Okay, let’s get some stuff out of the way first:
1. Yes, it’s not as good as the original.
2. Remaking a good movie is really stupid. I don’t know why Hollywood keeps doing it. The vast majority of them all suck. Remakes should only be made if the original wasn’t that great to begin with. The only good remake I’ve ever heard of is the remake of Judge Dredd, but, again, that movie apparently wasn’t that great to begin with. That or the Annie TV movie.
3. the marketing campaign for this movie was bad and they should feel bad. I can only assume, despite what the director keeps saying, that Sony, like FOX with Deadpool though at least it had a better marketing campaign and that’s probably because they told the people making it “Here’s your budget, go nuts.”, had no faith in the movie, probably due to the gender flipped main cast, and tried to strangle it in the crib. But, you know they tried to remake the original movie before with a male main cast right? It was called Ghostbusters 2 and it was made by the exact same people as the first.
So with all that, does this live up to the original? No, no one can top the original Ghostbusters and no one ever will. But is this a good movie? Yes.
Background time. I love the original Ghostbusters. My whole family loves it. It’s one of my dad’s favourite comedies and he hates speculative fiction. That’s how great the film is. It’s not just a great comedy, and it is a fantastic comedy, it’s also a great piece of science fiction with a great cast, great villain, and a magic vs science story where science, for once, wins. If you want more, go watch Bob Chipman’s analysis of the film. It’s great.
Years after leaving behind her friend and belief in ghosts for a prestigious job as a physics professor at Columbia University, Dr. Erin Gilbert, played by Kristen Wiig, finds out that a book she co-authored about ghosts and the paranormal years before has gone back into print in order for her former friend and co-author Dr. Abby Yates, played by Melissa McCarthy, and her new partner Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, played by Kate McKinnon, to fund the research Abby and Erin started. Worried about losing her shot at tenure due to her name being on a book about ghosts, Erin reunites with Abby and goes along with them on a ghost hunt in exchange for Abby removing the book from print. The hunt, however, ends up reestablishing Erin’s belief in ghosts and costs her her job. With Abby and Jillian’s help, as they’re also fired from their jobs, they set up a research facility above a Chinese restaurant in order to continue their research and prove the existence of the paranormal. Along the way, they acquire the handsome, but dim Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth, as a secretary and New York history buff Patty Tolan, played by Leslie Jones, as a fourth member. Together, the four women set out to capture and study a ghost in order to prove that they’re real and possibly save the world.
First off, the cast is great. Don’t let the misogynists bring you down. These ladies can act and they’re funny while they do it. The lead actresses, except for McCarthy, are all either SNL members or veterans, as all the originals were save for Ernie Hudson. They know how to make people laugh and everyone in the theatre did. There were surprisingly no fat jokes at McCarthy’s expense and I applaud that. Of special note is McKinnon who completely stole the show. She was quirky and strange, but in a good way. The kind that said “I’ve never been appreciated for what I am and what I like and I don’t care. You all can suck it cause I’m gonna do what I want.” She’s just a joy to watch.
Of course, validation must be made for Leslie Jones’s Patty. When the trailers came out, they highlighted how all three Caucasian leads were scientists while Patty “knew New York”. Everyone immediately assumed that meant she had street smarts and that was her contribution because she was Black. Admit it. You all thought it. I did too. And I’m ashamed. However, what the trailer left out was the sentence before that where Patty says she reads a lot of non-fiction. She “knows New York” because she’s a local history buff. She knows the city’s history and knows what happened at locations that would cause ghosts to be there. That’s actually invaluable information for the team and she’s a terrific asset in that regard. Combined with Holtzmann’s easy to use equipment, she’s a full fledged Ghostbuster just like the rest of them. I may regret my choice as a history major and say I should have gone with film instead, but a knowledge of history is still a wonderful thing to have and is not something to be taken lightly.
The other cast members did fine, Hemsworth proves he can do more than swing a hammer and do loud Shakespeare in the Park while being my least favourite Avenger (he’s not bad, just not as good. Again, least favourite doesn’t mean he sucks). He also has some comedic chops. The supporting cast does their jobs fine, there’s no Walter Peck and the mayor is clearly related to the one from Jaws, and the movie points that out (though at least the one from Jaws had the good sense to eventually apologise), though for a good reason in a post 9/11 era. The cameos by the original cast last just long enough and are immensely satisfying. I would have liked some Harold Ramis archival footage used as a ghost, but the film is dedicated to him so that suits me just fine.
The story, at least for the first two thirds, is also solid. It tells us who these people are, explains the equipment, gives us some laughs, gives us some actions, and makes them the Ghostbusters. There are changes that make sense given the changing time: ei they’re not a startup ghost extermination business, they’re a research centre. There are people that heckle them because they’re women addressed in a sort of meta sense considering the controversy surrounding this film. Etc etc. I could easily watch the first hour or so of this film over and over again.
If there is a place where it falls flat, it’s the third act and the villain. The villain is not that satisfying. He’s kind of a parallel to the Ghostbusters in that he was also mocked for his belief in ghosts and for his ‘weirdness’, but it’s more of a Revenge of the Nerds mixed with supernatural apocalypse vs four women with unlicensed nuclear accelerators on their backs type of thing. It’s another ‘The Nerd is Strange Therefore he is Evil’ type thing, but at least the heroes are nerds themselves to counterbalance it. We’re not really give a motivation other than he was bullied and we could have had more. The third act is also not as good as the rest of the film as it just sort of peters.
Something good I can say about the third act is that they didn’t have the ‘big blowup, member leaves the team, and rejoins them for the big finale’ that I kept waiting for because it’s in every movie. Sure, Erin is separated from her team for a time, but not over emotions or a fight. It’s for logical reasons of living in a big city. Sometimes, you just can’t get a cab in this town. Also, the emotions were still solid and the big ghost fight scene from the trailers, while yes clearly CGI, was still colourful and fun to watch. It’s also not shaky cam. That might have killed it. Point is, the third act doesn’t hurt the overall film that much. It just could have been better.
There’s also plenty titbits from the original for old fans to recognise, whether in bits of dialogue, certain sets, the classic logo, or in the fact that in addition to remixed and re-covered versions of the original song, they also play the original. It’s in the movie and it’s a joy to listen to even after all these years.
Is the remake better than the original? No. Does it uphold its legacy? …I think so. It’s probably the best remake of a good movie ever made, not as good, but good on its own merits. On its own, it’s a solid film. Might not win any awards, but it’s a good movie. It’s an origin story for a new team that could lead to some new storytelling possibilities. It’s a joy, it’s a treat, and as long as you temper your expectations and don’t expect it to be as good as the original, I think you’ll enjoy it just fine. It’s certainly better than Ghostbusters 2.
As for a possible sequel? There is no sequel, only Zuul.
(Photo via Columbia Pictures)