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Non-Review Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

It is very strange to think of Ghostbusters as a film.

For the past year or so, the word has existed as part of a storm ravaging the pop cultural landscape. It became the source of heightened controversy, its own front in the pop culture wars that had already consumed video gaming and the Hugos. To venture an opinion on the film was to wade into that storm, to chase the tornado and to find your opinion subject to all manner of criticism and second-guessing. If you were interested in the film, you were a raving feminist crushing the hopes and dreams of a generation. If you were sceptical, you were a misogynist.

Rocked and loaded.

Rocked and loaded.

With that in mind, it is strange to think of Ghostbusters as actually existing as a film that can actually be watched in a cinema. The film has been the source of so much discussion and debate – so much thought and energy – that it somehow feels “bigger” than two-hour long supernatural action comedy directed by Paul Feig and starring a great cast. Trying to separate the film from that larger discussion feels like a Herculean task of itself, one compounded by the fact that it is neither terrible nor brilliant.

Being sensational or being awful would make the matter a bit easier, because it would tie neatly into one of the two narratives swirling around the film’s production. Instead, it is merely very good. It is an enjoyable supernatural action comedy with a great cast that is always fun to watch, even if it isn’t perfect. In the end, it is just a film. A very good, very enjoyable, slightly flawed film.

Stream of thought...

Stream of thought…

It should be stressed that it is unequivocally a good thing that Ghostbusters exists. Taking for granted that sequels and remakes and reboots are part of the Hollywood eco-system, it seems churlish to single out this one reboot as the root of all problems. Indeed, Independence Day: Resurgence is about as effective a criticism of the current studio movie-making model as viewers are likely to find. The Legend of Tarzan is a better film than Independence Day: Resurgence, but a much worse film than Ghostbusters. So singling it out for criticism is a strange choice.

On the other hand, Ghostbusters at least does something fresh and original with its premise. It is very easy for heterosexual white guys to take the abundance of heterosexual white guy heroes for granted. They are practically ambient noise in the contemporary cinematic churn. If fans are concerned about too many recycled ideas, why not complain about that one before worrying about Ghostbusters? It is very hard for young girls or minorities to look to popular cinematic franchises and see characters who represent them.

Face off...

Face off…

The idea that young girls can look to Ghostbusters and see a cast of comedic action heroes who speak to them is important. Ironically, the fans complaining about the lack of the male heroes they idolised as children miss the fact that young girls never had the chance to imagine themselves as characters equivalent to Egon Spengler or Peter Venkmen, heroes who battle ghosts with proton packs. Young boys can still look to the original films and a range of spin-offs. It is unequivocally a big studio blockbuster film exists that affords girls the same opportunity.

So “Ghostbusters the concept” is undoubtedly and unequivocally a good thing. It is a concept that almost justifies itself, particularly in a media landscape where reboots of films like Ghost in the Shell seem to be reducing (rather than increasing) diversity. However, most audiences are not buying a ticket to “Ghostbusters the concept.” They are buying a ticket to “Ghostbusters the film”, which has found itself inexorably tangled up in this larger cultural discourse and debate. “Ghostbusters the film” could never quite measure up to “Ghostbusters the concept.”

Dissecting the film.

Dissecting the film.

So how is the film, as divorced as it can be from that larger discussion? It is very good. It is not perfect, but then neither were either of the original Ghostbusters films. It is fun and breezy, which is enough to propel it to the upper echelons of this summer’s blockbuster releases. It has a great cast who play well off one another, and a decent ratio of gags to runtime. Enough of those gags land to keep the movie running, but not so much that it soars. The movie’s greatest strength is its cast, who gel together into a fantastic ensemble.

As with the original Ghostbusters film, the cast is largely drawn from veterans of Saturday Night Live. Of the four leads, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnion are both current members of the comedy sketch show ensemble. Kristen Wiig is a former regular. Melissa McCarthy is the only one of the four leads not to have worked steadily on Saturday Night Live, instead having come up through other television shows like Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly. As with the original cast members, this skill with improvisation and sketch comedy suits them well.

Busting does make you feel good.

Busting does make you feel good.

Ghostbusters is at its strongest when it lets its characters interact and bounce off one another. As with the original four Ghostbusters, this quartet is composed of archetypes. Erin Gilbert is the scientist who gave up her childish dreams in pursuit of legitimacy, while Abby Yates is her childhood friend who chased those same dreams to obscurity. Jillian Holtzmann is the nerdy (and possibly psychotic) tech geek, while Patty Tolan is the member of the group with the most practical working knowledge of the city.

