The all female reboot of 80’s comedy classic ‘Ghostbusters’ hasn’t had the best start, frankly. It has the most hated trailer of all time on Youtube. It’s had famous bloggers boycott it, refusing to attend screenings or review the movie. Then, there’s the sea of super-fans, outraged that director Paul Feig would be so bold as to mess with a classic, taking to their weapons of choice (keyboards and comment sections) to do everything in their power (from home) to put the film down.
I’d say that the above reaction is would be warranted by a genuinely offensive film. This movie? Not so much. The ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot has been subject to a mountain of unfair criticism, way before it hit the box office.
I write this with two caveats. One – I love the original ‘Ghostbusters’, so it’s no easy feat to keep an open mind to this remake. My heart’s been bruised too many times by crappy reboots. Two – I’ve seen this film. And it is not a masterpiece, by any stretch. It doesn’t come close to emanating the same warmth, humour or wit of the first movie. But (and it is a huge, important ‘but’) this film absolutely does not warrant the fury it’s received. It’s innocuous, has the odd good gag here and there and a series of cameos from the old cast to appease the super-fans.
What the criticism has actually revealed is some pretty thinly veiled double standards, with a dash of sexism, racism and snobbery. Here are a few of the more troubling criticisms…
You can’t reboot a classic like ‘Ghostbusters’
…said no studio executive, ever. Any film, past or present that does well at box office, or that garners a reputation or cult following, is fair game for remake. There are 23 films this year that are set for a reboot or remake, including ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (admittedly, an idea that sets my teeth on edge). What’s important here is that this wasn’t an isolated incident of Hollywood taking a classic and squeezing a little more money out of it, this is an epidemic. Better get used to it…
The scandal of an all-female cast
I get that the all-guy team of the original ‘Ghostbusters’ have an with a irreplaceable chemistry, and that anyone trying to replace those characters with new ones (of any gender) runs the risk of direct comparison – but once again, this movie is a reboot, not a remake. This is a new story (even if it follows much the same outline of the original) and should be treated as such. The team in the new ‘Ghostbusters’ don’t match the level of character depth or development depicted in the original, but it’s still refreshing to see a movie that:
a) Completely passes the Bechdel test (none of the women have a romantic side story distracting us from ghoul butt-kicking action)
b) Depicts women as self-reliant and bad-ass without an underlying level of vulnerability or the need to be saved by anyone but themselves
c) Gives female actresses the room to be funny. These women (and their characters) are funny. They have personalities. Whether you hate this film or not, the actresses that make up the ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot are carving out their careers in comedy. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have undeniably made strides forward for women in mainstream comedy, even if their brand of humour is not to your taste.
d) The team of women in the ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot tick off so many character traits that we so rarely see on the big screen – women of all shapes, sizes and colours, women of different sexualities (while Kate McKinnon’s character, Jiillian Holtzman, is never openly portrayed to be gay, director Paul Feig has confirmed that this is simply because admitting this on screen was a step too far for the movie studio). Plus, it’s nice to see female characters interested in science (even if it is goofy Hollywood science).
Racial stereotyping is embarrassingly obvious in this film
To some extent, this is actually a fair criticism of ‘Ghostbusters’ – but it’s not one limited to this film alone. The three white women in this film are portrayed as scientists and the only black character is…a subway worker. It’s also fair to say that Leslie Jones has clearly played up her character’s ‘sassiness’ for the purposes of getting a few extra chuckles. But to isolate this criticism to this film only is unfair. There are other movies guilty of this, that don’t receive even a fraction of the same criticism. I defy you to watch ‘Ride Along 2‘ and not see similar flaws in that movie. There’s still work to be done to portray a variety of characters free of stereotyping, but to call out ‘Ghostbusters’ on this, and not acknowledge that this is a symptom of a wider problem with cinema, is naive.
The original movie has genuinely scary moments
Or so you remember. Many of the fans that are so passionately criticizing the film before seeing it forget that when they first saw the film, they are more than likely to have been kids or teenagers themselves, so more likely to jump when a ghost goes ‘boo’. Even though the overblown special effects in this film do somehow dull the creep factor, the 3D version of this film does have the odd jump-scare. Although, the fact that I’m defending 3D here is scary enough…
The trailer sucks
Does it? Does it really suck, or did everyone who had a problem with the fact that this movie was even being made in the first place head to wherever was easiest to make their opinion clear – a ‘dislike’ on Youtube? Again, I write this with the caveat that it’s not a strong trailer, which doesn’t help things. But, it mostly follows the same formula as other trailers in its genre and pedigree. I strongly suspect this was a lose-lose scenario for whoever cut the trailer. After all, ‘haters gonna hate’.
Check out the original Ghostbuster’s trailer for a direct comparison…
What do you think? Is the original Ghostbuster’s trailer any better? Let me know if you agree or disagree with the criticisms the Ghostbusters remake has received in the comments below.
Roll the credits!