Review: Ghostbusters 2016

Ghostbusters-2016

Okay. Alright.

Ghostbusters was released amid a storm of controversy and sexism. A lot of people tried to boycott its release and issued death threats and tried to overwhelm movie rating sites like Rotten Tomatoes with fake reviews to drive down numbers. If you are one of those people, fair warning: This movie is good. Really, really good. If you’re an MRA and you’re reading this, I’m just gonna say it outright, I’m a feminist and I love this movie and this entire article is gonna be replete with triggering sentences that will make you want to throw your computer at my face. I genuinely do not care how angry you are or how much you think this movie “puts men down” or whatever. I’m a man and I loved this movie, in fact I got through the whole thing without feeling “put down” because I’m a mature and intelligent adult and I understand what fiction is and I understand that women can be in movies and can be successful and funny and awesome. I generally don’t like talking about real-world issues on this site, but it’s an inevitable topic when addressing a movie like this, because feminism is so intrinsically linked with every facet of the movie. But even though it’s not my preference to talk about it on a pop culture blog, I’m not going to shy away from the  discussion because even though I’m not exactly an activist, I am very passionate about the issue and I think now is as good a time as any to step up and let my feelings be known. I think that this little section of history is a turning point, a bookmark in pop culture history which we will be able to look back on and say “this is where things started to really change. This is where we got Rey and Katniss and Triss and Wonder Woman and the Ghostbusters. This is where movies started to embrace equality.” Obviously we have a long way to go yet (and I’m talking purely about pop culture here, not the deeper real world societal sexism which still remains), but this is a huge step in the right direction and it’s very overdue and I’m really excited about it.

Anyway, onto the actual important stuff. The review!

Now I love the original, so don’t think that I’m only a fan of the new one because I don’t love the old ones or anything. But this movie did something with Ghostbusters that I think is important for remakes and reboots and reimaginings: It retold the story but with a new voice. And there’s one recent movie that was absolutely phenomenal that did the same thing, and that’s Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens. The creative energy behind both these movies is very similar, and all the positive things I have to say about Ghostbusters I can also say about The Force Awakens. I’m gonna list those things now and then talk about a few other aspects of the film later on:

1: Honouring the Source Material

This is the biggest thing that a remake and/or sequel needs to address. Ghostbusters maintained the same tone and energy and sense of fun mixed with creepiness and action that the original had. We saw the same props, same ghosts, same comedy, and even had cameos from the original cast. The story was similar but different enough that it felt fresh, and just watching the movie gave the audience the same experience as watching the original. That, to me, is all that is required to consider a remake successful, but there’s more that this movie got right.

2: A fresh voice

Now this one is difficult because it needs to be balanced with the previous entry and that’s a difficult balance to achieve. But this entry is all about having a creative reason to remake or extend a franchise beyond monetary gain. And this is where the importance of a female cast comes in (as well as feminism and giving young children positive female role models, but I’ll cover that later). In this case the creative reason for remaking the film was to tell the story with literally a different voice, having females lead the story instead of males. I honestly think that if they’d remade Ghostbusters but with an all-dude cast it would’ve been the most redundant remake ever. Why bother remaking the same movie when the original is already so good, if you’re not gonna change anything about it? But if you remake it in a fresh creative context, there is a point to remaking it. This version of Ghostbusters actually achieves something, it starts a conversation, it gives children new role models, it brings a new flavor to a classic franchise.

3: Nostalgia

This is different to honourng the source material. To me, this is about the feel and visual style, and also the inclusion of familiar faces. I know I mentioned the cameos in the first item on this list, but in this case it’s more that the y are present in this film as a way to show the audience that the old ones are still there, unchanged and undamaged, and the old cast is happy with this new version. They wouldn’t have been in the movie if they were against it being made. That to me says that any audience member who is pissed off that this movie got made is actually arguing with the original cast too. But the nostalgia part goes beyond the cameos, it’s also in the special effects, and in the writing, and in the general feel of the movie. The special effects were very reminiscent of the original movies, with the ghosts looking almost exactly the same (albeit a little clearer).

Slimer

This fucker’s still around too.

