Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Ain't Afraid Of New Ghosts

I’m extremely fired up for the new Ghostbusters movie, and yet with the release date still almost a month away, the court of public internet opinion seems to have already decided that the film will be terrible.  Am I so out of touch?!  No.  It’s the children who are wrong.  Believe me, I am absolutely quick to judge and write off TONS of movies based on nothing more than a trailer or production knowledge alone, yet for the life of me, I do not get the level of venom being directed at Ghostbusters.  There seem to be five central anti-Ghostbusters remake arguments, some of which have merit and others that are laughably invalid.

“I don’t think some or all of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are funny or even good actors.  AND/OR, I don’t like Paul Feig’s movies.”
This is a fair argument.  Without doubt, part of the reason I’m excited about this film is because I enjoy all of Feig’s movies and I generally like the entire cast.  McKinnon is the best.  Wiig is basically great whenever she’s doing anything besides her interminable SNL recurring characters.  McCarthy is always great in Feig’s movies, if almost always unmemorable to terrible in everything else.  Jones is still kind of an unknown quantity as an actor (as SNL has shown, she isn’t much of a sketch performer) but she’s obviously a very funny standup. 

Still, if you don’t like any of this group, that’s fair.  If a Ghostbusters remake was being helmed by, say, Roland Emmerich and starring Adam Sandler and his usual crew, I would be picketing the theatre myself.  Different strokes for different folks. 

“The trailer stunk!”
Fair argument.  Trailers, like actors, are kind of an acquired taste.  Even the cast themselves have admitted that the first Ghostbusters trailer wasn’t any good, though to be frank, I don’t see what all the fuss was about.  As someone who watches more movie trailers than most people eat hot meals, I thought this one actually looked pretty cool, though my Ghostbusters fandom could quite possibly have led to some bias on my part.  (As in, I was too busy fanboyishly geeking out over the Ecto-1, the proton packs, the remixed song, etc. to really focus on the trailer as a whole.)  Then again, the fact that so many of the “little things” appear to have been done right is a really good sign, in my books. 

Even if you thought the trailer was bad, it goes without saying that you can’t always judge a movie by the quality of a trailer.  There have been loads of films that looked great condensed into a two-minute sizzle reel that ended up being two hours of hot garbage.  It seems like making a trailer for a comedy is particularly hard, since they all seem stuck somewhere in between “gives away all the best jokes” and “tries too hard to conceal the best jokes/just goes for the broadest possible jokes.”  

“Why make the one lead black character into the ‘streetwise’ one while the three white leads all play genius scientists?”
Admittedly, Jones’ line in the trailer about ‘not knowing any of the scientific stuff’ (or whatever the exact wording was) really fell flat with me as well.  I’ll reserve judgement until I see the full movie, though on the surface, it’s very dodgy.

“An all-female cast is political correctness run amok!”
If this is your reason for disliking the new Ghostbusters movie, you are officially a moron.

“The original Ghostbusters is a classic!  Remaking it whatsoever is a bad idea!”
Most of the time, I whole-heartedly agree with the idea that classic movies don’t need to be remade.  If you’re producing a remake of Casablanca or The Godfather or Schindler’s List or Shawshank Redemption or Psycho or Back To The Future* or Citizen Kane or insert your classic here, I don’t care if you have the best director in the world helming the best cast in the world, my first question is simply going to be why bother?  If it was already done so perfectly the first time around, why do you need a remake?

* = my friend Mario pitched the idea of an acceptable BTTF remake as having a kid from 2015 travel back to 1985 and have to hook up his parents, sort of as a way of poking fun at how 1985’s conventions seem as dated to modern young audiences as 1955 seemed to 1985 audiences.  It’s a cute idea, yet the BTTF trilogy wrapped everything up in such a neat way that I’d really prefer to just let it lie.  Plus, now the joke doesn’t work since we’re past 2015, so we don’t have to worry about another BTTF remake until 2045.

In certain cases, however, there’s flexibility for another take on a classic.  Look at it like theatre; there have been countless productions of Shakespeare’s plays over the years that reinterpret the text in countless different ways.  As we’ve seen with the umpteen comic book movies over the last few decades, there are lots of ways to interpret a character or universe  of characters on the big screen.  It sounds like a giant cliche to say that as long as a remake or re-imagining can work if it “has the spirit of the original,” yet it’s really true.  The issue is that “spirit” is impossible to define, and one person’s sense that a new movie really captured the feel of the original is another person’s travesty. 

For me, as much as I loved the original movie, Ghostbusters isn’t a movie that needs to be put on a pedestal as some sacrosanct text.  As a kid, in fact, the movie wasn’t even the original text — I fell in love with the Ghostbusters thanks to the “Real Ghostbusters” cartoon show, which I saw long before I saw the original movie.  “The Real Ghostbusters” followed the adventures of Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston after the events of the movie, expanding and developing them into characters similar to the ones played by Murray, Ackroyd, Ramis and Hudson but ultimately rather uniquely different.*

* = for instance, Winston actually HAS a character in the cartoon, and isn’t just some random guy who shows up two-thirds of the way into the movie and is suddenly part of the team.  Did anyone get more short-changed in the editor’s room than Ernie Hudson?  Apparently the original take on Winston was that he was going to be a military veteran brought in as someone who actually knew how to handle advanced weapons since the other three guys were out of their depth in combat situations, though this was back when Aykroyd/Ramis were planning to have Eddie Murphy in the part.  When Eddie passed, the Winston character as a whole seemed to become an afterthought.

In short, the reason I’m probably so open to this idea of a Ghostbusters remake is that I already love a “Ghostbusters remake,” a.k.a. the cartoon.  Hell, we’ve already essentially seen a hundred Ghostbusters remakes over the years — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, X-Files, etc. — since the idea of “wisecracking people team up to fight the supernatural” wasn’t even new when Aykroyd and Ramis had the idea.  Remember the weird other "Ghost Busters" with a gorilla on the team?  Or this Mickey Mouse short from all the way back in 1937?  I forget, when the 1984 movie came out, were there a bunch of Mickey Mouse fanboys upset that due to political correctness, the story was being remade with an all-human cast?  

On paper, as a male Ghostbusters fan who fancies himself a film expert, I should fit right into the demographic complaining the loudest that this remake exists.  However, since I a) like the cast and director and b) don’t care about the cast’s gender, I couldn’t be more excited.  Stay tuned for later in July when I hypocritically argue why the new Star Trek and Bourne movies didn’t need to be made but for now, I’m going to bask in my childhood memories and enjoy what I’m pretty sure is going to be a terrific Ghostbusters adventure...assuming Leslie Jones' character isn't a walking stereotype.  Don't let me down, movie!

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