This is a guest post by Steve Wetherell.
In a movie market where safe formats and nostalgia are spoon fed to us like tapioca pudding in an old folk’s home, nobody should be surprised at the Ghostbusters soft reboot. That doesn’t mean we can’t get needlessly outraged by it, though, because other than cats, porn and cat porn, needless outrage is what the internet is all about.
After watching the new Ghostbusters trailer, I decided to put on my indignation hat, lace up my entitlement boots and struggle into the assless chaps of up my unjustified sense of ownership. I’ve been watching Ghostbusters since I was five years old, and I'll be damned if the suckers are going to get a movie by me just because it’s their intellectual property.
To make it clear from the outset, I’m willing to accept that the movie itself will probably be a lot of harmless fun, maybe even good. But one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the trailer is pure ghost shit. Why? Well, let’s talk about that…
The Piano Musical call back to the Main Theme
Nothing says nostalgia like a piano rendition of a popular song played by a comatose hippy. It’s an overused technique in everything from online dating commercials to online dating commercials. You hear this over-serious bit in trailers all the time, but placing it in this particular trailer, for a remake of a movie that was all about quirky, silly adventure comedy, tells me that somebody has missed a point somewhere. If they’re already treating this movie with such generic kid gloves, then I’m guessing the finished product is going to be a lot less like Ghostbusters and a lot more like Ghostbusters 2. And speaking of generic….
The Jokes are Tired Already
Comedy is hard. Comedy that translates to a global audience is harder still. Hollywood, in their endless search for a joke that even lost Amazonian tribesmen will get, seems pretty content to play it safe in this trailer, which is a poor omen for the movie. The original Ghostbusters, though it certainly had its clever moments, relied heavily on the charisma of a great cast to knowingly wink their way through a goofball plot while (and this is the important bit) not being ironic or patronising. They were snarky sure, but they were sincere. Thirty years on it may seem like a no-brainer, but that’s a difficult comedic line to tread.
The trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie doesn’t seem interested in winking at the audience so much as reaching through the screen and moving the audience’s mouth up and down while making ha ha noises. With a whole comedy movie to choose from, this trailer decided to deliver us such a timeworn classics as “Aw, heeyll no!” and “That’s gonna leave a mark!”. They even go as far as to lift a scene directly from Young Frankenstein and make it the star joke of the trailer.
For a comedy movie loaded with talent, the trailer not only failed to bring anything new to the comedy table, but served it with all the joyless cynicism of a French waiter on a double shift. The original Ghostbusters was not just sincere and funny, it was fresh and original. Just because we’re begrudgingly content to see reheated franchises, it doesn’t mean we’ll settle for reheated jokes.
Trying to Make Ghostbusters Sexy is a Bad Idea
In the original Ghostbusters, the only real injection of glamour was Sigourney Weaver, who is just one of those actresses who classes up the joint even when she’s pretending to be possessed by a demonic dog. In contrast, our heroes the Ghostbusters were objectively and deliberately unglamorous. Walking around with clunky equipment and poor social skills, they were blue-collar nine-to-fivers who just happened to work in a fantastical realm. They were basically exterminators, but for ghosts. That was the comedic premise boiled down to its essence.
The new trailer seems to get this with its casting choices. it’s refreshing not just to see a female led cast, but a female led cast who don’t all look like twenty year old models. Like their male forebears, the cast seem relatable, charismatic and quirky. That is, until they start sexy posing with their proton packs. When Kate Mckinnon suggestively licked the barrel of her sleek new ghost pistol, I died a little inside.
It’d be nice, I guess, if we could have a zany female character I could take my daughter to see who doesn’t have to reference sucking a cock to show how empowered she is, but, hey, what the fuck do I know about feminism?
The proton packs themselves, which used to look like Satan’s icebox and now look like Iron Man’s overnight bag, have knuckle duster and twin pistol attachments. Pretty cool if you’re an eight year old playing a video game, a worrying portent if you’re expecting a good movie. Ghostbusters were never sleek and sexy action commandos. That’s a different movie experience. Could you imagine Winston or Egon straight up jump punching a poltergeist? No. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be funny in a different movie, but that’s the point— this trailer is already telling me that the producers have lost sight of what made the original work.
After Thirty Years, We Haven’t Got much Better at Diversity
Winston Zedemore, for all that I loved the original Ghostbusters movie, was kind of a token black character. He turns up about half way through the movie and doesn’t really do much to drive the action on. It’s almost like the writers suddenly realised that they’d set a movie in one of the world’s most diverse cities and forgot to include any ethnic characters, and so hurriedly wrote in a fourth Ghostbuster. While underdeveloped, Winston thankfully doesn’t succumb to the trend of making up for character depth with loud stereotyping. Ernie Hudson brings us a character who is down to earth, practical, cool under pressure, and a necessary human face and jargon buster for his socially abnormal counterparts.
Leslie Jones’ character seems like she’ll play a more pivotal role in the new movie than Ernie Hudson did in the original. However, the trailer makes it seem like she’s been scripted entirely by Michael Bay, a man so famed for his fundamental misinterpretation of what humans are that he remains the most convincing argument for alien life in the universe.
While the trailer is careful to point out that the other Ghostbusters are leading scientists and master engineers, Leslie proudly proclaims her lack of knowledge about that “science stuff” and abundance of street smarts in her opening line. Also that she has a car. This is the first and last useful thing she says before quickly devolving into predictable quips and over-used pop culture references.
I’m hoping the movie unravels the character a little more, because I’d hate to think that in thirty years we still have trouble casting a black character as anything other than a street smart chauffeur for her white academic superiors.
Shedding comparison to the original, the new Ghostbusters trailer is equal parts disappointing and alluring. It looks great, the cast are great, it has a sound track (the non-piano version) that’s still exciting thirty years after its debut. It looks like it could be a fun movie. Will it be a movie that changes the face of cinema? Probably not. But it could be fun.
However, there are a lot of warning flags in this trailer, and usually, when it comes to weak cinema, then you can rely on the trailer to be better than the actual movie. It’s rarely the other way around. There are a lot of people out there that think that casting the Ghostbusters as all female is somehow pandering to hipster SJWs. I don’t agree with that. But, I think we can all agree that this trailer is definitely pandering to people who like mediocre movies, and that’s a shame.
The good news is that nobody is forcing you to watch it. I myself have lived quite happily never having watched more than four minutes of Transformers: Rise of Who The Fuck Cares? If I want to watch the Transformers from my youth, then thats what I’ll do. So, for those of you worried that the new Ghostbusters movie will sully your memories of the original, might I suggest watching the original again? Or playing the fantastic 2009 video game? Or reading the hilarious IDW comic book adventures? Failing that, just wait a few years. They might remake it better next time.