The first Ghostbusters film released in 1984 was a cinematic phenomenon. It was a hit supernatural action comedy. The film had great visual effects which still hold up today. The concept of ghost busting was unique. It had a great cast which should I even mention? The comedy was organic, and the theme song was very catchy which people could even dance to and appreciate to this day. The film was a critical and commercial success and quickly became a franchise spawning an equally popular cartoon series, a great toy line, comic books, video games and unfortunately a lackluster sequel.
It was a great time to be a kid. I loved the movie even though I could hardly understand everything. Ghostbusters probably started my affinity for supernatural shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Supernatural even has several nods to Ghostbusters if you can find them. I was amazed when I first saw the film. With all the merchandise available, my parents got me a pair of Ghostbusters shoes. I even had a large movie poster that came with the shoes which was just a Ghostbuster logo taped in my room. Just knowing it was there, I no longer needed to keep the lights on. Then came the hit cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters which was based on the first film. Though the characters looked nothing like the live action film and the animation style was sort of goofy, it had great storytelling, a good balance of scares, action and comedy that the goofy animation style is quickly overlooked. I loved watching the cartoon when I was a kid probably up to season four. Things went downhill from season five with silly forgettable episodes more focused on kids. The toys were great also, at least for the first two waves, the originals and fright features. There were also video games for the arcades, the NES and the Sega Genesis. I liked the NES/Famicom game, difficult as it is, I managed to finish it simply because I loved the franchise. I had the Japanese copy which I had to figure out for myself. Simple enough at a time before the Internet. I even had a few comic books published by NOW. The Ghostbusters franchise has had a profound impact on many kids, teenagers and young adults during the 80s. Many identify with it as much as other popular franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars.
It took five years for a sequel to be made starring the original cast and pressure mounted for a sequel due to the popularity of the animated series. The producers Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd were not fully onboard as they thought the first film was a one-time deal. It had the potential for a sequel but was also a closed story. What happens when something is done half-heartedly? Something below par. The second movie didn’t have the impact of the first. It didn’t have heart. It was at best, a forgettable popcorn flick. A walking statue of Liberty felt far less believable than a giant marshmallow man walking in Manhattan. The franchise waned down, so did the toys and the cartoon but it still floated over everyone’s heads.
And because it floated over everyone’s heads, the prospect of a sequel loomed over Hollywood as well. Dan Aykroyd was mostly the one pushing for a part three with a script that mostly made it into the Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Dan is enthusiastic about a third movie perhaps to correct the mistakes of Ghostbusters II and to revive the franchise. Most everyone involved seemed interested except for Bill Murray who for the most part seemed nonsensical wavering between ‘no’ and ‘perhaps’. Through the years, fans kept getting reports of a sequel from Aykroyd and Ramis only to be shot down by Murray until the talks died down. Murray seemed more interested if he didn’t take an acting part in the franchise and suggested that he be shot in as a ghost in the supposed third film. When that didn’t push through, he and the original cast participated voice acting in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. A game with a story so good that fans are convinced it might as well be the third Ghostbusters movie, which was still a possibility until Harold Ramis died in 2014.
Fans mourned the death of a lovable actor, their Egon Spengler. Fans also lost hope for a sequel starring the original four Ghostbusters. But the death of some actors has a strange effect on Hollywood. Deaths get capitalized. Lo and behold a new Ghostbusters film is greenlit. Would it be a sequel or a remake? Without Ramis, it could hardly be a sequel. If it were, a dead actor like Harold Ramis can be replaced and so can a non-committal actor like Bill Murray. The problem with such an arrangement is that the film might not capture the ‘spirit’ of the franchise that fans love. It might fail like Ghostbusters II. Much time has passed since Ghostbusters II that studios could easily have made a new film and revived the franchise. What irritates many fans was that it had to take the death of an actor to get a new movie made. In a surprising twist of fate, Bill Murray signed up for a cameo.
Now without Ramis, fans lost hope for a good proper sequel. That’s how much we love this franchise. We perhaps love it too much. Well, it’s still possible with a good script, and maybe we could put Egon in as a ghost. The gang gets back together but without Egon as he, unfortunately, died after inhaling poisonous spores of his fungus collection. The gang gets back together to pass the torch to a bunch of younger Ghostbusters and because of liberal, racial, political concerns, we get a motley crew based on the sequel cartoon series Extreme Ghostbusters where one is female, one is Hispanic, one is African-American, and one is paraplegic. Unlikely because in the cartoon, they’re guided by Egon Spengler (Ramis) who could easily be replaced by Ray Stanz (Aykroyd). But we won’t get such a thing.
