Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghostbusters Review + Rant

One of my favorite thought experiments is "what if the entire cast of this movie would just swap gender?". Ghostbusters actually never entered that experiment in my head, but imagine a movie like Mission Impossible, Seven Samurai, The Godfather or Terminator - just to throw some examples out there. Just swap the genders of the people in it, not the dialogue or anything else (except pronouns where necessary) and see what it would be like. I would love for big classics to get this treatment and it seems someone else had the same idea.

Funnily enough though, that is not at all what I thought about when I first heard they were going to make a new Ghostbusters and have an all female cast. My first thought centered around the fact that as long as they didn't have the original cast, it was probably going to suck - women or men didn't really matter at that point. I shuffled it under some rug in my subconscious and didn't think much about it, until the first trailer surfaced. And boy did that not make things any better. It seemed about as clever as the Transformers-movies and all I could think of was how sad it was that people were going to flip this into "women can't be funny" when no one is saying the same thing about men when Shia LaBeouf was ruining one movie after another (and damn trying to spell that name!) (not to mention all the other completely unfunny men out there that make movie after movie - yes I am talking about Adam Sandler).

But something made me want to see the movie anyway. I thought Kate McKinnon seemed cool as hell in the trailer and it was another Ghostbusters movie after all - I am a huge fan of the first two (yes, both of them) and the Warcraft movie had just pleasantly surprised me with being a lot better than I thought it would be. It also happened to be the one movie me and two friends could agree on watching so there I was in the movie theater watching the new Ghostbusters - and having a damn good time.

When I started thinking about writing this review I had some trouble deciding how much about it should just be a pure review and how much about it should be a rant/defence on why it's better than people give it credit for. Is it a perfect movie? Is it the best movie of the year? Is it better than the originals? No, no and no. Did I have fun watching it? Did it make me laugh? Did it make me want more? Yes, yes and yes. I'm going to try to give my thoughts on the movie first, without any ranting - the ranting comes afterwards.

The Review
Like I already mentioned my expectations were very low when I started watching this movie. I love the original two movies, I even belong to the 1% who thinks the second movie is better than the first one (there, I said it) but they are both absolutely brilliant. The character dynamic and sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle humour still gets me. Stantz, Spengler and Venkman all had their own quirky personalities that played off eachother perfectly, for instance I love the way Bill Murrays Venkman manages to be so teasingly disrespectful of the other two (and the whole endeavour) and still keep it on the funny side of mean. Both Spengler and Stantz are dorky weirdos without being charicatures. They're all interesting. You'll notice I haven't mentioned Ernie Hudsons Winston Zeddmore and that is because I think his character is one of the very few flaws of the first movies. Not the fact that he's in it, but I think he is poorly written and not given the same chance and material the other three are working with. This is actually something this remake/reboot gets right. Leslie feels like part of the team in a way the first Ghostbusters never managed to make Ernie feel.

Overall I was impressed by how well Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones managed to channel the idea of the first four Ghostbusters, without actually being or simply copying them. You can quite easily tell who each of them are supposed to be in the dynamic and yet they make their own roles in it. McKinnon is not trying to be Murray, in the way the kid in Ace Venture Jr is trying to be Jim Carrey. But she fills the same role in the quartet, but in her own way. And they all manage to pull this off - Wiig is clearly Spengler, McCarthy is clearly Stantz (and I already mentioned Jones) but they're also their own characters - this is very well done.

I actually thought the first half of the movie, the setup-half, was a lot more enjoyable than the second half or the action-half. This is because the characters work well together and the dialogue was very entertaining - I laughed out loud several times. I didn't feel like this movie managed to convey the same feeling of mystery and amazement that the first Ghostbusters movie did (and that could just be me being jaded), but the chemistry between the four main characters was almost as good.

The second half was weaker, but by not enough to bring the entire movie down fortunately. In fact, McKinnon has a scene in it that was so kick-ass I am sure I got goosebumps. It might be one of the coolest action scenes I've seen all year, although that could also be because it was so unexpected.

The worst thing about the movie by far was the bad guy, I'd almost like to say lack there-of. Not only is he boring and completely unmenacing, the entire thing feels like a bad rehash of what happens in Ghostbusters 2. But you can't compete with Viggo the Carpathian, that guy still gives me nightmares (I will get back to this idea in my rant section btw). Looking back at it it feels like they tried to mash up the bad guys from the first and the second movie, and I if that is the case it was a bad move. The end result feels lackluster and you stop caring pretty soon. Not only is the bad guy and his endeavours pretty uninteresting, it's not helped at all by the fact that the movie doesn't build up to it enough either. The movie fails in combining the build-up phase and climax-phase, making it come out almost as two different movies. It's as if they had different writers doing each part or the writers had no idea how to write suspense. The second part has some cool scenes, but overall that is where you get everything I worried the movied would be - a soulless wannabe actionfest that just left me feeling pretty non-invested in the whole thing. The Blind Movie Critic has some good things to say about that.

