A Few Words About the New Ghostbusters

Watch this trailer first, if you haven’t seen it! And click these little numbers!1

It’s not even weird anymore, the way our current culture picks apart entertainment. Every bit of pre-production news, casting rumor, casting announcement, leaked set photo, official press photo, teaser trailer, teaser for the trailer, and marketing nugget gets dissected, discussed, and analyzed to death, and opinions and judgments inevitably follow. In some ways, a movie’s legacy is cured and set well before the thing is even finished.

It wasn’t my intention to jump into that mess, though tempted I have been to do as much in the past. But people will ask me what I think of the new Ghostbusters now that the first trailer has hit. So here let it be known, my reaction. 

It looks okay.

Yeah, sorry, I’m not taking a side on this one. And that’s because at this stage I don’t think there’s enough information to even take a side that’s not based on emotional over-reaction. In certain cases, a movie’s greatness or terribleness can be somewhat accurately ascertained by viewing its trailer, but it ain’t that common. This is one of the many other cases where its simply not obvious what kind of movie we’re in for, when it finally releases.

But the elephant in this particular room is, of course, the legacy of Ghostbusters. To that point I will only say that rumors have run rampant for decades now about a possible “Ghostbusters 3”. In fact it seems that every time Dan Aykroyd found himself in front of a microphone from 1991 to 2014 he was talking about the status of the third Ghostbusters. It was always some variation on: “The script is finished/nearly finished. Bill (Murray) is interested/not interested/interested but only in a cameo role. We’re hoping for a release date two/three/four years from now.” Then of course there was the most recent rumor that the third film would be what some now refer to as a “rebootquel” 2, wherein the original Ghostbusters helped usher in and mentor a brand new team.

I was openly and completely against the idea of a true Ghostbusters 3, for many reasons. But primarily, it was that long-gap sequels (especially to comedies) always attempt and almost always fail to capture the feeling and spirit of the original movie(s). And after such a long gap the hypothetical Ghostbusters 3 was in a very precarious position. Just playing the odds, the idea of a direct sequel was most likely to end up as a stain on the original and its own underrated sequel 3. When you deliberately make connections to the original property in a new entry, you risk everything on the small hope that the new one will live up the legacy of the old one, to often disastrous effect 4. It’s like if they built a McDonald’s at the top of the Eiffel Tower. You can try to ignore it, but somewhere in your mind it will always be there to disgust you.

A full reboot/remake, on the other hand, is a different story. At worst (and it is usually “at worst”) a full-stop reboot that fails to launch becomes an easily forgotten footnote in cinematic history. Just look at the remakes of Total Recall, Robocop, and Point Break. Whereas great remakes will either stand tall or even replace their originals in the zeitgeist5, the failures simply cease to exist in the public consciousness.

And so it is with the new Ghostbusters. This is a true reboot, not beholden to the originals in any way save the name and logo, and it shall have to prove its own worth. The pedigree is strong, as both director Paul Feig and the four primary castmembers (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon) have good track records. But there is much that goes into a good film apart from pedigree, and if the initial reactions are highly positive, I’ll gladly see it in theaters. Otherwise, I can easily ignore it, and it can sit shamefully at the shoulder of Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles.

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