The writing was spot-on as a remake (the plot points were very similar but different enough that it felt good to watch, just like the Force Awakens), and all the jokes were in the same tone as the original. The authority figures in the film (the mayor and police and scientists) were all blindly moronic just like in the original (anyone who says that this was a mistreatment of male characters has obviously completely forgotten the original movies). The general tone and feel of the movie gave the exact same impression as the original. It was funny, with a lot of action, a lot of scariness and a lot of heart. This movie is related to the original in every way, they have the same soul and the same story and the same style. I genuinely walked out of the cinema feeling as though I’d watched the original, but fresher, a new just-out-of-the-box experience of an old beloved franchise.

 

Now I want to talk about the actors and the things that made this movie different from the original. I have to say at this point that I was already a fan of the actresses cast in these roles, and I think that honestly that did help me to enjoy the movie. Objectively, if you are not a fan of these specific actresses and their previous work, it would be a little harder to enjoy and embrace this remake. Having said that, it can also be objectively stated that the quality of this movie is great; and as I stated before, it maintains the tone and energy of the originals incredibly well whether you like the new actresses or not.

I personally am a huge fan of all four actresses. I have to say though, the stand out performance for me was Kate McKinnon. I’ve watched a lot of SNL and I’m a huge fan of her work on that show. She makes me laugh almost constantly, and she has the kind of effortless comedic talent found in the original Ghostbusters cast. She is outrageous and insane and hilarious. I find Melissa McCarthy a little hit-and-miss honestly, but she was great in Ghostbusters and I found it refreshing that she didn’t rely on her weight for comedy as she has in a few previous films. I absolutely adore Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones, and I think both of them nailed their roles. Leslie Jones is another actress and comedian who I think has a great delivery style, and her work on SNL is incredibly funny.

I have to say it was also great to see Chris Hemsworth flex his comedy muscles instead of the real ones for a change, and he was great as Kevin, the hopeless secretary.

Hemsworth

“Kevin, answer the phone!” “I can’t reach it, it’s in the fish tank.” “No, the phone that’s ringing. The real one, on your desk.” “Oh, right… sure!”

I love that he was supportive of taking on the idiot role and obviously had no problem portraying a secretary to women bosses which is a dynamic that should not have a negative stigma attached to it but unfortunately still does. This is a great step in the right direction in addressing that though, and was a great dynamic to watch in the movie. I’ve seen Hemsworth’s work on SNL, and he was great in that too, so it’s not like I doubted he’d be good in a comedic role, but this is more than just comedy, this is active feminism and it requires men as well as women to change the way we live, and Chris Hemsworth is directly involved in that change and it’s great to see. As a side note, I also loved Bill Murray’s cameo as the sceptic scientist and Dan Aykroyd’s angry cabbie who “ain’t afraid of no ghosts”.

 

Now I’m going to talk about feminism for a little bit. If you’re an MRA and/or other kind of sexist and you’ve read this far: congratulations on not breaking your computer in a childish hissy fit. The following part of this review is going to be even more challenging for you, and for that I make no apologies. I think firstly that it’s very important that this movie was made with female leads. I think that not only girls and young women, but boys and young men need some strong, intelligent and accomplished female role models to look up to these days. I think that this movie breaks the tired old bullshit idiom that “women aren’t funny”. I think that it really shouldn’t be a big deal that a movie was remade with a female cast because it doesn’t affect the old movie and it doesn’t offend anyone unless you choose to be offended by women not being treated like nothing more than eye candy. And if you are offended by that, you have some serious and dangerous issues that you need to fix immediately. I think that before you condemn a movie for its content, you should be willing to view that content first and actually make an educated decision afterwards based on what you’ve seen instead of jumping on a bandwagon of hate based on nothing but outdated and damaging gender roles.

Shocked

I know, shocking concept, right?

I love that this movie was released after so much controversy because it shows that the creative team still wanted to tell this story even though they knew it would piss a lot of people off, and I think it’s a story that deserves to be told. I think that this movie is just as timeless and lovable as the original, if not more so because it pushes boundaries and embraces inclusivity. This movie didn’t put women in the lead roles just because they’re women, or just for the sake of diversity. It had women in the lead roles because the specific women cast are incredibly talented and funny, and because they were able to tell this story the way it needed to be told.

At the end of the day, I feel very much the same about this movie as I did after seeing The Force Awakens: It holds its own against a beloved older franchise, it can be enjoyed despite comparison and even when taken as part of the whole franchise. It is funny, and fun, and well made. It embraces diversity but based on merit and talent instead of out of any sense of obligation. It honours the original source material but stands out as a great movie and story on its own. Everything about it is great, and I can’t wait to watch it again.

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