14 July 2016

Ghostbusters review

Anyone with any kind of online presence has probably seen some of the controversy that the new Ghostbusters has been embroiled in since it was first announced. Hundreds of thousands of people (mostly men) have come out of the woodwork in order to tell everyone and anyone that their childhoods have been ruined by a film they haven't yet seen, a lot of whom are making that overblown, meaningless statement based solely on the fact that the new Ghostbusters are - gasp - women. This is, of course, a huge insult to the original Ghostbusters, a film that only works thanks to the fact that the protagonists all have dicks.

Joking aside, the backlash aimed at the new Ghostbusters has been both incredibly vicious and far larger than anyone could have expected. Its first trailer quickly became one of the most disliked videos in the history of YouTube; comment sections all over the net turned into ideological battlegrounds; director Paul Feig has been on the receiving end of months worth of harassment. Ghostbusters is just the latest thing to shine a light onto an ugly, regressive side of the Internet, but when all is said and done? It's still just a movie, and an OK one at that.

We follow Erin Gilbert, a professor at Columbia University who loses her job after a book about the existence of ghosts is published under her name without her permission by Abby Yates, an ex-friend who helped write it. After Abby agrees to recall the book, the two quickly make up when asked to investigate a local haunted mansion, which leads to them (along with Abby's colleague Jillian Holtzmann and local transit worker Patty Tolan) setting up shop in order to prove the existence of ghosts by capturing them.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ghostbusters is a film that seems to be obsessed with its own past, and as with Star Wars: The Force Awakens that obsession is quite easily its biggest flaw. It's as if someone involved in production was worried that audiences would reject the movie if it wasn't making constant allusions to the original Ghostbusters, resulting in a film that can barely go 15 minutes without throwing in a frustrating reference or an immersion breaking cameo, neither of which ever adding anything to the movie.

That being said, when Ghostbusters isn't pandering to an audience that had already dedicated themselves to hating it months in advance, it's fairly entertaining. If you've seen any other Paul Feig film then I imagine you'll know what to expect from the humour in Ghostbusters - there is an optimism, an empathy in his work that is still very much present here, even if his ability to judge when something is or isn't working seems to be less precise this time around. Some jokes are left to go on for too long while others aren't given enough time to breathe, resulting in a film that's more just vaguely amusing than it is laugh out loud hilarious - a criticism I'd make of the original Ghostbusters too, it should be noted.

But Ghostbusters (the new one, that is) has it where it counts, managing to tell the same basic story as the original Ghostbusters in a much more coherent - and truthfully, better - way, with a proper structure, a real antagonist and a level of character development that the original sorely lacks. Our new Ghostbusters may not exactly be complex characters but they all have their part to play, growing over the course of the movie in ways that Venkman and Co never did. Additionally, the supporting cast here is excellent - Chris Hemsworth in particular manages to steal every scene he's in, once again proving that despite the leading man looks, his real talent lies in a perfect sense of comic timing and a willingness to make light of himself.

All of which makes Ghostbusters something of a mixed bag, a difficult film to parse. It's a comedy remake that isn't really as funny as it needs to be, but one that still manages to entertain by telling an enjoyable story with a few genuinely scary moments - albeit one that is far too derivative for its own good. Do I want to see it again any time soon? Not really, no. But I'd happily go to see a sequel, especially now that the "required" fan service is done with and the pressure of rebooting what is considered to be a comedy classic is eased somewhat. Given the chance to be its own thing, the new Ghostbusters could have been really good - instead, it's just good enough to make me hopeful about what might follow.

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