GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) – An Empty Spirit with No Heart

Ghostbusters PosterWhen I came out of the theater after watching the new reboot of Ghostbusters, I had a very hard time deciding how I felt about it. It was funny…in parts. It was interesting…at times. But was it actually Ghostbusters?

The original Ghostbusters, released in 1984, is one of my favorite films of all time. I watch it at least once a year with my wife around Halloween. It’s a brilliant movie, and still hilarious. Not that anyone had to twist my arm, but I watched the original film a couple days before seeing this one so it was fresh in my mind. Director and co-writer Paul Feig made himself ripe for comparison by making a reboot of an almost-perfect comedy classic.

It took me a while to come to the conclusion that this new Ghostbusters is not good. The film is kind of funny in places, but it really lacks what made the original endearing, and comes across as a shallow cash-grab of a venerated film franchise. To paraphrase Ghostbusters‘ Dean Yeager from 1984, it’s humor can be the worst kind of popular tripe, the filmmakers’ methods were sloppy, and their conclusions were highly questionable.

In other words, definitely not Ghostbusters.

“I ain’t afraid of no SPOLIERS!”

Stuff I Liked

HoltzmannThough the film is not great, I must say that I was most entertained by Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann. I enjoyed this character every time she was onscreen because she was hilariously unpredictable in what she said and did. She’s a character cut from the same cloth as Tombstone‘s Doc Holliday or Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Jack Sparrow. Maybe too much in some places, but still sort of funny. I enjoy those kinds of characters immensely.

The design of the technology was cool. The proton packs looked great, as did the accessories. The pistol-like proton blasters were fun. I also liked that the story spent some time explaining how things worked, and had the Ghostbusters testing out the tech.

The best parts of the film were the cameos by the cast of the original Ghostbusters. For the most part, they were done simply, not bringing too much attention to themselves, and played for maximum in-joke effect. My favorite was probably Dan Aykroyd’s jaded New York cabbie in the midst of the supernatural mayhem in Times Square.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

Speaking of cameos, my frustration with this film is personified by Bill Murray’s brief scene with the new team. It truly looked like he just didn’t care about anything that was going on. He was literally sitting down delivering dialogue!

This movie doesn’t work because it’s missing the original’s very large heart.

The original’s humor was organic, leisure, and even-paced throughout the film. It was subtle, with little bits of humor mixed in with the visual effects shots – making the climactic battle with Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that much more hilarious and awe-inspiring, despite its absurdity.

As with most comedy films today, the subtlety is gone in this new Ghostbusters. The jokes are all broad, needlessly crass at times, and sometimes eye-rolling in their smugness. It was humor in the tone of Parks and Recreation, but not as clever. Even the very first scene had to include stupid statements like the tour guide telling his guests that the mansion had an “Irish-proof wall”…because, for some reason, one must emphasize that people in those days were apparently horrible bigots. Really?

The lack of effort extended into the choice of villain. Both visually and as a character, Rowan just wasn’t interesting. His motivations were tired and the source of his power was never really explained very well. So how was he able to control all those millions of ghosts he freed? And how does he all of a sudden have the Gozer-like ability to become a giant monster?

And the post-credits scene was totally lame and made no sense. Zuul? Seriously?

One need only compare each film’s version of the PKE meter to really understand the problems. The 1984 version is small, subtle and appears to have been made with the effort to make it seem scientific. The 2016 version is large and overly flashy with a bright, annoying twirly-thing on top that no scientist would have designed that way.

Paul FeigThe problem is Paul Feig wanted it both ways: brand recognition and the ability to do his own thing. Feig wanted to be different so much, but he’s feeling the weight of the entire franchise on his shoulders and spends the film trying to deny it exists.

Feig used lots of the original iconography, like the logo, but has no respect for it. He loves but at the same time seems to resent the legacy. The guys at Red Letter Media brilliantly pointed out the irony of the film’s climax: the new team literally fighting the old Ghostbusters logo!

I’m in total agreement with blogger Stephen Green’s analysis of the 1984 film in his piece on the reboot: the original Ghostbusters was “lightning in a bottle” – a perfect storm of brilliant minds coalescing at the right place at the right time. All the pieces fit perfectly: Ivan Reitman’s subtle direction, the dynamic and talent of the cast, Dan Aykroyd’s genuine belief in the paranormal that was infused into the script. The heart was there.

It all worked…but just for that moment. In fact, when all the same players tried to make a sequel five years later, the result (while still charming in places), lacked that same magic that made the original so great. If the original team couldn’t reproduce the magic, what made this batch of filmmakers think they could – using the same basic story beats no less?

