What’s this? A post? Surely not! So what if it’s been five years! The silence must end! And so I give you my review of Ghostbusters (2016). No real spoilers below, but if you subscribe to the “empty mind” school of movie viewing, best to stop reading now.
Liz and I went and saw Ghostbusters opening weekend. She loved it. I thought it was good, but not great. Most of the characters are really well done and likable. In particular Holzman is awesome, I loved her. There were some good funny moments, but also a lot of awkward not-funny moments that I think are typical of modern PG-13 comedies that try to bridge the kid / adult divide. It’s hard to do well, and sadly this movie fell short. At it’s core, it is a very formula kid/adult action/comedy in the modern style, which is not a good thing in my opinion. It’s definitely missing the influences of Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman that I think are largely responsible for making the original so iconic.
My biggest specific complaints are that the art direction was rather uninspired and that the antagonist was, frankly, lame. It felt more like Haunted Mansion than Ghostbusters in the general style and what with the EVERYTHINGS GREEEEEN and the mirrors-as-portals-to-the-other-side trope. They also went way too far with the gadgets, but again, I think that’s typical of modern movies. I like that they didn’t just lift the designs from the original, but all the different one-shot devices were over the top to the point of doing more harm than good, and the “steampunk ghost machines” were a major letdown as a plot device. One of my favorite things about the original is that the source of the hauntings was mysterious and we didn’t discover what was going on until well into the movie. In this one we’re all but told that somebody is planting these machines to cause trouble right from the first beat. It’s a pretty hokey setup in the first place, and to have the reveal so early really took a lot of interest out of it for me. Add in the fact that the person making the machines is one of the most flat and lifeless villains I’ve seen in a long time and you have a recipe for “meh”. Having Kevin get possessed and take the lead as the villain was a good “twist” that could have saved that aspect of the movie if not for the pure PG-13 goofy direction they took him. I’m thrilled that the dance sequence we see during the credits got cut from the main movie, that would have killed it for me. However, it feels like there must have been some other scenes that got cut that flesh out Kevin’s story because a lot of his scenes starting with his possession scene felt really disjointed and non sequitur. Ghostbusters II also falls victim to some of the same problems, so it isn’t too surprising to be seeing them again in the franchise. I still think II is a slightly better movie than this, but I haven’t re-watched it in a long time, so maybe not. In any case, they are in the same league.
I came in with low expectations, and they were met. It was an OK reboot whose biggest failing seems to be when it was made and that it was so shaped by contemporary studio expectations about genre movies. If you like current action/comedy movies, you will probably love it, and should totally go see it. If you like fun brain candy movies, even if they are deeply flawed, you should see it. If you’re a kid you should go see it. If you want to see women taking some no-BS leading roles in a major movie, you should go see it. If you are a diehard fan of the original who will be satisfied only with something that really truly lives up to the standard set by the original, you probably want to skip it.
The Zuul tease in the post-credits has me hoping that it’s successful enough for a sequel though. Assuming that it was studio influence that forced it to be so formulaic, I have hope that any sequel that might happen will be given the leeway to make it’s own path in comparison to contemporary movies of the genre and have the space to conjure some of the same magic that the original did.