night, my wife and I saw the new Ghostbusters. It didn't suck. Here are some mostly random thoughts about the relative lack of suckitude. There are some minor spoilers. This is the only warning you'll get. This is more of an essay for people who have seen the movie than an attempt to get people to see it. (Go see it. At least when it comes out at the dollar theater, or On Demand or something.)
In the Beginning
The internet said there was a Ghostbusters remake in the works. I thought "No, please don't do that." Intellectually, I have decided not to oppose remakes, but Ghostbusters just seemed like such a poor choice. The original was lightning in a bottle, combining some of the best comedic actors ever at the height of their talents with a story unlike anything that had come before. It wasn't really a comedy. It was a fantasy story with comedic elements, and a nice side-serving of horror. But once Ghostbusters existed, any other comedic dark fantasy was not as original as Ghostbusters had been.
Further, Ghostbusters wasn't going to benefit much from better special effects, and I didn't think there were really any comedic actors who could do what Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson had done. SNL hasn't been good for more than 20 years, after all.
Then the internet said the cast would be all female. I was moderately intrigued. I still thought the movie would be superfluous, but an all-female GB team was interesting. Nobody thought an all-male team was weird, so why should an all-female team be weird? When your enemies are incorporeal, the fact guys tend to be physically stronger doesn't even matter much. Normalizing inclusive roles for minorities and women is important, so even if I wasn't interested in the movie personally, I wanted that to happen.
Then the trailers came out, and mostly I thought the movie would still be bad, but there were just a few little touches here and there that made me think the female leads might be interesting. They interacted with each other just a little differently than a bunch of guys would. I can't even really put my finger on the exact difference, but it was just a little intriguing.
I decided I'd maybe catch the movie at a matinee or something. And when Marie said she wanted to go, that was enough for me. The movie might not have been worth full-price tickets, but making my wife happy and getting the chocolate chip cookies from SMG was.
And so, in the fullness of time, I saw the movie. And it didn't suck. It was even pretty good, if not great.
As I said previously, there was no way the new Ghostbusters could be as good as the original. Even with a stellar cast and really awesome writing, it just wouldn't be as original. We'd all go in kind of knowing what was going to happen. Hearing a shaggy dog story you already know can be really fun, with a good storyteller, but it's never as good as the first time.
So it wasn't going to be the amazing bolt from the blue of the original. But it could still be pretty good.
Here's why it was:
They didn't slavishly follow the original. Melissa McCarthy didn't try to imitate Dan Aykroyd. Kristin Wiig didn't try to play Bill Murray. KateKcKinnon didn't try to recreate Egon Spangler. Leslie Jones' Patty had more than one significant line to deliver. The actresses were also genuinely good. I didn't even want to hit Melissa McCarthy in the face with a cricket bat, which I frequently do with her roles lately. Abbie was a role that fit right into her wheelhouse, but was also sympathetic almost immediately. She's kind of a jerk, but she has good reasons to be.
Chris Hemsworth was a trip. Kate McKinnon was awesome (if a bit overplayed). I want a Screw U medallion.
The writing was snappy. The original was kind of deadpan. The humor was in how calmly the Ghostbusters dealt with the otherwise ridiculous situation they'd created. This one was more Whedon-esque. The characters seem to sense that they live in a ridiculous world, and rail against its ridiculousness while still having to live within its constraints.
The SFX were solid. They looked somewhat better than in the trailers, which is normal in the digital age. The ghosts may have been a bit too bright, but they didn't ruin the experience for me. I liked the look of the new gear. I liked the way the gear developed over the course of the movie.
Here's why it wasn't great:
The script was sloppy. Chekov’s Gun didn't make it onto the mantle until the middle of act 3. The villain was kind of lame, and not developed well enough.
I didn't like the action figure accessory toys. They didn't really add anything to the story, with the possible exception of Holtzmann's dual-gun proton pack. That's exactly the kind of thing the gear-head tech geek would do.
The cameos from the original cast were inelegant, except for Ernie Hudson, who was perfect. Annie Potts was also okay. Bill Murray, in particular, stood out. He was in there either not long enough or just a little too long. Dan Aykroyd's just interrupted the scene.
Here's what was interesting and random:
The villain could have used a little better development, but he was interesting. The feminist critique of a basement-dwelling troll was pretty obvious, but there's also the fact he was basically a domestic terrorist who was (a) white, and (b) not religiously radicalized.
These Ghostbusters had different goals than the originals. In the 80s, making the greatest discovery in the history of science and religion was an excuse to cash in. Now, it's about women making advances in science in the face of the patriarchy (And Andy Garcia played the Patriarchy wonderfully).
I may be alone in the world in thinking that Jillian Holtzmann is both on the autism spectrum and somewhat sexually attracted to Erin Gilbert. There's nothing overt, but one little facial expression when they first met gave me that impression. Holtzmann saw Erin and was just briefly wowed. Then she went back to being a mad scientist, since that's all she knows how to be. (Well, really more of a mad engineer, I suppose...)