So, the Ghostbusters movie is coming out on Monday. This has made a lot of people very angry, and has widely been regarded as a bad idea. Of course, the fact that ‘a lot’ of people think something is a bad idea does not necessarily mean that it is so. If June 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that people behind a majority vote can be massively ill-informed.
This Ghostbusters film, though. Which we should acknowledge right off the bat isn’t actually called ‘the ghostbusters film’. Or the remake. Or the sequel. Or the reboot. It’s called Ghostbusters. That slicing squealing sound you just heard was the red mist slamming down so quickly that some of the fanboy’s eyelashes have been separated from their owners.
You see, Ghostbusters is reasonably likely to fail. Not commercially: it will do brisk business, since it’s not actually solely aimed at angry 40 year old men who aren’t going to see it anyway. And not artistically, either: yes, there is currently a review embargo on the film, and yes, that’s normally a portent of doom, but I imagine that (most) reviewers will be sensitive to what a big deal this movie is (and make no mistake, it is a VERY big deal) and will strive to give it a balanced and sensitive time in court.
But none of this matters. The movie will fail anyway, in the eyes of the ‘true fans’. More than that: it has already failed, by sheer dint of its existence. And whose fault is that?
Sorry, that’s a trick question, to which I already know the answer. I know whose fault it is – it’s the fans.
Yes, yes, it might turn out to be a genuinely terrible film. And if it is, we’ll get there. But none of the extraordinarily high amount of hate that this film has already had piled on it can possibly have to do with the film, because – well. You haven’t seen it yet.
There is, actually, one way that Ghostbusters can succeed. Only one, in fact. It’s a simple way, but it’s going to be a pretty high bar to pole vault over. The easiest way for Ghostbusters to succeed and silence the haters is simply to be THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME (TM). And frankly, in all likelihood, it probably won’t be. I mean, I’m looking forward to it, and I expect to enjoy it – a lot. It will certainly be better than Ghostbusters 2. (oh, I lost a lot of you there, didn’t I?). But, I concede, it will not be THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME (TM). Let’s face it; no film is. No film can be all things to all people. Even Citizen Kane isn’t THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME (TM) for somebody. Not even Shawshank. Hell, not even ..
Oh. I’m going to have to sit you down for this, aren’t I? Maybe I should hold your hand. Look, the thing is. This is the thing. Uh. Even Ghostbusters (1984) isn’t THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME (TM).
No, honestly, it isn’t. Look, calm down, you’ll snap your keyboard. Yes, yes, yes: it’s brilliant, and it’s one of the greatest you-must-see-it-in-the-cinema movies of the eighties, but … well, look. There are problems with it. Problems that, let’s face it, if they turned up for the first time in the 2016 version, would get the cast royally strung up. If there wasn’t already some other mysterious reason for the new cast to get hated on (yeah, we’re getting there).
I should point out at this juncture that I have yet to see one reasonable argument against the new movie. Not one. Yes, there are several million arguments, but none of them reasonable, and most constricted by using the same eight swear words. Although, to be fair, my favourite is IT’S VENKMAN NOT VENKWOMAN, which is at least witty, but only as witty as the average Westbro Church placard. There are plenty of reasons stated to hate on Ghostbusters, mostly petulant, often all CAPS LOCKY. But no actual reason. People say that such a decent 80s comedy horror can’t possibly be re-done (and it’s NOTABOUTTHEWOMEN). This, actually, is a fair enough point, as far as it goes. Doesn’t explain the vitriol before even a single trailer dropped, the diaper-filling hate that Ghostbusters got from the moment it was announced. And let’s face it, we have been here before – we already have a classic 80s comedy horror saddled with a terrible follow-up. And, yes: An American Werewolf In Paris is a bad film (Yes, you’d forgotten that sequel existed, hadn’t you? More on that later). And it’s a bad comedy horror sequel with a female replacing the lead. But that film hasn’t got – will never get – the amount of blind hatred Ghostbusters will have, and .. well. At the time of writing, there’s one fundamental difference between the two films: we’ve actually seen American Werewolf In Paris.
But I digress. Another reasonable sounding criticism of this year’s film is that the original movie was for ‘everybody’ in a way that the new film isn’t. This sounds OK up to a point, until you realise just how unchecked the male privilege is in that statement. What, are we actually saying that a movie with four male leads is for everybody, but a movie with four female leads is just for girls? Seriously? That’s incoherent, and has about as much logical process as a badly painted sign on the treehouse saying ‘NO GIRLS ALLOUED’.
But, as I alluded to earlier, the original film, aside (in spite of?) its brilliance (and, while it really isn’t THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME(TM), it genuinely is brilliant), has some severe problems, many of which suggest that, despite what’s just been claimed, Ghostbusters (1984) actually isn’t a film for everybody.
You know what I’m talking about.
The scene in which a pretty young poltergeist goes down on Ray.
Really? In a kid’s film? Even in a family film? I know, it was a different time. This was the era in which Police Academy got a Saturday morning cartoon series.
