Mozza Reviews: The Ghostbusters vs. Ghostbusters Shitfight
Enough of this bloody Ghostbusters carry on. This is a long read, but world peace is a big fuckin’ job. SPOILERS and man-opinions and a drive by of memory lane follow. Strap in.
I was ten years old when the ’84 Ghostbusters came out. Holy shit, I loved that movie.
Hell, I was IN LOVE with movies. I had shed a tear of joy in the cinema six months earlier when the trumpet fanfare kicked in at the start of Return of the Jedi. I was thrilled and bloody terrified by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom less than a month earlier. Before my next birthday, The NeverEnding Story came out.
Sweet Jesus on a bicycle, it was a glorious time to be a nerdy white boy within firing range of adolescence.
Not only did Dr Peter Venkman and his boys have an awesome adventure that placed Ghostbusters alongside those other epics of the time, the film was funny, really funny; and to my ten year old mind, really cool. Bill Murray’s Venkman was a fucking smart maverick academic with multiple doctorates who was also a razor witted cynic and a streetwise, anti-establishment grifter – AND he got the girl.
Venkman had a dash of the Han Solo-esque charismatic rogue about him, but was still an out and proud scientist. He wasn’t tough like Solo or Indiana Jones, but sly and resourceful and brilliant and a leader of men even smarter than him. He was not exactly badass, but still one of the coolest anti-heroes a bookish young nerd could look up to. And laugh with.
So look, I bloody adore that movie. It influenced my life. I was dressed as Ray Stantz the first time I asked a girl to dance with me at a primary school social. She said yes. How could she not? I may have been a fat nerd kid, but I was a goddamn GHOSTBUSTER; and Ghostbusters were nerds who were cool.
Long story short, I was bloody triggered when I heard there was a GB reboot in the works.
Why, I thought? Why fuck with greatness? Back in the day, I’d found Ghostbusters II and the GB spin off animated series to be a bit shit, and I still haven’t emotionally recovered from the festering remakes of Robocop and Total Recall.
I didn’t join in the chorus of angry voices online, but I sure as fuck sympathised with them.
Then something interesting happened.
It became known that Paul Feig was behind the reboot, and he’d be helming an all-female lead ensemble playing new characters in a totally new/alternative reality.
Oh, I thought. That might be a thing.
It’s not a sequel OR a straight up reboot. Paul Feig is a shit-hot writer/director of ensemble comedy, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are strong comic leads, and a female team of Ghostbusters might bring out something fresh in the story and character dynamics.
I still didn’t feel especially enthusiastic or inclined to watch, but I begrudgingly respected the ballsy shift in direction.
A large section of the internet didn’t take to the news as kindly. The early questioning of the remake radioactively mutated into a satanic chorus of rage-shitting the bed. It seemed a little disproportionate; like strapping a letter of complaint to a hand grenade.
Especially fuckin’ odd was a shit-ton of fury from dudes who seemed angry at their mum or some girl who wouldn’t talk to them in high school, or possibly both. They seemed to think it was all some global conspiracy targeted at them:
“RARRRRRRRRRRR! The new Ghostbusters is a FEMILADYLESBIVEGAN PLOT to make my penis irrelevant! Not on my watch! THEY CAN TAKE MY PENIS FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS!”
Or words to that effect; I didn’t follow it too closely, to be honest. What all the rage did do was convince me to see the new version as soon as it came out. If this thing was going to somehow steal my masculinity and bring down the whole fuckin’ natural order, I’d better face the threat head on.
So, I fuckin’ saw this new 2016 Ghostbusters, expecting it be okay, but forgettable. Thing is, it’s a BLOODY EXCELLENT AND TOTALLY WORTHY REIMAGINING OF GHOSTBUSTERS.
I mean, it kicks the living shit out of Ghostbusters II, but that’s nothing to brag about. This new version actually stands impressively alongside the original, and in SOME ways, is CLEARLY FUCKING BETTER.
How? By being a tighter, punchier, more truly-ensemble comedy; with a stronger through line.
You know any piece of art that is in some way a tribute to something before is good when it teaches you some shit you didn’t realise about the original.
My love for the ’84 Ghostbusters is undiminished, but compared to the tighter and punchier 2016 retelling, the script is relatively sloppy on a gags-per-minute count, with the movie relying more heavily on the huge charisma of its leads, especially Uncle Bill Murray as Venkman.
What now stands out like dog’s balls is the ’84 Ghostbusters was basically the Peter Venkman show. Don’t get me wrong, there were some killer supporting performances, not least of which was Rick Moranis’ genius turn as Louis Tully, but even Venkman’s fellow Ghostbusters play second banana to him as the hero of the film.
Credit where it’s due: The late, great Harold Ramis’ was brilliant as the somewhere-on-the-spectrum Egon Spengler, and Dan Ackroyd’s amiable boob Ray Stantz has always been my favourite, but both these guys get a small percentage of screen time compared to Venkman and spend most of their time putting him over as the cool and clever leader guy.
As for poor old Ernie Hudson, he did well with the measly crumbs he had as Winston Zeddemore, but I wasn’t shocked to read that Winston was supposed to be a far larger part, who got heavily cut out of rewrites to give more screen time to Bill Murray, who was thought to hold the big star power.
I still have to shout down dickheads today who argue that there were always three Ghostbusters, not four.
