This morning I am sitting down to write that immediately feels like a dangerous post. The internet has been charged with drama over the release of the Ghostbusters movie this summer. From the moment I saw the trailer I knew that for better or worse I was going to see it. The Ghostbusters franchise was a significant part of my childhood, and I even had a poorly recorded bootleg copy of the movie that I wore out from watching it over and over as a child. I was just the right age for the phenomena and it was only multiplied by the fact that my cousins were also extremely into the movie franchise. We had so many quotes from the movie memorized, and even today when delivering bad news I sometimes say “tell them about the twinkie” and this past week I absolutely said “cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria” when describing a catastrophe at work. To say this movie has left its imprint on me is a bit of an understatement. All of this said, please do not expect me to devolve into a post about how Paul Feig has stolen my childhood. My childhood is perfectly fine and intact… and the reason why I know this is that Hollywood keeps mining it to make a quick buck. My childhood was so damned awesome that even today I can walk down the toy aisle and damned near every toy I encounter has its roots in said childhood. My childhood is safely guarded by the warm memories that made me a geek in the first place, and continue to interest me in new and quirky movies, games and comics.
Friday was my wife’s Birthday and at the suggestion of my boss I took the afternoon off, and we wound up eating a late lunch and then going to a matinee of new Ghostbusters movie with a friend of ours. Then as fate would have it, yesterday was this nasty rainy day that caused us to hibernate on the couch… and while there VH1 happened to be playing both of the original Ghostbusters movies. So as a result I feel like I have both franchises fresh in my memory, and less cluttered by the detail changing dusts of time. The problem I am having personally is that the new Ghostbusters reboot was in essence two different experiences for me. The first experience is the phenomenal comedic performances of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth. The second experience was an otherwise forgettable plot line and a more annoying than sister primary villain. Because of the first part it feels like the movie works well enough and becomes a fun romp through ghost filled New York. The second part however annoys me because the cast deserved a much better movie than the one that they got. So when asked if I like the movie I am torn… I have to say yes because it was well worth watching, but there is always going to be a bit of an asterisk behind that yes because the plot structure and story were not that great.
The primary point of frustration is that this is a movie without a build up. What I mean by that is we know immediately who the bad guy is and what he is ultimately doing. His little mantra of”Charge the lines, create the vortex, break the barriers.” pretty much explains the entire plot of the movie and we hear it extremely early. There is no suspense or real explanation of what the hell his trash sculptures were or how exactly they worked other than that they emitted pretty purple light and exploded. The other problem I had with Rowan is that essentially he was every cruel nerd throwback pulled straight from a subreddit. He was picked on so now he just wants to watch the world burn… that is the entire motivation for his character. In contrast the whole plot of the original Ghostbusters involved this creepy as fuck Ivo Shandor that we know next to nothing about other than the fact that he build a weird structure designed entirely to act as a conduit for the spiritual world. So when the movie uncovers this it feels like they are digging down and uncovering a secret truth that has been hidden under our noses, rather than just following the trail of a mad bomber. Even the second Ghostbusters in spite of all of its problems, provides a sufficiently steeped in history antagonist for us to learn more about as the movie goes along. Rowan on the other hand feels like a sort of shorthand for generic internet bad guy, almost the emoji version of a proper antagonist.
All of this said Kate McKinnon makes the movie. Jillian Holtzmann is phenomenal and I cannot wait to see all of the amazing cosplay she is going to inspire at Pax South this year. Her character was nothing like what I expected, and I was extremely pleasantly surprised. The only frustration that my wife had was the fact that it seemed like she pulled gadgets out of thin air. The movie did a really poor job of showing that time was passing, and it felt like every time we made it back to base she had a half dozen new toys for the team to play with. I would like to think that maybe all of these devices already existed and simply lacked the final polish to hand out… much like the shotgun that Gilbert tried to use but Holtzmann told her it was not quite ready. Essentially the thing with this movie is that regardless of the shortcomings of the story itself… the cast of characters makes up for it and keeps it an interesting experience. I don’t necessarily think this is movie greatness in the making, but the cast saves what is an otherwise forgettable movie. Having watched all three movies in a forty eight hour period… it unfortunately does nothing to dethrone the original Ghostbusters for me. However I would say that I like the 2016 reboot considerably more than I like Ghostbusters 2… and that is not to say that I don’t actually enjoy the second Ghostbusters outing. I mean after all I break out the line “Everything you are doing is bad. I want you to know this.” on a regular basis at work, even if no one has a damned clue where that line comes from.
I guess my big frustration with the reboot is that it didn’t actually need to be one. What I mean by that is that the cast of characters are of the appropriate age to have been children when the original adventures of the Ghostbusters happened. In those movies… the relationship between the Ghostbusters and public was tentative at best. The movies see them jailed and committed to a mental institution for trying to save the city. There is absolutely nothing unrealistic in thinking that after saving the city and causing the statute of liberty to walk through downtown… that they once again would be swept under the rug by a government that really does not want them to exist. There are so many ways that they could have set up the new team of Ghostbusters to carry on the torch of the original team without making them part of the original team. So I would have liked to see this movie be Ghostbusters III or at least directly connected to the original franchise other than the fact that it includes the actors in cameos. One of the things I love about the Star Trek reboot universe is that it is deeply connected to the original Star Trek universe, and is treated as an alternate reality where certain key events happened differently. I would have been perfectly okay with that happening as well, but it will always bother me that the movie could have been so much cooler than it ended up being. Part of me really hopes that the movie does well enough in the box office, especially in the foreign box office that it will warrant a sequel. This cast deserves a much better movie than this one, because they shine like diamonds in the mess that is the rest of the movie. So while I have complaints, it still is well worth seeing while it is still available in theaters. I fully expect to pick up a copy of the movie when it officially releases because I think it will be one of those “better on repeated viewings” experiences as you are allowed to soak in the comedic genius of some of the interactions.