. It is here we are introduced to the best part of the movie, Rowan. He was strangely entertaining because the actor himself either took none of his role seriously, or every atom of breath he took on set seriously. I’d say you have to see it to believe it, but him alone, along with only two other actual moments of humor in this movie, are not worth the price of admission.
Rowan is also a thinly veiled Ghostbusters fanboy. The movie is vilifying its own core audience now? I’m aware of the re-shoots that were made to add insults to critics when the first trailer was released online and the polarizing reactions began, but this characterization had to have been made way before then. It feels like they thought “they’re going to hate us anyway so to hell with them”. Feig gives me the impression he is someone who takes things far too personally.
Rowan is using science to summon ghosts because he was bullied and wants payback. That’s it. I wasn’t expecting the most complex villain ever in a comedy film of any kind but I expected something that feels like more than a first draft. How did we go from Gozer, an interdimensional god who wanted to enslave earth, to this?
Jones calls the Ghostbusters, and they encounter the ghost that Jones saw at the subway. They fail to capture it after testing out the prototype proton pack. Jones joins the team soon after, providing the ghost mobile.
The team’s first mission is to capture a ghost at a heavy metal concert. The ghost comes in front of the crowd at the concert and because it’s heavy metal, they think it’s part of the show. The team captures the ghost, leading to one of the more surprising facets of the movie.
Somehow, this movie managed to drive Bill Murray (Scrooged, Groundhog Day) out of seclusion and make him film TWO cameos! Murray is a paranormal debunker, essentially playing this movie’s Walter Peck. The problem is that in the first movie, Peck had a purpose to the plot. Peck was right to want to examine all this unmonitored equipment the Ghostbusters had, which as Egon said “each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear reactor”. Peck, while annoying and rude, was a man trying to do his job. Murray does not have nearly enough screen-time to serve any purpose to this movie like Peck in the original.
First, Murray is on TV saying the Ghostbusters are frauds. Then he arrives at their headquarters literally less than five minutes after the team catches the ghost at the concert, says to them what essentially amounts to “I hate you, you’re all frauds”, then sits in a chair for the rest of his time on-screen. Murray’s not even trying to be funny, he’s literally just sitting down, and he looks visibly miserable. I am convinced that sitting down is the only way the studio brought Murray on set because he clearly did not want to be there.
Wiig wants to set the ghost free to prove to Murray that they’re not frauds because I think we’re supposed to cheer for stupidity? McCarthy is against it, but eventually Wiig sets the ghost free and it throws Murray out of the window, killing him. I think Murray specifically requested he be given as much importance as he had and then be killed off so he could have a guarantee of not coming back in a sequel and to make Sony finally stop bugging him about Ghostbusters. Also every second of Murray’s time onscreen could have been edited out and nothing would change.
The crew is called to the mayor’s office, played by Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, 5 Days of War), by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents, one of whom is Michael K Williams (The Wire, Gone Baby Gone). The government tells the crew they are aware of the paranormal threat but will call the crew frauds because “you’re drawing too much attention to yourselves”. Did I miss a scene where they were on 60 Minutes being interviewed by Charlie Rose? The crew only showed at ONE place at this point.
The Ghostbusters eventually find out Rowan is a janitor at a hotel, leading to one funny moment. The hotel desk clerk is Annie Potts (Magnum, P.I., Toy Story)! The crew asks Potts where Rowan is and she responds “What’s that janitor done this time? You know what, I don’t wanna know. Just see if you can drag him outta there.” That was funny because she was talking exactly like Janine Melnitz from the original movie. She was a sassy clerk annoyed by people.