I’m saying that where the ’84 Ghostbusters COULD have been a shared ensemble comedy, it was actually the heroic journey of Peter Venkman, accompanied by two sidekicks, a receptionist and some guy who shows up down the track. Venkman is always in charge and always has the last word.
If it is Peter Venkman’s story, what’s his arc? What does he learn? He starts the film as a cocky wise arse, and ends the film as a cocky wise arse who’s famous and has a great girlfriend.
So it’s a romance arc?
Or could we argue that by finding success and saving New York with the Ghostbusters, Venkman the egomaniac learns a life lesson about being part of team?
Or that Venkman the lone wolf discovers he’s a leader?
Whatever line you take, it’s HIS movie. I’m now starting to think of Venkman like a hero in a classic western: The charismatic drifter who seeks to make his fortune, hooks up with a couple of social misfits whose skills serve his purpose, discovers the town is under threat, pulls his misfits together into an effective posse while seeing off interference from town authorities, and eventually saves the town and wins the heart of a high class lady.
In fact, maybe Venkman should have followed western formula at the end, by kissing the lady goodbye and riding out of town with his posse to wherever they were needed next. It sure as shit would have prevented the “ho-hum, New York is under supernatural threat AGAIN” lameness of Ghostbusters II.
While The Outlaw Parapsychologist Petey Venkman Rounds Up a Posse and Heads to Ghost Town will always be one of my favourite movies, YOU SHOULD FUCKIN’ SEE THIS NEW GHOSTBUSTERS. I don’t think it’ll be remembered as a classic. It deserves though, to be respected as a tight-as-fuck and punchline-bombing truly ensemble action-comedy.
Hollywood has been historically addicted to the solo protagonist’s journey in any film with big, epic action, but if Joss Whedon’s Avengers taught us nothing else, it’s that you can make a big, escapist feature with a group of cool heroes, and have the story not be about any single one of them, but about the relationships between them.
In this new 2016 Ghostbusters, four great characters, played by four shit hot comic actors, each get a solid slice of the spotlight pie and each get an individual character arc.
Kate McKinnon’s brilliant weirdo Jillian Holtzman, in making the tech that saves NY, achieves the success worthy of her huge talent and her great mentor.
Leslie Jones’ dynamic and entrepreneurial Patty Tolan wins an exciting career after having her talents wasted in a dead end job.
Kristen Wiig’s downtrodden to fulfilled Erin Gilbert shakes off her need for a prestigious and soulless elite-establishment job and finds her passion and confidence and social validation.
Melissa McCarthy’s dogged optimist Abby Yates gets validation for a lifetime’s work and learns to deeply trust her once-estranged childhood best friend again.
That healing friendship between Erin and Abby makes the through line of the film and is capped off beautifully and satisfyingly by a great rescue sequence/bonding experience. This movie knows where it’s going and what it’s about.
Now, to a blokey reader, that might all sound a bit emotional and touchy feely, but all this character movement, growth and relationship happens within a FUCKING FUNNY AND RISQUE COMEDY WITH KILLER ACTION BEATS.
You should really bloody see it. You won’t be cheating on the original. It’ll still love you.
Now, just to prove that I wasn’t blind to any flaws and that I haven’t been paid off by the studio in gold-plated severed penises, or had my family threatened by the Feminati, here are my three nit-picks of the new Ghostbusters. Spoilers. Duh.
The one thing I wish they hadn’t kept from the original premise is the slime. I’m over slime. Getting slimed. Ghost’s dripping fluoro green fucking slime. Fucking Slimer and Mrs. Slimer. (Slimer is the fucking Jar Jar Binks of the Ghostbusters’ world.) There was too much fucking slime.
The slime thing was great in the ‘84 film, because Venkman getting slimed, the only time in the whole film where he gets taken down a peg, was a great gag. The tension of him yelling in fear down the walkie talkie, then the reveal of him lying covered in ghost snot and disgusted was a great setup and payoff. Joke told. Move on. No more slime. What about a weird ghostly energy that makes people fart uncontrollably? Same gag, but different. I’m here to help.
The cool ghostbusting 2.0 side arms that Holtzman develops and hands out to her team mates in the alley are bad ass; so bad ass they create a logic problem. If you have these nifty and nimble weapons that can actually fuckin’ destroy ghosts, then why, when the shit hits the fan, would you fuck around with the proton pack’s unwieldy and inaccurate particle accelerator which can only clumsily restrain a ghost at best? Cool visuals, dumb storytelling.
Chris Hemsworth. His pretty but dumbarse himbo-receptionist Kevin is really funny early in the film, but Hemsworth keeps playing him at that same friendly and clueless note, in the same Aussie accent, after he’s possessed by the big bad. This is the one place the new film fails compared to the original. Sigourney Weaver acted the shit out of Dana Barret being possessed by Xul . You’re telling me Big Chris couldn’t act the difference between goofy Aussie comedy relief guy and creepy American villain? Two hundred push-ups for you, Hemmo. You fumbled it in front of goals in the final quarter.
So yeah, this ’16 vintage Ghostbusters is not a perfect movie, but a fuckin’ great one…and both utterly respectful to the original while being a different enough to bloody justify the remake.
I give it four outraged bloggers out of five.
I trust we can now consider this matter closed. Don’t start on me with your fuckin’ issues. I will fight you, and whether I win or lose, I will recreate that fight on screen with an all-female cast. Hopefully Kathy Bates will agree to play me. I reckon she could fuckin’ capture my essence.