If you’ve seen the first trailer for the Ghostbusters reboot then your reaction probably fell into one of three categories:
1 – CLUELESS OPTIMISM: You may have seen the original films a few times. Certainly enough to remember their showcase bits: the library scene, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Ecto-1, the proton packs, and Slimer the not-so-scary ghost. With these in mind, you watch the trailer and to you these throwbacks are pleasant artifacts of nostalgia. In fact, things even look a little smoother now that the effects are modernized and are inarguably of better quality. And hey, the cast is tremendously talented. There are four outstanding comedic women and the dude that plays Thor as a bonus. “We’re in good shape,” you think. You might be excited to take a look at it when it comes out because of the talent involved. And yes, admittedly, there are some tasty clips in there too. It probably looks like a classed-up R.I.P.D., which really wasn’t all that bad either. The Ghostbusters reboot looks great!
2 – GUARDED OPTIMISM: You’re a big fan of the original films. They might have been a family favorite. Like any reasonable person, you are cautious about a reboot because you’ve been burned by reboots many times before. Why can’t Hollywood come up with any original ideas anymore, you think, quietly shaking your head. You watch the trailer hoping to like it and feel more at ease with this project. You are impressed by the cast, but worried that this reboot seems to contain a lot of rehashing – and rather a lot of camp. The effects look good, and there are a few funny lines – but they fall a little flat. They don’t sound like Ghostbusters lines. In fact, there’s something very much not in the right tone about this film. You can’t put your finger on it. Nevertheless, you will reserve your judgments until the film is released – or at least until the second trailer. The Ghostbusters reboot looks okay.
3 – TOTAL WAR: You’re obsessed with the original films. They started off as a family favorite and then became an oft-quoted personal classic, always occupying a space on your top shelf. You consider them the best of the ‘80s special effects comedies, possibly edging out the Back to the Future trilogy. You’ve been dreading this trailer because it will force you to have a conversation you don’t want to have. And then you see it. And the opening titles almost suggest the possibility of a sequel. “30 years ago… four scientists saved New York…” You grip the armrests of your chair and lean in. Oh, how wrong you have been to worry. Paul Feig is giving us the sequel after all. We can relax. And then no. A hard left turn into so much no. You are assaulted by camp. A trailer that talks and walks like a parody. Scenes are simply being recreated, not rebooted, and the whole experience feels like graverobbing. When the trailer finishes, you sit there in stunned silence… The Ghostbusters reboot looks terrible. It has burned down your home, killed your parents, and spat on their graves. And you know you must have the conversation.
And here it is: it’s not about feminism, folks. It’s about reboots.
Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are gifted actresses worthy of their roles. If there was to be a new team of Ghostbusters, regardless of gender, they would all be top contenders. I am looking forward to their work – and the direction of Paul Feig who has proven himself as a man capable of great triumphs, particularly in comedy. But I say unreservedly that I wish they were all on different projects – or kicking ass with something original – or even kicking ass together in Ghostbusters III. Confused? The issue at hand is that rebooting a classic property steals something from the original – and Columbia Pictures is turning the creative minds at work here into thieves.
Rumors of Ghostbusters III had been around for years, but with no deals set in stone, it seemed permanently caught in development hell. When news of the new project surfaced, things got ugly pretty fast and for two reasons – the right reason, and the wrong reason.
The wrong reason was that news had come out that it was to be a cast of women. Some people, almost all men, took a lot of issue with that. “Ghostbusters is supposed to be a guys thing, right?” “How could they replace Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson with a bunch of chicks? Those guys are legends.” “Women aren’t funny.” So it is said plainly in this article: that argument isn’t okay. Women are funny, particularly the women that have been cast in the Ghostbusters reboot. There are even parts of this messy, godawful trailer that are funny. Further, opportunities for creative women always seem to be scarce – and to deny their “right” to these roles (as if that was something that fans themselves could affirm or deny with any authority) is disparaging, mean, and misogynistic.
The right reason is that it’s a reboot and not a sequel. Hollywood, in its unending desire to empty our pockets, is perfectly willing to mulch classic movies if it means they can crank out a new franchise. And why not? It seems to work time and again, like lambs to the slaughter. How many times must we watch Uncle Ben meet his end? Reed, Sue, and the gang suffer the fantastic effects of cosmic radiation? We go and we spend our money and we feed a lazy culture of remakes and reboots and the new Ghostbusters film is no exception.
What is so special this time is the property in question. Ghostbusters is beloved. There are not many films that achieve its status as a classic film. The violation here feels especially penetrating, particularly close to the heart. It almost feels like a national treasure has been plundered (by Columbia and not by Nicolas Cage). And of course the studio will get away with this because no real crime has been committed – not one that would stand up in court. Crimes against art are usually the kind that you cannot prosecute. And if we could put the Ghostbusters reboot on trial, its defense would likely be a feminist one – but that is a pale shield and a cheap tactic to use when the true lovers of the original film do not care what the gender of the players are. We are accusing the film of graverobbery – a crime that is sexless.
As a lover of the original films, I hope for their sake that the new Ghostbusters is a flop. I hope, like Total Recall, its failure discourages the studio from seeking out other properties to destroy. If it does well, who knows? We might be having this conversation again next year. This time it will be Doc and Marty on the slab with Universal Studios holding the bloody knives.
And for the record, trailer makers, 30 years ago just three scientists saved New York. Winston was just doing it for a steady paycheck. I hope you choke on yours.