Cinematic Releases: Ghostbusters (2016)

What did Liam think of Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot? Let's find out. 

Before I get to my thoughts on this movie, let’s address the elephant or ghost in the room. This movie has stopped just being a remake and has turned into a cultural battleground. Who would’ve thought the most divisive movie of 2016 would have been the new Ghostbusters movie? The Ghostbusters reboot has turned ugly cultural battleground that intersects with frustration over reboots of beloved pieces of cinema, fan boys, misogyny, misandry, and a lot of other big words that describe outrage over something that I would never associate with a Ghostbusters movie. This Internet battle has been raging ever since this film and its cast was announced in 2014.  Fans, filmmakers, and critics have been tearing at each other in two ways: some well-written and thoughtful defenses or critiques of the film (even here at The Movie Sleuth) or turning the comments sections of entertainment websites into a pissing contest that has annoyed casual fans like myself for two plus years.

After two long years, the wait is finally over. Is Ghostbusters (2016) the film that will ruin the legacy of all we love of the original Ghostbusters? Or will it be the feminist masterpiece that shatters the glass ceiling and will bring us into a new enlightened age where women will lead major motion picture blockbusters forever and ever? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no. Then, what is this new Ghostbusters movie exactly? It’s pretty much what I thought it was going to be: a well-intentioned but flawed reboot of a beloved franchise. 

Must destroy this Neon Demon!!!

As a film, this new Ghostbusters  has a lot of things going for it. Visually speaking, it looks good. I saw this film in the MJR Epic Experience and it looked incredible. The film had the right balance visually for a Ghostbusters movie.  As demonstrated by this film and his previous film, Spy, Paul Feig knows how to shoot and frame some sequences in a unique way. The scary scenes had the right amount of scares in them while also still adding to the humor of the movie. The opening scene of the film is a perfect example of this and the film does a solid job of maintaining this atmosphere throughout.  The final battle at the end of the film is filmed in a way that is mostly creative but feels scaled back, telling me that the finale was reshot in a major way.

The chemistry between the cast is what holds the film together. You get the impression that the Ghostbusters all like and care for each other and I wish we had more moments of them busting ghosts and hanging out because these scenes are where the movie shines. The cast feels a lot more comfortable playing off each other and ghosts rather than they do with the main villain in the film.

While the cast does a solid job with some shaky material, Kate McKinnon rises above it and steals the show as Holtzmann. Holtzmann can be best described as the weird love child of Egon and Peter Venkman with the hair and style of the Ghostbusters cartoon. She brings a manic energy and excitement to the film that really makes the film a lot more fun. You can tell that she has a bright future ahead of her, even if this film doesn’t work out.  Chris Hemsworth is a pleasant surprise as the Ghostbusters dim but loveable secretary. Some of the best scenes in this involve the goofiness of his character and the day-to-day work of the Ghostbusters. Who knew that Thor has some serious comedic chops?

The biggest problem with this film is the script. It borrows a lot from the original but doesn’t do anything different. One of the main reasons the film intrigued me was the idea that there were four female Ghostbusters. Paul Feig, a director who has an affinity for making films with funny women in them, sounds like the perfect choice for this type of film. Having the Ghostbusters as women can lead to some interesting and funny ideas. Maybe the government officials not recognize or take them seriously because they are both women and scientists interested in the paranormal.  Maybe there are whole networks of paranormal investigators who don’t take them seriously as well.

There are way too many nostalgic nods to the original in here and they aren’t used creatively. You know how could fix it?  Use it as motivation for the film. Make it a part of the film. Most of the original Ghostbusters are in this film except for Harold Ramis. Every time they would show up, I would be taken out of the film. If they were all willing to come back, why not have the original Busters train the new generation in a passing of the torch kind of way? That way, the older fans get to say goodbye to the original team and we get introduced to the new team.

Look. It's floating snot. 

This could even apply to the bad guy of the film. Maybe he doesn’t like these new Ghostbusters because they aren’t his Ghostbusters.  The film could be about how nostalgia for the past could be dangerous and could serve as a swansong for the original Ghostbusters. But instead, Paul Feig and Sony played it safe. The villain in this movie is mad because people were jerks to him. Bleh. That is way too simple to be interesting.  He’s mad because people don’t like him? Ugh, come on, Feig. You are better than this.

My biggest beef with this movie is that it doesn’t take any risks. It is safe and inoffensive. It’s not a bad movie but it’s not a great movie. I would like to see more with these characters but I would also like to see more care given to the script. I think there is a real potential for a fun series with these characters. They just need a better script to service them.

Overall, this movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s not even the worst movie I have seen this year. It’s not even the worst Ghostbusters movie. I had a fun time while watching the film. And that’s the problem. It’s just a well-intentioned but flawed reboot of a beloved franchise.  It’s just slightly above average. While I was writing this review, I thought about how there wasn’t anything really strong in the movie besides Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth. There is no meat on its bones. No deeper meaning to it. The riskiest thing about this movie is that it stars four women in lead roles. And while that might be risky for some people, that doesn’t do a lot to inspire me.   

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-Liam S. O'Connor