Sunday, 17 July 2016

Ghostbusters 2016: I'm Ready to Believe Them! (Spoiler Review)

Hello again everyone. I know in my previous post I said I was going to do a Finding Dory review, but that never materialized and I apologize. But the truth of the matter is, I don't have much to say about it. I found it to be a disappointment. Pixar was so concerned about hitting all those 'feels' buttons that everyone has raved about since the first ten minutes of Up, that they forgot about the actual movie. Most of the characters, except for Nemo is a horrible asshole to Dory the whole film (even Marlin, who should be accustomed to Dory by now as this movie takes place a year after the events of Finding Nemo) and none of the new characters really stick with you this time. It lacked the heart and the humor of the first film and couldn't seem to keep the attention of the children in the theater. The short that ran before it, called Piper, was much better and was utterly stunning visually. Finding Dory was a letdown, and I don't understand what people are seeing in it.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the task at hand. This is now my third entry regarding the new Ghostbusters film. And this time, we're actually going to talk about the movie itself, now that it has opened and I've had a chance to see it.


So let’s get right down to it. I’ve already written two rather long posts regarding the first trailer and how the backlash against this movie has been ridiculous and infantile, and now is the moment of truth: is the movie actually any good?

                The answer to that is: YES. And even I am surprised at how emphatically I assert that. At times, I even wondered, ‘should I be enjoying this film as much as I am?’ I went into this with an open mind, hoping for, at bare minimum, a passable, okay film that was ultimately harmless and mediocre. And Ghostbusters surpassed those expectations with ease. Is it as good as the original 1984 film? Of course not, and it’s a silly question to ask. Was Jurassic World as good as Jurassic Park? What about Robocop, Point Break, Total Recall, Carrie, Clash of the Titans, War of the Worlds? Does any long-awaited sequel or remake/reboot ever live up to the originals? Very, very rarely. Many would argue that Ghostbusters’ own sequel (1989) doesn’t. So let’s put aside that argument and actually look at the film. 

                Part of what made the first film so memorable and incredible was the chemistry between the cast members, which is a tricky thing to pull off. So it was nice to see these women (and Chris Hemworth) have good chemistry with one another. And while it might be a similar character dynamic to the original film, I like that the characters themselves and their motivations and personalities are new and different. While you might look at the cast and correspond them to their male counterparts, they really do bring a fresh spin on it rather than have these ladies be gender-swapped carbon copies of the originals. Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert might be the ‘Venkman’ character, but as a character, she’s a complete 180 from the one Bill Murray played. Where Venkman was a skeevy (though lovable) douche with no regard for actual science, Erin is looking for empirical evidence, is looking at this from the side being able to do real experimentation and research and be taken seriously as a scientist for it. She at first doesn’t even want anything to do with ‘ghostbusting’, considering it more of a fancy from her past. Melissa McCarthy’s Abby might be the closest to resembling her male counterpart as the ‘Ray Stantz’ of the group. She’s the go-getter, the one who’s really into all of this, the one who gets possessed. But she makes it her own, and not just the same over again. Leslie Jones’ Patty may have been the ‘everywoman’, but she was knowledgeable about not only the city from her MTA job, but in the city’s history. And while the trailer portrayed her as the ‘sassy black woman’ trope, she was a much more well-rounded character in the film. Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann might be the ‘Egon’ of the group, but rather than the ‘too smart to deal with regular people’ type, she’s her own brand of socially awkward scientist that doesn’t rely on retreading the originals. She even gets a badass ghost-fighting sequence that just made me love her even more. She was easily my favorite. And it was a highlight for me, that each of these characters were their own person, had their own quirks and tics and were their own selves. The fact that they were women was incidental, and wasn’t the driving force of their personalities.  

So no, the movie is not just this.

