Ghostbusters (2016)

Anyone who knows me knows I looked at the prospect of a Ghostbusters reboot with skepticism, but always left the door open for it to surprise me.

I won’t go into the “haters” much, largely because they baffle me and make me ashamed to be a nerd. But I do feel I need to say something, because of what I do for a living.

As a writer and editor I am always looking for “problems” with stories (on screen or in print), what works, what doesn’t, and ways I would improve them. I enjoy being critical, but always from a point of view of story.

The haters, though, are critical the way a three-year-old is critical when you try to get them to stop sucking their thumb and take their blankie away from them.

Now it’s not like I don’t think cries of “ruined childhood” can’t be legit. There have been properties that have been brought back and done terribly (or at least heavily flawed). But you have to remember – the movies you enjoyed still exist.  I hate the Pirates of the Carribean and Matrix sequels, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the first ones and always being ready to re-watch them. Reboots and reimaginings are no different.

So, moving on. The movie. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. It’s not the same movie rehashed, it’s a different movie with the same basic ideas. I give it a seven or eight out of ten.

Basically, it’s like comparing Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). Vastly different films with the same basic ideas.  But both are great films (and both can be argued to have flaws).

I’m not going to bother recapping the movie because you no doubt have heard tons of those already.  Instead I’ll list what I think they got right and what they got wrong.


What worked:

Technobabble – one of the things I liked about the original was how they used technobabble to make both the ghost stuff and the tech stuff believable (within the story world). It’s the reason it made great roleplaying fodder.
Characters – I like the ensemble, not just the actors, but the characters. None of them are carbon copies of their male counterparts.  Kristin Wigg and Mellissa McCarthy were both good as the anchors. I heard a lot of people complain about Kate McKinnon’s mad scientist, but I actually really liked her and have no clue what their beef is. Leslie Jones gets far more to do than Ernie Hudson did (I always wanted to see more Ernie in the first one).
Fun – If I had to compare this movie with anything, it would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think that is the easiest way to get my point about fun across.  Marvel movies are fun. This movie is fun in a similar way (it also applies to how the technobabble I talked about before is applied).  In many ways it feels like how the MCU would have reimagined the property.
Humor – A lot of the humor works. I laughed a lot. I was also shocked to see the humor appear so quickly and delivered so deadpan (the tour guide at the beginning made me give a double take–did I hear what I just thought I heard??).  Again this is one of those things where I don’t know where the haters are coming from and are blowing things WAY out of proportion.
Plot – I actually think the plot was pretty good for an origin story movie.  I liked how the characters came together, how their tech had to advance from theoretical to practical, and how the villain’s means of achieving his ends was also brought about by science instead of pentagrams and magic chants. It made for an interesting parallel between villain and heroes. What happens between the mayor’s office and them is a nice twist. It had its own unique story and origins and wasn’t just a rehash of the original.

What didn’t work:

Slow bits – There are some parts in the second act that drag a bit. Fortunately, they don’t last very long, but they are there.
Some of the humor – Going back to the haters, as I said they blew their complaints way out of proportion, but that’s not to say that the elements I heard some mentioned didn’t exist.  There is a fart joke early on (there is almost never a right time for fart jokes), and there’s a bit of Line-o-rama going on (another thing I think there is rarely a right time for). But neither lasts long, so they don’t really bother me as a result.
The Villain – at least for the first half.  He’s played as a stereotypical “weird guy loser” who has been picked on all his life and is looking for revenge.  There honestly isn’t much I can say positive about his portrayal.  I can see where they were going with it, what they were trying to do, but the execution fell very flat. His methods, however, I rather liked (connected to plot above). Also, he gets better after the halfway mark, for reasons I won’t go into.
Unnecessary callbacks to the original – Including StayPuff (albeit not in the way you think) and Slimer were bits that just weren’t needed. And they tried too hard to make nods to the first in other ways as well. But at the same time these aren’t things anyone unfamiliar with the original would notice as out of place, either.  It only stands out by way of comparison.
The climax – Not the final battle, which was pretty action-packed and cool, but the very very end where the day is saved.  Honestly, there was a big bit that didn’t work for me and was there simply for the sake of completing a character arc.
A lack of taking chances – When I compared it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that wasn’t all praise.  The MCU have a winning formula going on, but that’s the key word – formula.  It’s not a deal breaker at all, and it hasn’t worn out its welcome yet (with me anyway) but it is a point that needs to be brought up.


Will you like it? I hope so, but then I know people who don’t like the Marvel movies the way I do, either.  Like all things, it’s subjective.  I’m hoping the kids of today enjoy this movie the way I enjoyed the original when I was a kid.

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