Saw the new Ghostbusters this weekend. I admit I went with a fair bit of trepidation, given some of the early indications, but after all the backlash from jag off internet misogynists, I was going to throw money at this thing whether it sucked or not. So I went in the first weekend to register at the box office, and my verdict is that even though it is technically flawed in many ways, I had a blast just enjoying the fun of this extremely delightful film. SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
Now I actually believe the first Ghostbusters is a really good, lightning-in-a-bottle kind of film, and I am generally not a fan of remakes, especially of lightning-in-a-bottle classics that don’t really bear comparison. But the fact of the matter is, we’re in a culture that is reimagining existing IPs almost entirely right now, and if they’re going to do it, it makes sense to actually try and put a fresh spin on those IPs. Giving women a presence in a context where they didn’t get to be is about the best possible way to achieve that, so even bearing all that in mind, I was definitely going to support this film.
The charm of the movie lies in the characters, as I would argue any truly engaging storytelling does. Based on the marketing I was afraid we were going to get “female equivalents” of the original cast, which I thought was a bad move— particularly since that seemed to be at fault for relegating the one black Ghostbuster again to the only non-scientist role. But they were actually all fairly unique and interesting, with relationships I cared about. Kristen Wiig’s Erin was chased away from her fascination with the paranormal by public derision and the desire to establish a respectable reputation in scientific academia. Her childhood friend and former partner Abby, the Melissa McCarthy character, is a fearless eccentric dedicated to proving her paranormal theories and showing the world that ghosts are real. Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann, easily the breakout character, is a hilarious mechanical genius with a skewed point of view and buckets of awkward, out-there charm. Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan is a tough, practical optimist who’s an expert in the history of New York City and rolls to adapt to deal with the weirdness around her. (You may be interested to know that the trailers cherry-picked all of only a handful of Stereotypical Sassy Black Woman moments, and I found her to be much more of a witty, insightful comedic presence. Others may disagree, and she could have been less stereotypical than she was, but I thought she was way more nuanced than the commercials suggested she’d be.) Easily the best moments are when these characters are hanging together doing Ghostbuster stuff, and you wanted to just watch them figure out their shit as they go and use cool gadgets to bust spooks. All the performances are good, and special mention goes to Chris Hemsworth, who is both hot and hilarious as basically the airheaded bimbo they hire as a receptionist because they like looking at him!
The writing, unfortunately, is not great. It doesn't have the philosophical underpinnings of the original-- check Moviebob's excellent exegesis on it in this video.
It’s packed with great ideas that are either not fully explored or could have used an extra pass in the script editing process. The biggest problem to me was how choppy and weird the pacing was. The whole movie smacks of something that was cut up and reassembled in the editing room due to last-minute fears and insecurities. They would talk about doing a thing or a thing happening, then the very next scene things would sort of happen just as they talked about it—I can’t quite articulate what the problem was, maybe too little conflict, maybe too predictable, maybe too much telling with the showing, but it was somehow odd. Also, it was clear a lot of stuff got cut out, which led to weird transitions or total lack of any kind of sensible explanation for how we got from point A to point B. It also meant a lot of things never got the payoff they deserved. I liked the idea of making Patty a historian of New York, giving her a particular expertise even though she wasn’t a scientist, but it didn’t lead to anything substantive enough. There was this suggestion that the villain, who was pretty underdeveloped, was sort of the dark-reflection of Erin and Abby, which is a very interesting idea, but it was never realized in any way.
But the whole thing was a ride for me. Once things got going, I found myself having so much fun laughing at the jokes, enjoying the character interactions, and cheering at the cool busting action. It made me not really care so much about the inconsistencies. There are lots of little low-polish things— a lot of the dialogue and humor was clearly improvised, and a lot of it goes on a bit too long, there are subplots that really don’t make sense, and the final act is a logistical clusterfuck. But it was so damn fun. Getting to see cool female characters bust ghosts made me clap and yell and throw my fists in the air. Holtzmann's dual-weilding proton guns was one of the coolest action bits I've seen in a flick in years. And I’d like to point out that with the exception of Kate McKinnon, all the actresses were older than the original actors were in Ghostbusters ’84. That meant a lot to me, with my morbid fear of age-related feminine obsolescence.
And moreover, it’s going to mean a lot to kids. It might be an emotional rather than critical response. Bernie rather insightfully said it might be like Pacific Rim was for him-- a movie I found to be utterly ridiculous but he found a spiritual experience. But that means kids will feel it even more strongly. And not just little girls who are crying out for girl heroes. When I saw it, there was a little boy in the audience just down the row from me— LOSING HIS SHIT IN GLEE at every cool thing the ‘Busters did. It made me so happy. Not just for his infectious joy, but because it flew in the face of every asshole executive who ever declared that boys can’t be interested in or identify with girl heroes. As in_water_writ said, those are HIS Ghostbusters. For a whole new generation of kids, their Ghostbusters are women. And that makes it a blast despite any imperfection.
And I know I have terrible taste in music, but I actually like the new theme song cover. 😁