That’s right! If Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters fails, it won’t be because of its all-female cast but many other reasons. Persis, co-founder of this site and ardent Ghostbusters fan, tells you why.
If there’s anything to be learnt from box-office duds over the years like ‘John Carter’, ‘Fantastic Four’ or even the recent ‘Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is that internet hate coupled with bad storytelling is a recipe for seismic disasters for studios.
Then came the reboot phenomenon, which isn’t really a phenomenon because Hollywood has been remaking films for years, feeding off our desire for nostalgia, despite our cyber-spacing protests and criticisms. Let’s be honest, with less and less money being invested into original independent films, that at one point had the potential to become cult classics (think ‘Clerks’, ‘The Craft’, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Pi’, ‘Blair Witch Project’, ‘Lost Highway’, and ‘Napoleon Dynamite’) those days are sadly gone, along with the dollars that accompanied such ventures.
Only comic book or animated films make any money these days and even then, it’s not guaranteed. So what’s next? Well, just reboot blockbusters from the past, most notably from the 80s. You know, stuff we grew up on like, oh let me see now, ‘The Goonies’, ‘E.T’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘Beverly Hills Cop’, ‘Karate Kid’ and did we mention ‘Ghostbusters’?
While the studios have already mauled and murdered the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and ‘Karate Kid’ series (damn you Jayden Smith), we dread the day the studios decide to greenlight reboots like ‘E.T: A Startup Alien’ and ‘The Goonies Were Gone and Now We’re Back’ in any sequel or prequel format, which brings us to ‘Ghostbusters’, the 2016 version.
The moment Sony announced plans for a reboot with ‘Bridesmaids’ director, Paul Feig at its helm in 2014, during the film’s 30th anniversary celebrations, the Internet broke with fans deriding and denouncing it.
When the original film was released in 1984, it was one of the biggest summer blockbusters of all time, accompanied by one of the most successful film soundtracks of its day. Its perfectly cast combo of Saturday Night alumni, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, along with National Lampoon alumni and co-writer of ‘Ghostbusters’ itself, the deadpan Harold Ramis and newcomer Ernie Hudson, resulted in a performance that intertwined amazingly funny and pun-driven dialogue that served as subtle commentary of the excesses of the day. It has held up till today as one of the “funniest, perfectly constructed comedies ever made,” according to Nerdist.
‘Ghostbusters’ was really a sequel to Murray and Ramis’ comedy sparring in another Ivan Reitman classic, entitled, ‘Stripes’. Both these films were an immaculate mix of scripted and improvised dialogue so golden it has hardly been replicated in comedy films since.
So while the fans are up in arms that Sony even dared to touch a favourite comedy classic like this and god forbid, shoot the Pope’s dog, have female comics in the lead and then have the audacity to hire Paul Feig, I am not at all frustrated at those things. In fact, I welcome the fact that Feig has ‘slimed them all’ and taken the wind out of the proton packs of the original version by changing around Ecto-1, refreshing the cast and making them relevant to 2016.
In an interview with cNET, Feig says, “Working with funny women does make every genre you look at take a different turn, because they just haven’t been done with women,” Feig said. “And selfishly, I love working with funny women.”
That’s a great sentiment expressed by Feig but it still won’t shake this feeling of trepidation I have about this reboot. Will the storyline and performance be able to take self-deprecating humour and slam it back in the face of today’s cultural idiosyncrasies the way the original was able to? I really don’t know. Judging by what I’ve seen of the trailers so far, it looks too perfect and overly ‘Bridesmaid-ish’ with some ghosts who just happen to be sighted within the zipcode.
Now while I am a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy and female comics in general, we’ve got to remember that comedy films created in 2016 are not done in the way they were made back in the late 70s and 80s with talent like Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis. Along with the Eddie Murphys, Steve Martins and John Belushis, the 80s, I believe was the Golden Age of Comedy in Cinema. We will never reach or achieve that kind of comedy brilliance because 1. comedy styles have changed and 2. the writing of most comedies today is overly scripted, overly slapstick’ed and overly crafted, leaving no room for any form of the comic’s natural funny persona to shine through.
When you look at all the trailers for the reboot, the problem isn’t that the film is led by women, it’s going to simply be about storytelling and direction. I hope that Feig was able to direct the performances of McCarthy, Wiig, Jones and McKinnon in such a way that they had opportunities to make fun of the characters that they’re playing because this is what the original film was simply brilliant at.
It poked fun of itself when Murray, Ramis’ and Aykroyd’s spontaneous comic chemistry onscreen resulted in copious (and sometimes ridiculous) banter about the science behind their ghost busting business, if it was even considered a science, given the way Murray’s character, Peter Venkman rolled his eyes and scoffed at his mates when potential girlfriend, Dana (Sigourney Weaver) was around.
In fact, even as professional paranormal investigators and professors with years of experience behind them, the characters themselves couldn’t fully take their job seriously nor explain or much less fathom the strange supernatural phenomenon that was overtaking their city. In the end, while trying to convince the Mayor of New York to rally resources behind their ghost busting rescue efforts, they had to even relent to the fact that this was an event of biblical proportions and something not up their alley. What’s so fun also is to watch Dan Aykroyd, listing out details of these impending Biblical-related disasters, with Harold Ramis and Bill Murray jumping into the mix with supplementary information to back their buddy up.
The unpredictable and reckless way Murray, Ramis and Aykroyd delivered their performances with Ernie Hudson unwittingly sandwiched in between with his practical sensibilities is the additional secret sauce that made the original film so delightful and witty. Doing away with the scripted lines and slapstick firmly placed in the good hands of Rick Moranis, it allowed the film to breathe into the seams of its own supernatural premise. Something we hope this new film will remember to do.
Whether this comic style will be rehashed with the new cast is something that is left to be seen because a lot of the commercial comedies out there are simply over the top and try too hard to be funny, eventually making them a pretty synthetic watch. Cough! – Adam Sandler! – Cough!
The film has also garnered a lot of support from the original cast, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts.
“We’re really really happy,” Aykroyd said. “These women performers are great and all the guys in the movie are just fine too.”
Murray also spoke about how much he enjoyed the new movie.
“It was only because these girls were funny,” he said. “When you see the film, you think ‘are these girls gonna pull it off?’ There’s no quit in these girls, this is a tough movie to pull off, it’s a big concept, there’s a lot on the plate, there’s a lot of expectations.”
With such glowing endorsements, I certainly would be disappointed if this was the case with Paul Feig’s ‘Ghostbusters’ because it would not only choke the film of it’s improvisational potential, it may not allow McCarthy, Wiig, Jones and McKinnon to showcase their natural and amazing comedic skills and personalities – really, the only thing now between failure and massive box-office success. So far, the early reviews from Hollywood Reporter and The Guardian have been mixed, so there’s still some doubt in the air.
Thankfully though, we will see the return of two of the original cast members, Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, thanks to some mighty CGI magic so let’s hope this helps retain some of the crazy of the original movie. Crossing my fingers and toes here, people!