It's really too bad, because the first half of the movie shows what great potential this idea has and that it actually manages to stand on its own two legs until it decides to go too far into the originals. I'd like to think that the creators were doing this intentionally - showing the audience the two sides of the coin and what would've happened if they had been too reliant on trying to just flat-out copying the originals vs reimagining with new conditions. Either way, we do get the idea.

Also, what did they do to Slimer? They should've gone for practical effects with him, because what was in the movie didn't work for me at all.

Overall however I was very pleasantly surprised. I really liked all the main characters and it left me wanting more. I hope it gets a sequel and that it gets a better script because this movie showed it's got some great potential.

The Rant
As I got home from the movie and talked to my bf about it (he had already seen it previously) we got into a pretty heated argument on the pros and cons of the movie. He had not enjoyed it at all and thought the comedy was flat and the overall experience meh. So I thought for this rant I would let him be the other side of the argument, but remember I am really just paraphrasing him for the sake of discussion here.

I started out by asking him what would have made the movie better, and he answered with the same old that a lot of other people have already mentioned. He wanted some sort of tie in with the originals. Rather than having the original cast come in as cameos (I did not like Billy Murrays cameo btw) he wanted them to somehow pass the torch, to continue the existing universe rather than redo it. I think one of his main issues was that it was neither a continuation nor a remake, instead they have completely different characters do the same thing. What was the point?

I have a couple of issues with this whole frantic need to tie together universes and understanding how the hate is justified. Firstly, because you have female characters it's only natural that you would have to rename them (I'd love a world where names weren't genderized, but we aint there yet). Would you try to feminize the existing names like Egonina Spengler and Petra Venkman? I think we can agree that is a pretty silly idea. But some people don't even consider it a remake, maybe because the story is too far from the original story? But this happens all the time, movies like House on Haunted Hill and the upcoming Pete's Dragon are far removed from their originals and are still considered remakes. Is it really just because the names have changed, which we already agreed kind of had to happen?

Or maybe it is the fact that it is a remake that is bothering people. I don't know why since eventhough there is usually some fanboy hate on every remake that's done, there have been very many the passed few years and none have received nearly as much hate as this one. Just looking at this list you've got movies like The Departed (which by the way, also completely changes the character names and other things that Ghostbusters did), King Kong, Let Me In (yet again, changing the characters names), Taxi and One Missed Call.

But let's pretend the frustration is because people were longing so hard for the original cast and all that disappointment just transformed into hate. It's not like they haven't tried to get a Ghostbusters 3 to happen for the last 25 years. Some, mainly Billy Murray if I understood it correctly, made it abundantly clear that they had no interest whatsoever in making another sequel. Some even consider it a bit of a boot in the face of fans that after all the no's, he turns up for a cameo in this reboot/remake/whatyamacallit (I think James Rolfe made this point for instance). But if you think about it, maybe he was right?

I want these.

Like I mentioned before, it's difficult to top the first two movies. Heck, many people think even the second movie is shit compared to the first one. I think personally what made the first movie so good was partly because they were underdogs, struggling to prove to the world that they were right while also saving it. They actually manage to reuse this concept for the second movie. Think about it, where would you go from there? Could it really me believeably used for a third installment?  With the idea of having the original cast passing the torch, you also have to accept the idea that the Ghostbusters are an established brand within their own universe. There are only so many times you can save the world (or New York at least) without getting some recognition. People will have to accept that ghosts exist. Logically the original four wouldn't be the only ones in the business anymore (presumably this is where a new cast could come in) but would this universe make for an interesting story? That would move away a lot further from the original idea than this remake has. The core idea is brilliant, but maybe we have to accept the fact that it doesn't give much to expand on. You risk getting Jaws 3 and beyond. I'm not saying it's impossible, with good writers anything is possible. But 25 years of rewriting did not make it happen - maybe there is a good reason for it.

Besides, I don't like the idea of passing the torch in the first place. Somehow I get the feeling that it would delegitimize the new team. Yet again, this can be done too - the Force Awakens is an example of where it is tried and probably will succeed. Indiana Jones 4 is an example of where this was tried and miserably failed. Even if that could've worked for Ghostbusters we get back to my previous point - it would leave the new team in a Ghostbusters universe that has little potential of recreating the atmosphere of the originals. With that you also run the risk of tarnishing the existing two movies. You could basically get the Terminator franchise all over again, with sequels no one liked or felt were needed.

Or as a final idea, you could have the still existing cast, if they would finally agree to it, come in and do some sort of "we're old now, everyone has mysteriously forgotten about our deeds, let's give it our one last adventure"-movie. This, to me, has the greatest potential of all the above, but it would require so much from the actors and the writers. It was simply not meant to be. Don't blame the new movie for it.

I can accept it if people would've said that "no one needed this". It doesn't anywhere near warrant the hate it's gotten, as it should make people feel indifferent, but it's a line of reasoning I can get behind. I don't know how many times I have felt that way about a remake or reboot.

But don't try to make me think that you hate this because the options would've turned out better.

Someone looked at this franchise, really wanted to make it happen, saw all the traps they could fall into and decided to go this way with it. Personally I think it is the best thing they could've done with it and I am happier this exists than if it hadn't.

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