The relationship between Erin and Abby powers the film, with Ghostbusters affording Wiig and McCarthy with slightly less cartoonish characters than their iconic comedy roles. (This is, after all, something of a small reunion for the cast and crew of Bridesmaids.) That friendship between Erin and Abby is endearing, and the film is at its best when it allows the two to bounce off one another. In particular, the first half of the film is driven by the reconnection between two old friends who discover that they still enjoy one another’s company.

Firing on all cylinders...

Firing on all cylinders…

To be fair, one of the issues with the film’s final act is the fact that it separates Abby and Erin. It seems like there is some material that has been cut from the movie’s climax, as Erin branches away from the group as the crisis unfolds. Given how much emphasis the film puts on bringing the two characters together, it seems strange that they should spend so much of the final half hour separate from one another, particularly when there seems to be no real plot justification for the separation. (Indeed, it feels slightly formulaic, a comedy convention without an in-story reason.)

Jones and McKinnion also do good work. Jones is reliably down-to-earth in contrast with the madness around her, even if there is something rather questionable in casting the film’s only African American lead as the stock “street smart” archetype. However, it is something of an original sin, inherited from the original film’s treatment of Winston. To be fair to Ghostbusters, the film does take care to flesh out Patty Tolan. She is afforded a bit more background and development than Winston Zeddemore was, at least in the finished cut of Ghostbusters.

Holtz and catch fire.

Holtz and catch fire.

Kate McKinnion is the film’s revelation. Holtzmann is the character saddled with most of the exposition, filling the role previously inhabited by Harold Ramis as Egon Spangler. McKinnion takes to this with a great deal of relish, taking a fairly conventional archetype and amping her performance all the way up to eleven. It is a performance that embraces the absurdity of the film’s premise, and runs with with it. McKinnion steals most of the scenes she is in, even when relegated to the background of the shot.

Feig is a very good comedic director and a solid action director. Ghostbusters keeps moving forward, with considerable speed. The gags come quick and fast, with a self-awareness that never threatens to suffocate the film. Feig knows when to allow his cast room to bounce off one another, and when to keep the plot moving. Feig strikes a fine balance between the demands of a summer blockbuster and a comedy, although perhaps not as fine as he did with Spy. There is an energy and verve that makes it hard not to enjoy the film.

Into the wild blue yonder.

Into the wild blue yonder.

Ghostbusters is endearingly direct when dealing with the film’s cultural context. Erin finds herself responding to misogynistic comments on YouTube. One of their most prominent critics is played by a tongue-in-cheek member of the original cast. The villain is a spoilt manbaby, who resurrects the dead to bring about New York’s “glory days” in a very literal expression of the white male nostalgia that seems to run through so much of contemporary political discourse.

The film gleefully (and cheekily) mocks the castration complex that seems to run through a vocal strand of criticism of the concept. The four heroes manage to defeat the climactic monster through castration imagery, with Holtzmann explicitly confirming it in dialogue. Later, Holtzmann tinkers with a number of gadgets that come with some distinctively Freudian subtext. When she announces “the nutcracker”, one of her colleagues asks why she calls it that. “I use it to open nuts,” she innocently responds. Ghostbusters is having so much fun that it is hard not to love it.

"So, this is what the climax of a Ghostbusters film looks like in 2016."

“So, this is what the climax of a Ghostbusters film looks like in 2016.”

If there is a problem with Ghostbusters, the problem is rooted in contemporary blockbuster aesthetics. These problems are nowhere near as severe as they are in films like Independence Day: Resurgence or The Legend of Tarzan, but they are still present. The issue with the plotting of Ghostbusters is that the film feels somewhat overstuffed. The original Ghostbusters had an endearing and relaxing looseness to it, a sense that not everything had to fit together perfectly as long as the film flowed. There are times when Ghostbusters feels wound too tightly.

This is most obvious in the structuring of the film. Ghostbusters feels the need to provide a singular antagonist with his own character arc, who provides a logical reason for the escalating paranormal activity in New York City. This reflects a current style of blockbuster movie writing where it is not enough for an object to exist as part of the movie’s basic premise. Instead, there must be a singular reason for the thing to be the way that it is. Coincidences and concurrences are to be dismissed as bad writing, everything must be tied to a chain of cause and effect.

"Looks like somebody saw The Avengers." "Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows."