Rowan “dies” but we find out he’s a ghost now and possesses Chris Hemsworth (The Cabin in the Woods, Blackhat) and unleashes ghosts upon Manhattan. The team tries to reunite, leading to Wiig running into a very confusing cameo by Dan Aykroyd (1941, The Blues Brothers). Aykroyd is a cabbie who Wiig asks for a ride to Chinatown to “stop the ghosts” flying all over the city but Aykroyd says, “Those are Class 4 vapors. Got nothing to worry about”, and that Chinatown is a dangerous part of town. Firstly, we the audience were never given any sort of guide as to “classes”. Secondly, how does he know? The only way is if he’s Ray Stantz lost on an interdimensional travelling experiment. He leaves, saying “Look lady, I got three rules: I don’t drive to Chinatown, I don’t pick up wackos, and I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” Incidentally, this CANADIAN comedian is the only time the movie had any New York feeling to it.
Slimer appears in the movie to steal the crew’s ghost mobile. McKinnon says to not shoot the car because on top of it is “basically a nuclear reactor”. Wait, what? Why does the CAR need a nuclear reactor?! Is there a proton cannon on it?! I don’t know! This is the first time we are told of this device ever being on the car! We never see or hear of it before now and all I’m left wondering is why this car even needs a nuclear reactor! We later find out the reactor is there because the plot needs to happen.
The only other funny moment in the movie takes place when possessed Hemsworth takes control of all the NYPD officers and US Army soldiers and forces them to go into a dance pose, with one hand on their hip and the other reaching out while pointing their fingers. That made me chuckle because the whole time I was waiting for them to break out into dancing and it never happened. Later when the crew sees this Jones says “What the hell’s goin’ on? What’s wrong with y’all?” That was funny because it was something that a real person would say.
Before the crew sees the dance posers however, we have an out-of-place action sequence. They start using a bunch of equipment that was shown earlier from dual pistols, to grenades, to punching gloves, and other gizmos. Did I miss a Rocky montage of them training for combat? When did they become SEAL Team Ghost? Sure the movie shows us the testing of the equipment but I never got the impression they were supposed to be a special forces unit. Ghostbusters was always a bunch of blue-collar, schlub losers who were basically the ghost version of pest control, not a macho action movie. If you want to do a gender-switching of a macho manly-man action film, you go to Rambo, Commando, True Lies, or Die Hard.
Eventually the team fights Rowan after he de-possesses Hemsworth and takes the form of the Ghostbusters’ logo. Everyone has already talked about how he is shot in the crotch with the proton packs. Yes, like most crotch-related humor, it is another example of low-brow, lazy comedy and it is an insult to the fanbase and a direct attack against critics, but the fact that the crew is fighting the logo itself is more an indication of just how much Paul Feig hates Ghostbusters.
Slimer arrives with the car, the Ghostbusters trick him into causing an event to happen to close the portal and suck the ghosts back in. City Hall and the US government agree to provide covert, off the books support. The crew moves into the classic firehouse. The end. Except not. The movie actually has an end credits scene! Sorry to spoil that, but they set up Zuul. For those unaware, Zuul was one of Gozer’s dogs.
Yet another fine mess Hollywood has thrown at us. Covered in Nickelodeon slime filled with Nickelodeon low-effort humor. “That stuff went everywhere, by the way. In every crack. Very hard to wash off.” Get it? It’s funny because it’s funny!
I also have this feeling that Melissa McCarthy’s character has never been to a major American city. Or at least has never been to New York or taken a ride on the Metro North Train lines, New York Subway, or New York bus stops. When the team is trying to create a slogan, the first thing McCarthy presents is, not kidding, “If you see something, say something.” Yes, McCarthy’s character is either so dumb, or so ignorant, that she is unaware of the official slogan of the DHS! I cannot speak for other cities across America, but I can say, in New York at least, I see those ads literally everywhere. On the train, the platform, the buses, by the street, on television, as an ad before a YouTube video, everywhere!
Jones’ first interaction with the Ghostbusters was the first real instance I knew very little of this movie was shot in New York. Now it was easy for me to notice, I live here after all, but right off the bat the movie did not have a New York feeling to it. The only moments where it felt like New York were at Columbia, and the classic Ghostbusters firehouse. I found out during the credits that much of the movie was shot in Boston(!) and Australia. Let me make it clear, Boston and New York are NOT similar at all in the way they feel. This is like shooting a movie in the Italian Alps when your setting is the French countryside.
