Ghostbusters has had more than its fair share of controversy in the run up to its debut in cinemas, and remaking a classic film was always going to draw ire from fans, but the fire was stoked when it was announced that this un-wanted remake was to introduce an all female line up of ghostbusters, with the flames being fanned by a flat, debut trailer that went on to become the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube. With so many factions willing it the fail, the odds were stacked against Ghostbusters, but can this iteration rise from the ashes of its marketing campaign to become the surprise hit of the summer?
There’s promise within Ghostbusters’ first 20 minutes, with hauntings and spooky apparitions bringing together our four new lead characters, as we discover their distinctive personalities that seem sure to entertain and carry this new team right to the credits. Unfortunately, none of our protagonists develop past their initial quirks, into relatable, well rounded characters. They are stubbornly one dimensional characters that can each be aptly described with a couple of words. The uptight one (Kristen Wiig), the crazy scientist (Kate McKinnon), the street smart one (Leslie Jones) and Melissa McCarthy. These characters have so much potential in a set up that is never fully realised.
There’s no sense of character development, or even any impression of tangible chemistry between the leading ladies. Ghostbusters boasts an extremely skilled and funny cast, consisting of three Saturday Night Live alumni and Melissa McCarthy who, despite your personal opinion on her comedic style, has undeniably conquered the big comedy scene but the writers struggle to utilise their talents within a team framework. They all just do their own individual thing, and it doesn’t really flow smoothly.
The only reason you know that these characters are a bonded group is that the film tells you, and assumes you are on board. There aren’t any scenes that help you better understand the dynamic of this group and how they relate to each other beyond plot convenience. I wanted to see more of the ghostbusters interacting and getting to know each other, giving more chance for the talented cast to bounce off one another. This problem was made abundantly clear when a past rift between McCarthy and Wiig is swept aside within minutes of the opening titles, only to awkwardly re-surface in the film’s CGI heavy third act, in a moment that doesn’t feel earned or even necessary for a sub-plot that is given all of two minutes’ screen time.
There are laughs to be had with this re-envisioned Ghostbusters, mainly coming in the form of Chris Hemsworth’s dim-witted secretary, who very nearly steals the show, in an amusing reversal of the ‘eye candy’ trope. Otherwise, if you enjoy the work of Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Heat, Spy), and the comedic styles of Wiig and McCarthy, then you will most likely relish this latest combination of the three, with the comedy much more aligned to Bridemaids’ style rather than the original Ghostbuster’s deadpan delivery.
If you haven’t warmed to Feig’s brand of big comedy, then you can still find enjoyment within the film’s understated moments, whether that is the self-aware nod to Ghostbusters negative online reaction or McKinnon’s mannerisms on the edge of the frame, that feel more akin to Ivan Reitman’s original vision. It is strange that, with all the controversy surrounding the casting of female ghostbusters, it is perhaps Paul Feig who doesn’t quite fit the Ghostbusters brand.
There’s an argument to say that it is in fact the Ghostbusters’ property itself that holds the film back, with this remake inevitably paling in comparison to the original. Conjointly, the cameos and references to the 1984 version largely fall flat, with Feig seemingly undecided on whether to create something entirely new or just pay homage to its predecessor. The cameos from Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, in particular, only serve to slow the pacing of the story down for the benefit of a token appearance from old cast members, that will most likely be lost on 2016’s younger audience.
I really wanted to love Ghostbusters, but I found that the film’s uneven joke success rate, underwhelming third act and the one dimensional main characters, too much to overcome. However, if you are a fan of Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, then you will most likely have a lot more fun than I did with its 116 minutes’ runtime, even if the film will never rival the much superior 1984 original.
I sincerely hope that Ghostbusters finds serious box office success, and doesn’t give Hollywood an excuse to disregard female led films as unprofitable. Although, perhaps in future, studios should create new and original films for women to make equally iconic, rather than give them re-imagined male-led franchises, that will inevitably draw negative comparisons.