“Looks like somebody saw The Avengers.”
“Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

The recent James Bond movies are a prime example of this. Skyfall and Spectre are fascinated with the why of Bond, interrogating many of the franchise’s underlying assumptions and offering explanations for things that do not really require an explanation. Does the audience need to delve into Bond’s traumatic childhood to explain why he is the way that he is? Does the viewer really want a strong causal connection between Bond and Blofeld? Does the film have to show how Blofeld really got those scars and does that have to tie back to James Bond?

In modern blockbusters, everything must have a reason. In the original Ghostbusters, the audience only needed a line or two of exposition to explain how a fridge in a skyscraper could become a gateway to another dimension. There was no explanation needed to account for the paranormal activity in the film. Perhaps it served as a metaphor for the struggles facing New York in the eighties, reflecting a climate of urban fear. Perhaps Dan Aykroyd just really wanted to make a movie about ghosts. One might as well ask why Marty and Doc Brown hung out in Back to the Future.

A hole lot of trouble.

A hole lot of trouble.

Ghostbusters immediately establishes that there is a definite cause for the ghost activity seen in the film. During the first paranormal attack, the camera pans down to an ominous-looking device. At the second attack, our heroes find the charred remains of a similar device. “What’s attracting the ghosts?” one asks. It turns out that there is a singular mind orchestrating the attacks, with a sinister end-game in mind. Naturally, it involves an attempt to open a portal and summon an apocalyptic event.

This aesthetic bleeds through the rest of the film. “So, why ghosts?” one character asks at one point, inquiring as to why Erin and Abby fixated upon the paranormal at a young age. There are a lot of valid answers to those questions ranging from “it’s interesting to wonder what lies beyond” to “ghosts are cool”, but the film settles on a very linear cause-and-effect narrative that roots Erin’s fascination with ghosts in a childhood trauma. Even Slimer finds himself elevated from a one-scene gag to a crucial part of the climax, as the script tries to tie everything together.

Cool car.

Cool car.

It is interesting to wonder where this fixation on causation came from in the structuring of Hollywood blockbusters. There are any number of possibilities. This could be seen as a response to the nitpicky school of internet film criticism that treats every coincidence or concurrence as a horrible contrivance, and objects whenever a film refuses to offer a clear cause-and-effect narrative for any significant plot element. This is very much a preemptive response to the school of criticism that wonders how Bruce Wayne got back to Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises.

Another possibility feels more rooted in the larger cultural context, a reflection of twenty-first century sensibilities. In the wake of 9/11 and the War on Terror, in the internet age, people have come to see the world as an increasingly interconnected web of cause and effect. Things no longer happen in a vacuum, and the thought that the world might be a chaotic place is horrifying. After all, conspiracy theory has become a boom industry, offering cause-and-effect explanations for seemingly random events. What is conspiracy theory but a narrative structure imposed on history?

"All according to formula."

“All according to formula.”

There is an irony in all this. As with conspiracy theories, this approach to narrative arguably feels even more contrived than suggesting that different things might simply be happening concurrently. Seeking to impose a logical and rational story structure upon the threats menacing our characters relies on an even great set of coincidences and contrivances. It makes the world seem particular fake, as if drawing attention to the narrative threads that hold it all together. The plotting and structuring of Ghostbusters feels inorganic.

Still, this is not a fatal flaw. It is a problem with a lot of contemporary Hollywood storytelling, and it is not a problem particular to this one film. However, it is the biggest problem with Ghostbusters. It feels a little too tightly wound together, ignoring that a large part of the fun of Ghostbusters is the improvisational ad hoc nature of the premise. These are four unqualified scientists hunting ghosts in New York. It is enough for the villain to exist, it is perhaps too much for the film to devote so much time and energy to a dastardly plan far less interesting than its four heroes.

Centre stage.

Centre stage.

Indeed, the best thing about Ghostbusters is that it feels like a modern blockbuster that recognises diversity is inherently a good thing and that watching four female actors bounce off one another in a supernatural action comedy can be just as fun as watching four male actors bounce off one another in a supernatural action comedy. The worst thing about Ghostbusters is that it inherits a few of the less flattering stylistic obsessions of contemporary tentpole cinema. It seems like a fair trade-off.