Really? Even if you’re able to accept that scene as the throwaway, sexy, saucy, silly little scene it’s meant to be, and you don’t get too hung up on the ramifications of a long dead girl doomed for all eternity to give blow jobs to Dan Ackroyd (who, presumably, will then trap her in a containment chamber until the next time), it’s still not a joke for a kid’s (or family) movie. If the new movie tries a scene like that, it would be derided as crass and unfunny. Actually, I really hope the new movie does have a oral sex scene with the genders reversed, because if there’s one thing that US audiences find more terrifying than the undead attacking New York, it’ll be a scene of a woman enjoying having a man go down on her.
While we’re it: a quick word about the casting of Chris Hemsworth as sexy secretary, a rebuke to the frustrated fanboys who inevitably cry foul and ‘reverse sexism’ (hahaha uh no). It’s not: that’s the joke. If you honestly think that the casting of Hemsworth is reverse sexism, then the joke is on you. Incidentally, that’s one of my favourite jokes in the latest trailer, when it appears that Chris Hemsworth is the one that’s come up with the idea for catching ghosts .. ‘That’s exactly what we already do here’
There is another troubling aspect the original film, and I can see already that I’m going to have sit you down again for this. Because that troubling aspect of Ghostbusters (1984) is Bill Murray.
Yes. Bill Murray.
Yes, yes, he’s brilliant, he’s charming, he is by some measure the best thing in a movie absolutely stuffed with brilliant things –
(yes, yes, those of you raising your hands: it is possible to adore a brilliant film, while at the same time questioning elements of same film that you find questionable, and – yes, furthermore, sometimes the questionable thing and the brilliant thing can be the same thing. No, there will be no further questions at this time.)
So, yeah, Pete Venkman. He’s crude, he’s obnoxious. He is also very charming. When we first meet him, he’s –
I mean, what the hell is that? This is really the character that a million squealing fans say cannot possibly be replaced? Falsifying data in a pysch experiment and mildly electrocuting a rival in order to get into a girl’s pants? That’s .. not great.
And later, when in Dana’s apartment, he has no real interest in trying to solve her problem (and remember, he is there in a professional capacity, in a way not really different from her hiring a plumber), but is almost constantly making lewd comments to Dana, or presenting himself as an object of desire. He even sticks his foot in her door, halting her attempts to get him to leave her apartment. No matter how charming Bill Murray is (and he is), this scene would be genuinely disturbing and offbeat if it wasn’t for the way Sigourney Weaver sells it: she’s is control, bemused and amused by Venkman. Moreover, she’s the adult in their relationship: Murray is always the child.
(Oh! Sorry, I’ve just understood a somewhat fundamental aspect about why Venkman is such a role model to a section of fandom that’s so terrified of change)
So, yes. It is certainly possible that this year’s Ghostbusters might not be THE FINEST FILM OF ALL TIME (TM). Certainly, as we’ve attempted to illuminate, not even the original is (oh, let it go). People – despite claims to the contrary – aren’t solely annoyed because this film is a remake (or new version, or whatever). The argument that states WHY CAN’T WOMEN FIND THEIR OWN STORIES becomes increasingly tiresome and facile (and can usually be countered with BECAUSE YOU TOOK THEM ALL NOW LET SOMEONE ELSE PLAY IN THE SANDPIT FOR FIVE GODAMMNED MINUTES), but the anti-remake argument is particularly naïve since Ghostbusters (1984) is itself a loose remake. Dan Ackroyd, as well as being an occult nut, was a huge fan of the old Bob Hope buddy movies, particularly one where a gang of friends meet up to defeat the spirit world. It’s called – uh, ‘The Ghost Breakers’. You have to acknowledge that the set-up and the title are a little bit similar.
So, listen. The 2016 film exists. It is made. It is impossible for this film to destroy your childhood. If it really is that terrible (which I still acknowledge is possible), it will be deservedly forgotten. No harm done. Nobody is going to confuse one for the other. Look, Point Break (2016) is currently in the DVD charts, and you probably forgot the film existed, didn’t you? I know ‘Point Break’ you think Keanu. Not whoever is in the remake. And nobody really cared, despite it being a modern not great remake of a well loved classic movie, and everyone ignored it and – oh. Yes, it did get remade with dudes. Gotcha.
(actually, a Point Break movie with women sounds to me a pretty good idea. But you’re probably not surprised by that by this point)
Look, if it really is that terrible, and Ghostbusters (1984) is the only one worthy of the crown .. well, shut up about it. Your anger and spittle-flecked rage will be the thing that will keep it high on the search engines long after we’ve seen it / ignored it. Ironically (on many levels), fanboy rage will keep this movie alive long after they’ve attempted to kill it. The movie already suffers from an undue amount of pressure, with a section of the audience already primed to be hostile, much like a comedy club who has been ‘warned’ by the MC that the next stand-up is a woman (yes, this still happens), and I’m still undecided on how regulated to ‘person of colour’ status Leslie Jones’ character is – I’m hoping the gag is on us: if her character works for the New York subway in the token booth, that makes her literally the ‘token black character’, which I’m hoping is a very elegant joke.
But, in the end. It’s a movie about ghosts. In one of the craziest cities on Earth. With four fantastic, funny actors. See it. Or don’t. There’s no need to get upset about it. If you can’t leave the past behind, then dust off your DVD of the 1984 film, and watch that instead. Good luck to you.
After all: isn’t bustin’ supposed to make us feel good?