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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ghostbusters News Round-Up

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Edited by Robert Beach

At the time of writing, we are just a little over 2 weeks out from this summer’s new Ghostbusters film. As we’ve barreled full speed towards the all-women Ghostbusters remake, we’ve had a whole slew of trailers, posters, and behind-the-scenes images about the new film, all of which seems to indicate we’re in for a pretty fun movie. While maybe not the equal of the original, it will be a fun summer distraction and a new merchandising juggernaut for the much-in-need Sony Pictures. 

Of course, this build-up has also been accompanied by a cacophony of online whining about the reboot somehow ruining the source material or being an affront against nature; all of it is complete hogwash. Given that, this news round-up on what we know about the movie so far is going to be focused on just the facts, rather dive into the Internet outcry about how this latest reboot ruined everybody’s childhood.  

So the plot of the new film seems to be set as a pretty basic recreation of the original “let’s start a business” set-up. I’m okay with this set-up given the nature of the reboot. Bringing in a whole new set of characters and a whole new world where the Ghostbusters emerge in a time of crowd funding, TED talks, and app services mean it’ll be a totally new dynamic about the task of willing a business into existence. 

My only hope is that if Ghostbusters is a monster hit, they don’t follow the mistakes of the original film by repeating the same story for the sequel. That’s also the niggling reason I’m not totally on board with the business plot. 

When this comes out, we’ll have had three Ghostbusters movie all with the same central plot of “scientists start a business and then a giant monster triggers the apocalypse,” which can get a little tedious. 

That’s part of why I think so many people gravitated towards the animated Ghostbusters show. All the exposition was out of the way, so it could double down on the horror comedy; however, like I said, the cartoon worked because everyone was established. This new movie doesn’t have that luxury. Relying on the familiar Ghostbusters jumping off point of the small business in New York is a good way to go about that.

What’s more, I can’t really fault the film’s set-up of building up to a big monster showdown as this is a genre blockbuster, and that’s tradition at this point. It’s a paint-by-numbers structure to be sure, but giving the film a solid framework to build its jokes and action off of is no crime. And it could allow the movie’s comedy and set pieces to be all the more creative.  

The biggest change up this Ghostbusters seems to bring is the idea of ghosts possessing the living, which is a neat addition to the core mythology with a lot of room for laughs. Plus, it allows the film to put a human face on its antagonist and a damn menacing one at that. We’ll get back to that in a little bit. 

As for references and shout outs to the original film, those appear to be here in a subdued way. A lot of folks have claimed the giant monster smashing through New York for the final set piece is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but I’m honestly not convinced. We do see glimpses of Slimer and the original firehouse throughout the trailer, so we know there are going to at least be nods to the classic film. 

It just doesn’t seem like we’re going to get much reverence or pomp and circumstance for what came before. I’m fine with that, really. The tone of this film seems so irreverent it’s hard to imagine it taking anything seriously. That’s probably why a lot of the obvious shout outs are played for laughs, like referencing the mass hysteria line from the original before immediately inciting panic. 

The biggest thing from the original that’s missing in the reboot seems to be the conservative undertones that informed that film. Not to get too political about this, but the original Ghostbusters is very much a product of the conservative ideology that informed America’s mainstream zeitgeist in the ‘80s. It’s a story about brilliant men giving up academia to become private business owners and constantly fight government bureaucracy & red tape to try and save the city. 

The Ghostbuster’s approach to crime is simply to lock up all offenders to get them off the streets and their whole ethos is about privatizing what should be an emergency service. None of this ruins the movie, but it’s a major part of the ethos that seems excised in this new version. There’s no indication of any government stooges or flunkies getting in the way of the new ‘Busters aside from a brief shot of the girls with the mayor. I’m more or less okay with this as I’m not exactly sure how well the Ghostbuster’s brand of libertarianism would play in today’s economic and political climate. Also, in a movie about evil ghosts, you don’t really need evil politicians as well. 