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29 Responses

  1. With all this talk of the lack of female role models in media, I wonder have you ever watched avatar the last airbender and/or Legend of Korra because I thought those shows had excellent female characters.
    On the one hand I am glad to hear the film is good, but on the other I wish that the filmmakers could have come with an original franchise to tell their story line with, rather than relying on brand name recognition. An original sci fi film with four female leads would have truly been a step forward.

    • An original blockbuster science-fiction film with four leads and big push would have been a bigger step forward, undoubtedly. I agree wholeheartedly with this.

      But, again, that doesn’t mean that a smaller step forward – which this is, undoubtedly – isn’t worth taking in its own right. It certainly makes the film more worthwhile than – say – Jurassic World, which hasn’t attracted almost as much ire and has made a bajillion dollars. The same is true of many of the other big franchise films this summer.

      (Ignoring an external measure like “more worthwhile”, it helps that Ghostbusters is also a lot better on its own merits than any blockbuster this summer that isn’t The Conjuring 2 or Civil War. Is it perfect? No. Are there valid criticisms to be made? Yes. But is it a better film by far than any number of other high-profile releases this year that have attracted a tiny portion of the outrage this movie has provoked? Most definitely.)

  2. The only reason why I was totally unenthusiastic about the Ghostbusters reboot is the same reason why I was also totally unenthusiastic about a sequel to Independence Day coming out two decades after the after the original. When I first heard about both of these, my instant reaction was “WHY?!?!?”

    All of the stupidity and misogyny that has been on display since the new Ghostbusters was announced has indeed been revolting. I agree with you one hundred percent when you write “The idea that young girls can look to Ghostbusters and see a cast of comedic action heroes who speak to them is important.” But why not come up with a completely brand new property for four female leads, instead of yet another remake?

    I also have the same reaction to the news that Back to the Future is also going to be remade. Once again, why the hell even bother? It doesn’t matter if the remake also has Marty and Doc Brown played by two white men, or if they replace them with two black guys, or two women, or even a talking cat and dog; there’s just no point remaking a movie that turned out perfectly well the first time around.

    (Okay, maybe I would see a Back to the Future remake with a talking cat and dog, but only because it would be so damn weird.)

    American movies absolutely need more diversity. But that doesn’t just mean having more women and non-whites. It also involves coming up with brand new ideas instead of endlessly regurgitating movies from the 1980s and 90s in a mindless nostalgia-fest.

    • ^^^ THIS. I think our conception of diversity has become unfortunately shallow in recent years, focusing on the color of an actor’s skin or gender rather than the originality of ideas. I think a lot of the backlash against this Ghostbusters movie was the sense that, rather than be a new take on the franchise, it was just going to be a rehash of the old movie, but with women. I’m glad to hear from Darren’s review that it’s not quite so bad, but it still doesn’t sound like it’s pushing the envelope in terms of creativity.

      To be clear, I’m very much in favor of racial/gender diversity in pop culture (it’s a sad testament on our current political climate that I have to reiterate that). I count Captain Benjamin Sisko, Ellen Ripley, and Sarah Connor as some of the greatest characters in sci-fi history. But those movies/TV shows weren’t about a person of color/woman in a rehashed story. They were excellent original stories on their own merits.

      Those stories also explored issues of race and gender. Sisko was very conscious of race for a Trek character, which is something I credit with helping me begin to understand the experience of African Americans. The Aliens and Terminator films are infused with themes about motherhood and femininity. Certainly, those films had more to say about feminism than shooting a ghost in the crotch.

      I think it would be great to have more diversity in sci-fi, but the cynic in me thinks that studios are using diversity as a way to milk franchises. Rather than artists creating telling new stories in order to say something meaningful about diversity, we have studios using diversity to try to expand their market share at the box office.

      I think this is largely a problem with the movie industry, not all entertainment. There are many female/POC authors who are writing their own novels because they want to see more diverse in sci-fi/fantasy. Increasingly, female, minority, and foreign authors are getting recognition with Hugos and Nebula awards. That’s great, not only for diversity’s sake, but also because it’s fueling creative storytelling. Another way of putting this is that I think everybody’s better off with new franchises like the Hunger Games pushing the envelope on diversity than just slapping a different race/gender onto an older franchise.

      • I can understand this.

        But if getting the remake older franchise is an inevitability… which it seems it is… I’d much rather that the reboot did something new with it. And I think providing a vehicle for Wiig/McCarthy/McKinnion/Jones is enough to justify that, not only because I think they’re pretty good comedians (which they are), but because I think giving little girls something cool to dress up as at Halloween is inherently a good thing. If that good thing comes packaged with a reboot that was going to happen anyway, I think it’s fair to say that it’s better than a sequel/reboot of equivalent value that doesn’t come with that extra inherently good thing.