What we now have is a reboot. Sort of. For some strange reason (not against women here), the gang is now all-female. Their receptionist is Thor. Based on the trailer, their costumes look awkward as well as their equipment. Ecto 1 looks uncanny. The iconic vehicle looks more like a station wagon than a hearse. Uninspired is the term that can be used for Ecto 1. Back to the cast, it’s not easy to pass judgment on them based on two trailers. To be honest, despite being universally disliked on Youtube, the trailers seemed okay. What got fans worked up was that the first trailer suggested the new film was a sequel instead of a reboot, but the rest of the trailer suggests otherwise. It was said that most of the original cast would cameo for the film but not as the characters of the original films. It’s bad enough that Murray kept the franchise at bay for so long, he signed up for a seemingly bad reboot.
Another reboot in the midst of the public’s complaints that Hollywood is out of ideas. Not only was it a reboot, there’s this unnecessary gender change (not against women, honest). Again, we’re not passing judgment on the current cast until we see the full movie. We now have Melissa McCarthy as Abby Yates, Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert, Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holzmann and Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan. But wouldn’t it have been nicer to cast Tom Hiddleston as Peter Venkman, Chris Pratt as Ray Stanz, Dwayne Johnson as Winston Zeddemore and Mark Ruffalo as Egon Spengler with Scarlet Johansson as Janine Melnitz. Imagine that.
We’re okay with girl power. It’s the 2010s but let’s go back to the criticisms. With all the CGI going on, it’s seems much easier to render ghosts now. Not really. What made the first film so enthralling was that the ghosts and the proton blasts were made with practical special effects which look real enough to hold up until today. In this film, fans know beforehand that CGI would be used for the ghosts and the effects. The trailer, unfortunately, shows ghosts that look terribly generic unlike before where showing convincing ghosts through practical effects was a great accomplishment. Based on the trailers, even for sci-fi, supernatural fantasy film, it feels fake.
Also, and this is not about fans but more of a racial thing. In the 80s, it wasn’t too much of a big deal that Winston Zeddemore was the only guy who happened to be black who wasn’t a scientist. His role was clearly someone just looking for a job because the situation was getting out of hand for the original three. It would seem that the film went out of its way to insert a black person into the team. Whatever the motivations were, it was acceptable back then or back then it wasn’t that big a deal. There was no internet to get people all riled up until the film’s showing. But now, with all the social media, the growing racial divide and the highlighting of anything that can be taken offense to, the casting of Leslie Jones as a streetwise, tough-talking, non-scientist black character raises racial equality issues for the film. Otherwise, not including a black character could consequently create a backlash on the absence of a black character. People are even crying out on the absence of a Latino or Asian person on the team. The burden of casting these days. Now basing the cast on the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon seems like a brilliant idea. Chris Hemsworth would have made a great middle-aged Egon, not as Thor the receptionist.
In terms of acting, the trailer doesn’t show much. Fans complained that the trailer’s jokes and one-liners weren’t funny enough. Not very Ghostbusters-y. Again, with an open mind, I’ll reserve judgment because it’s just a trailer. I have no problem with the cast being all female. In fact, it’s an interesting aspect of the film.
The thing is, Ghostbusters had such a profound impact on fans that they are protective of the franchise and that they feel that any sequel or reboot must be done justice. Otherwise, it should not be made. The argument is strikingly similar to another heroic quartet shown in theaters last year. From the casting to the story, it was something fans didn’t want but was made and shown anyway as an arrogant slap in the face to moviegoers and fans of the franchise. We all know how that turned out. Many fans think of current Ghostbusters director Paul Feig the same way when he said that the movie was good in his point of view and that the film was meant for the general public and not just for fans of the franchise. Speaking of the director, there are swirling rumors that the cast aren’t peachy with each other and that the film is a chore for some. Not a good sign.
So, Ghostbusters will be out this July for fans and non-fans alike. Dan Aykroyd, the Ghostbusters veteran who’s been vouching for a revitalization of the franchise, says the film is going to be great. Whether that statement is based on pride, preference or financial compensation remains to be seen. Many fans of the franchise like me will probably go see it anyway but it’s often up to us to spread the word to tell Hollywood that it’s a job well done or to teach it a lesson on greed and arrogance.