Fun fact: the Ghostbusters firehouse is still in service with a full-time crew.
As for Australia, what tipped me off that the subway station was not in NYC was the fact that it was sparkling, crystal clear clean. No subway station in the entire city of New York is as clean as that subway station was and it never will be unless the whole city is evacuated to let an army of cleaning professionals and exterminators have the subway to themselves for a year or two. I’m pretty sure they might have acquired some sort of tax exemption to shoot in Australia thanks to Hemsworth. Hemsworth is the secretary to the Ghostbusters, and he is one of the most annoying parts of the movie. They replaced Melnitz, a smart, sassy lady who had no patience for nonsense, with a bumbling idiot. Hemsworth literally does nothing but be useless throughout the whole movie whereas Melnitz was intelligent (in the non-science way) and was essentially the lady who made sure the team was awake and stood up to them when necessary.
I also did not believe Kate McKinnon’s character could create all the gizmos she had in the movie. They show McKinnon working on some gadgets, but she was not as invested in her science as much as she was being another crazy lady and making passes at Wiig and fooling around with McCarthy and Jones. Egon Spengler was a man so into his science, he did not have time for people. Spengler almost did not know how to act around other people. Human behavior was almost alien to him. It was believable that he could create the proton packs in spite of not seeing them being made.
We also see in a mid-credits sequence that Sigourney Weaver (Galaxy Quest, Avatar, Alien, Aliens) is McKinnon’s mentor and Weaver looked as annoyed as I was up to that point. Weaver was checking all of McKinnon’s equipment and at one point Weaver asks why there are no safety lights and McKinnon responded, “Because safety lights are for dudes.” Weaver’s response? Literally just repeating the exact words McKinnon said. That was odd because I always thought safety lights were for people who like to properly monitor their equipment to make sure nothing goes wrong so as to prevent injury or even death. Then again, I am just a dude.
Before joining the team, Jones talks about how the Ghostbusters headquarters, an apartment complex above a Chinese restaurant, served as a hideout for an old Chinese Triad mob boss in the 1930s. Jones has all these tidbits of local history and that is fine, really. I always enjoy a good history lesson, but I was expecting them to fight the ghost of that old Chinese Triad boss but as far as I can tell, we never see him. None of these four women are characters, they’re cliches. Wiig is the skeptical person who is “converted”, to the other side. McCarthy is the fat lady who loves food. McKinnon is the crazy, cartoon scientist, the only difference being her hair is not bleached, it remains McKinnon’s natural hair color, blonde. Jones is the black lady who always yells and screams and knows the streets. Jones is the best of the four because her performance, when not yelling like a screaming banshee, was the most consistent considering half of everyone else’s dialogue sounds like improv that conflicted with the characterization. This just makes me think of Winston (Ernie Hudson) who was always the most relatable of the original crew. Winston was an average joe, just trying to hold a job, proceed with his life, have a good living. The fact he was black was inconsequential, similar to Finn (John Boyega) in The Force Awakens.
Paul Feig has gone on record stating he does not think men are funny. I would be inclined to disagree but Robin Williams (Good Morning Vietnam, Jumanji) is dead and Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Dracula, Dead and Loving It) is 90 and will sadly soon be gone. What we are left with to replace them is Feig and Adam Sandler, who recently gave us Pixels, a movie that last year, continued Sony’s losing streak with movies since 2013 with The Interview, coupled with 2014’s cinematic-universe/money machine killer The Amazing Spider-Man 2, into 2015 with Pixels, and now the Ghostbusters reboot in 2016. If men like Feig and Sandler are what’s left to continue on for Williams and Brooks, then Feig might actually be correct about men not being funny.
How can I describe this movie in a shortly? “A disaster of biblical proportions. Old Testament, real Wrath of God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! MASS HYSTERIA!”
Image from Ghostbusters.com