                That’s not to say there were no callbacks to the first Ghostbusters films. All of the original cast (excepting Rick Moranis) shows up in cameo in the movie. Even the late Harold Ramis appears as a bronze bust in the university where Erin is working. There is also a dedication to him in the end credits, which made me misty, as Egon has always been my favorite. Even Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man show up, and the end-credits scene teases the name Zuul. The kicker, they are not playing their original Ghostbusters character. They are quick, fun, fanservice, and I didn’t find they took me out of the movie at all. In fact, Annie Potts’ cameo made me squee. And Bill Murray got what he wanted, to get killed off. I know for a fact that irks some people, as it further cements that this film does not take place in the same universe, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If they’re going to start fresh, then do it. If they were going to get the original cast back in their original roles, they would have just made Ghostbusters 3, and probably would have done so long before now. So I consider it a non-issue, but not everyone does. Although speaking of cameos, Ozzy Osbourne himself has a quick cameo in the film. I was not expecting that at all, and as a metalhead, I got a kick out of it. 

                The second big thing about a movie like Ghostbusters is the humor. The 1984 film remains a classic of comedy that is funny no matter how many times you see it and is eminently quotable. This new film was certainly funny, but not as much and not in the same way. This unfortunately is a greater problem for me in modern comedy overall is not at all limited to this film. It’s part of the reason I don’t watch many comedies anymore; their style and type of humor rarely resonates with me. I’ll watch Blackadder on loop and laugh every time, or quote Spaceballs and even The 40 Year Old Virgin, but most modern comedies fall flat for me. Unless we're talking about Last Week Tonight, because that is awesome stuff.

Blackadder Goes Forth. Also, the funniest shit ever.

             I will give this movie credit for one thing as far as the humor, though: the lack of gross-out jokes. My greatest fear going in was an overabundance of period jokes and objectification of Chris Hemsworth’s character, Kevin. Because, let’s be real, in Bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy shits in a sink. That is the opposite of what I wanted for this film, I wanted it to be smarter than that. And thankfully, it was. Although, this brings me to a character I haven’t touched on, Kevin. Kevin was interesting. He was the stereotypical hot, dizty blonde. We’ve seen this role as played by women hundreds of times, and it was really fun to see that reversed. And Chris Hemsworth himself seemed to be having a blast; he looked like he was having so much fun in the role. They even address the elephant in the room when it comes to his character (the fact that he is ridiculously attractive), as a small running joke. But I never found it gross or icky. And once Kevin is possessed by the villain, Rowan, you get to see a whole other performance that was really excellent. 

More Chris Hemsworth as a villain? Maybe after Thor? Please?

                And that brings me to my third big factor in a movie like this: the effects. There were both practical effects (gear, partly the ghosts) and computer effects (ghosts, etc.) while engaged in the fight against Rowan. The gear was a lot of fun. While they had the standard proton packs, there were also new toys that they developed to add to their arsenal. What was the best about this was actually getting to see them building, testing, and tweaking their gear throughout the course of the movie, which happened mainly offscreen in the originals. It really helped to get attached to the characters when you grow with them and how they evolve themselves and their gear. Many of the ghosts (at least the human-looking ones) were people in costume who then had CGI added to make them more ghostly. And truth be told, the ghost effects were quite good and there was a lot more variety than I was expecting. Overall, the visuals were much better than many were fearing based on the trailers (never judge the effects from the trailers, people!). 

One thing that was a bit meh for me was the villain, Rowan. You just don’t get enough time with him and we could have fleshed him out more. As it is, you get the basic gist that he’s a lonely, bitter guy that’s been picked on and beaten down his whole life, and that’s about it. He really could have used something more. His Destructor form worked better in context than I was expecting, but the final fight with him seemed really short and was over very quickly. There was other stuff to fill in the third act, but the big boss fight was over way too quick. 

So my final verdict is this: this movie was better than even I had hoped it would be. It was fun, fresh, and while paying homage to the originals, was its own animal. In a moment of self-awareness during the film, Abby and Erin read a YouTube comment on their video which sounded much like one you would find beneath promotional material for this movie: Ain’t no bitch gonna catch no ghost.* And to everyone who believed some variation of those words, you’re right. There were no bitches catching ghosts. Just Ghosbusters, saving the city from peril. 

*That may not be the exact wording, but that’s basically what it was.