Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Movie Review - "Ghostbusters" (2016)
It isn't too often that a movie comes along that has people so heavily divided. Well alright, that's not true, this happens about once every three months and happened with "Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice." But there are many camps and trains of thought when it comes to the newest "Ghostbusters".
Some complaints for the film stem from living in the shadow of its predecessor, with the original 1984 film often being considered one of the greatest modern comedies, and that this film is merely a carbon copy of the original, with the exception of the other complaint people have - the all-women cast.
The thing is that production on a third Ghostbusters film had been in contemplation for years and was stuck in development-hell for over a decade. The writers of "Ghostbusters," Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who also play two of the lead Ghostbusters) couldn't come up with a satisfying story, certainly not helped by the lukewarm response to "Ghostbusters 2." Eventually, the project was shelved while Ghostbusters gained more and more of a following over the years.
Enter writer-director Paul Feig, who has previously given us "Bridesmaids" and one of the best comedies from last year "Spy." While Feig is known for his collaborations with Melissa McCarthy, it should be noted that Feig had a talent for writing funny female characters. When Feig took on "Ghostbusters" he went in the motto of "telling a story never you've seen before. Or tell a story you've seen before, but in a way you haven't seen it."
It also helped Feig that he hired Katie Dippold to co-write the film with him, who had previously written "The Heat" and several episodes of "Parks And Recreation."
So where do I fall on the newest addition to the Ghostbusters legacy? Do I think its sexist or a pale imitation? Actually, "Ghostbusters" is far from either.
While comparisons between the 2016 addition and the 1984 film are unavoidable, especially since the first movie is so well-loved, I believe this film does enough to distance itself from the predecessors. Not just in casting the four main leads, but how these characters interact with each other and their defining character traits.
Besides, a movie should stand or fall on its own merits rather than being compared to other works. "Ghostbusters" is not a sequel, and could hardly be considered a remake, but more of a re-imagining.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a professor at Columbia University looking to gain tenure and finds out that is jeopardizes when a book she published years ago on the paranormal has resurfaced and is causing a bit of a stir. Erin confronts her friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), about putting the book online, when Erin finds Abby has a massive lab equipped to locate and hunt ghosts, including an eccentric lab assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Abby agrees to take the book offline if Erin joins them for one mission, where the three have a face-to-face encounter with a ghost.
With renewed spirits and purpose, the three decide to join forces and construct a way to show the world that ghosts are real and might be dangerous. They get the help from a local Subway attendant, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and a dim-witted secretary (Chris Hemsworth), while gang slowly uncovers a plot by the mysterious Rowan (Neil Casey).
The true strength of this film comes from the four main leads, who are all delightful and hilarious to watch. Each of them stands out with distinct personality traits, including Patty's street knowledge clashing with everyone elses' raw intelligence, Erin's surprisingly tragic childhood being the reason the Ghostbusters were formed, and Jillian's complete disregard for safety and basic manners.
Each of these girls was enjoyable in one form or another, with particular focus on Kate McKinnon, who makes sitting down to chat with the mayor hysterical. She's certainly the brains of the group, but don't let her know that or she might dissect the brains to see how it can blow up. Leslie Jones adds a great balance of humor and attitude, where she is an outsider to all the technology and supernatural events, leading to some of the best jokes like when she runs into a walking mannequin. But Patty still understands the seriousness of this situation and is sympathetic towards other characters, leading to her being the most caring member of the group.
Melissa McCarthy tones down her usual over-the-top attitude from "Spy" to give us the most balance member. The best parts of her character are in her relationship to Kristen Wiig's character, as their bond was formed by being the only two who ever understood one another. These two make up the heart of the film through their comradery and perseverance.
All four of these characters are written like some of the greatest female film characters, like Sarah Connor or Ellen Ripley - they are fascinating and sometimes characters that just so happen to be female. They are humans before they're women.
The gender of these four is rarely brought up in "Ghostbusters," and they hardly act any differently than a man would do in their situation. Sure, the film will occasionally make a joke about their genders, but they are few and far between. Honestly, I didn't find that their genders mattered at all. These four characters would have been just as funny, sympathetic and entertaining as men, but then we would have missed out on some great scenes from Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
With all this being said, is "Ghostbusters" fantastic? Not really. Outside of the four protagonists and a few scenes involving Chris Hemsworth, there is nothing that particularly stands out about the film. The story is bare-bones "misunderstood heroes have to stop the oncoming apocalypse," the villain gets the job done and the effects are decent, but get worse as the film progresses oddly enough. When we're introduced to the first ghosts, there is a lot of detail in the outfits and skeletal structure. But by the time we get to the climatic battle, some of the ghosts are less than impressive, when it looks like our heroes are hitting nothing at all.
But "Ghostbusters" knew where to put the majority of the focus - The lead characters and the comedy. While this film is far from perfect, it does nail the characters bouncing off one another and giving us some great comedy that we didn't see in any previous Ghostbusters film. I do believe that Paul Feig's movie lived up to the "tell a story you've seen before, but in a way you haven't seen it."
So before you say that "Ghostbusters" is trying to be anti-male or that it is a weak remake of the 1984 film, I would highly recommend going to see it for yourself before you make that assessment. Even if you end up hating the film, at least now you can point out why it was so terrible. And if you do end up enjoying it, then something good did come out that.
Final Grade: B