If this movie absolutely had to be made for some reason, it should have been a sequel. Sure they can make a reboot, but as Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the original Jurassic Park, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Jurassic Park is actually a prime example of a franchise that played it right with its most recent film, Jurassic World. It paid homage to what had come before, and built upon it – literally. It still exists in the world established – a world fans want to revisit – but with new characters alongside some old ones. The same went for The Force Awakens and its connection to the previous Star Wars films. The older characters were there, and it’s a familiar story structure (perhaps too familiar, but I digress), and the lightsaber is being passed to a new generation.

It would have been cool to see the original cast still operating, getting ready to retire – maybe even incorporate Harold Ramis’ tragic death into the storyline as a plot catalyst. Some young science nerds come in a revive their business with updated technology. And it happens just in time for some cataclysmic paranormal event that wakes even the most cynical millennial from their jaded stupor.

Stuff to Ponder

There doesn’t really seem to be a thematic point to this movie, at least one that is strong. The real substance of the original film has been, in places, turned on its head with the new film. What the new Ghostbusters lacks in heart it makes up for with blatant agendas.

Ghostbusters06

Earthly, physical identity now plays a huge role in this film – mirroring society’s current obsession with identity politics. The hype surrounding the film’s release was all about the fact that the Ghostbusters are now female. It just shows that the filmmakers were more concerned with making sure diversity quotas were met than making a quality film.

I don’t understand why Sony decided to do this to the Ghostbusters franchise. The films were never a showboat of male chauvinism. Why make it a platform? In fact, one of the most endearing qualities of the original film was its positive portrayal of the female and minority characters – with an iota of the effort the current batch of filmmakers made.

The women of the 1984 film were definitely strong characters, and they didn’t have to constantly emphasize their strength by telling the audience, or surrounding themselves with weaker characters. Janine Melnitz, the Ghostbusters’ secretary, was a smart, capable woman who could hold her own with the guys. Dana Barrett, the modern Manhattan single woman, was very feminine and sophisticated, seeing through Peter Venkman’s playful chicanery.

Contrast Janine’s character with her 2016 equivalent, the dim-witted but hunky Kevin. It seems that the only way to make the ladies look good is to make the men look awful. In fact, literally every male character in this film is stupid, weak, conniving, evil or all of the above.

Ghostbusters01

Winston’s skin color was never an issue in the 1984 version, not even played for jokes. He was just one of the guys and the voice of reason on the team. And he got some of the best lines in the entire film (“Ray, the next time someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'”). The fact that he was black was as inconsequential as the color of his shoes. It was never brought up, nor should it have been. He was an equal with the rest of the team. Isn’t that the way it should be?

“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Nowhere in the Bible do any of the Gospels give a physical description of Jesus – His skin color, eye shade, any of that. I sincerely believe that this was by God’s design. What Jesus looked like did not matter. It’s what He did and continues to do for us that counts. We should love Him for who He is, not what He looks like.

The Ghostbusters reboot is a reflection of society and pop culture’s current obsession with “diversity” over substance. It’s now more important for a character to look like a certain demographic than it is for the character to be engaging and believable. It’s really a sad reflection of today’s collective narcissism that all our heroes and protagonists have to look just like us in order to be admired for their deeds.

Outward appearance does not matter to God. All that matters is the heart of a person, and his/her faith that God saves us from our sin nature. The modern feminist resentment and animosity toward men that permeates the spirit of this new film doesn’t help anyone get along better.

So What I’m Trying to Say is

I’m sure that some will be very entertained by this new take on Ghostbusters. There were parts that were amusing, but overall it’s a crass, insulting, overly-commercial and unnecessary reboot of a beloved classic. The updates to the tech and the ghosts were interesting, but it wasn’t enough to cover up the total lack of heart in this film.

What this reboot has done is turn all the good, thematically substantive qualities of the original film on their heads – bringing a reflection of a modern society more obsessed with physical traits like gender than creating real, relatable characters. Our Creator does not see these physical traits when He looks at us. He sees our heart, our personality. We should strive to do the same, and not worry about the temporary, earthly things.

Originally posted on Reel World Theology.

Ghostbusters Score

Ghostbusters (2016)
Columbia Pictures
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones,
Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams and Chris Hemsworth
Written by Kate Dippold and Paul Feig
Based on the 1984 film written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Directed by Paul Feig

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One thought on “GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) – An Empty Spirit with No Heart

  1. Pingback: Top 10 of 2016 | The Film Avenger

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