Moving over to characters, the two standouts of these trailers so far would have to be Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. McKinnon is the definition of rising star, and she looks hilarious here as the ‘cool’ one of the group. One of the great things about this reboot is that they’ve resisted turning the characters into boilerplate analogs of the classic Ghostbusters. No one is acting as the Ray or the Egon, though there is a group dynamic being set-up.  

McKinnon is the team’s engineer, but her whole persona seems to be cool, jokey aloofness, never taking things too seriously and enjoying an off-beat brand of comedy that speaks to her individuality. Meanwhile, Wiig, the comedian I’m most a fan of, looks hilarious here as the team’s dorkiest member, though she’s the leader of the group. She so earnestly enthusiastic about everything the team is up to, and it’s wonderfully combined with her complete lack of grace and awareness.

Melissa McCarthy is looking a lot more subdued than usual in this flick. By now, she seems thoroughly comfortable with Paul Feig’s hand on the tiller. She seems most like the brains of the group, the one putting the team together usually slotted into the role of team mom. I suspect she’ll really cut loose by the end of the movie, which is probably her arc. For now, I’m glad to see her take a more suppressed part and allow the other women to shine through. 

Leslie Jones is the odd woman out of the group. I’ve seen Jones be funny in stuff prior to this (hilarious), but a lot of her jokes don’t land as strong as the others here. And it’s still disappointing that her identity in the film seems predicated on being the street smart team member. Still, she comes off as the most physical of the group and does have a lot of funny lines when she acts as the exasperated voice of reason. 

The real standout of these trailers to me though has to be Chris Hemsworth. So far, Hemsworth has had a lot of difficulty proving he can be good in movies that aren’t Thor. Even then only 3 of his 4 Thor outings are actually any good. 

However, he seems to bring real comedy and a real menace to his role as the GB’s secretary. He nails the role of ditzy hot secretary in all these trailers, making him the latest hot man in Hollywood to prove great at comedy. The ending twist where he becomes possessed by the ghosts and builds their machine is very unnerving. There’s something about Hemsworth’s chiseled physique and super villain mannerisms that's really freaky and makes me wonder if he’d be better cast as a villain in more stuff. 

As to everything else, the CGI on the ghosts still seems like the film’s sketchiest elements. I like the blue and green coloring work on the ghosts, but the monochromatic approach ends up robbing them of the more detailed look they’ve had in previous incarnations.  

There are a few exceptions like the nightclub demon, Slimer, or the giant bowtie ghost at the end. I’d just like a little more variety than the blue/green specters. What I do really love about the film is the redesign of the Ghostbusters’ gear and headquarters. 

The incredibly merchandisable nature of the Ghostbusters is a big part of why this reboot got launched in the first place, so filling up the movie with a whole range of redesigned gadgets like new traps, new guns, and even Ghostbusting brass knuckles is a great way to do that.  

It actually reminds me a lot of Iron Man or Ant-Man where a lot of the film’s run time is dedicated to showing off the making and usage of movie tech in the build up to a big blow-out battle. I’m a sucker for super tech in a movie, especially when it’s filtered through multiple forms like this. I’m totally on board with this decision, transparent merchandising or not. 

Finally, there’s the new theme song by Fallout Boy with a guest verse by Missy Elliott. Personally, yeah, I like the new Ghostbusters song.  It’s not the original, certainly, but then again nothing is. That sentiment sums up my take on the reboot overall actually. The idea that this whole project was never going to reach the heights of the original film, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have done it. Look, the Ghostbusters as a concept is a lot like the Ghostbusters theme: a brilliantly put together piece of work created by layering several great elements together. 

And yet, that layering opens the door for further installments to break up this art and explore some different component. That’s why stuff like the chiptunes, orchestral, or metal version of the Ghostbusters theme works so well or why alterations to the team like The Real Ghostbusters or Extreme Ghostbusters were such fun extensions of the original idea. Ghostbusters is essentially a modern myth with each new iteration of it coming from the elements of the original the new team chooses to explore.

Ghostbusters is scheduled for release on July 15, 2016

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