        (And, to be clear, Ghostbusters is very good. It’s flawed, it’s messy, it’s overplotted. But it has four good performers, a decent gags-to-runtime ratio, and is certainly a more worthy successor to the original than Ghostbusters II. In another year, it wouldn’t stand out. It wouldn’t be embarrassing or hate-worthy, But I wouldn’t object too strenuously to anybody who argued it was the film of the summer; being indifferent to Civil War probably helps.)

    • Wait… are they remaking Back to the Future? Ugh.

      I agree entirely that an original blockbuster movie with an all-female cast with be a better investment. And, to be fair to Feig, he’s done more than his fair share of the work to get there. I genuinely loved Spy, which I actually much preferred to Bridesmaids and which I think is significantly better than Ghostbusters. However, the nature of the modern film industry means that Spy gets one tenth of the attention of Ghostbusters.

      (In fact, I suspect Spy has been largely forgotten, certainly as compared to Feig’s more obvious intrusions into more male-dominated realms – Bridesmaids as grossout comedy, Ghostbusters as franchise reboot. Which means, as much as I enjoy Spy more than those two films, I think Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters are better conversation pieces. And they’re certainly not bad films. I’d argue they’re above average comedies in their own rights.)

      And while I accept that “let’s do this old idea but with women” is hardly the kind of diversity that we should be getting at this point, it is sadly a step up from the baseline of “none.” Particularly since “let’s do this old idea…” seems to be the start of pretty much every pitch these days. I love Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but I really don’t care that Marvel has the rights back. If you have to give me another Spider-Man film, how about giving me a Spider-Man I’ve never seen before, like Miles Morales?

      And even accepting that there are better forms of diversity towards which we might aspire, it seems counter-intuitive to respond by pushing back what is a tiny step forward.

      • Fair enough. As always, you have some great points. Should an inevitable reboot happen, I agree with you throwing in some diversity in makes sense. However, I guess I don’t really see our current baseline of “none.” We’ve gotten quite a few movies recently with strong female leads, including Hunger Games, Divergent, Jupiter Ascending, Force Awakens, etc. My cousin (female) even (jokingly) complained to me that having female leads in sci-fi was becoming a trope. Going back in history, we also have Aliens and Terminator, some of the greatest sci-fi in history. Is there enough representation of women in sci-fi? Absolutely not, but let’s not forget about the progress we have made/are making.

        I really don’t think the majority of the reaction to the Ghostbusters film is really about misogyny at all. Sure, there are some trolls out there, but both from what I’ve seen online and from friends, there seem to be two main issues. First, the movie is a reboot, not a sequel (or even a requel). This movie pretends that the original 1984 Ghostbusters never took place. That’s different from Jurassic World or even Abrams’ Star Trek, which try to pass the torch to new actors without wiping out the old. Second, it seems (even based on your review) that this new Ghostbusters has a very different type of humor. The original played it straight. There was no winking at the camera. I came across a Youtube video by Comic Book Girl 19 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQIuTGfPHvA) that does a great job explaining why the film worried so many Ghostbusters fans.

        I also don’t feel like the reaction against this Ghostbusters has been dramatically different from reactions against other bad reboots. Terminator Genysis was pretty badly panned before it came out. Star Trek Into Darkness has divided Trek fandom in to bitter factions, with many fans calling it the worst Trek movie ever. The Total Recall and Robocop reboots were also criticized quite heavily. I don’t understand why Jurassic World got any praise (I thought it was horrible), but looking back that seems in some ways to be an exception. I think the lesson I take from all this is that nostalgia is powerful and geeks can get angry if anybody messes with it.

        To be clear, I’ve never been a huge Ghostbusters fan, so I don’t really have a stake in this movie one way or the other. I might see it, I might not. I do worry though that Sony is manipulating reaction to the film by characterizing all criticism all as misogyny in order to deflect against genuine criticism. We’ve had prominent celebrities make fun of Youtube film reviewers in really juvenile ways just because they don’t plan on seeing the film. That worries me. It’s poisoning pop culture and making it more like our political culture, in which outrage (on both sides) rules the day.

      • I’m not entirely convinced by that logic. I think Sony is just as anxious as anybody else about the film, as seen with the somewhat reluctant rollout of press screenings and the Chris Hemsworth magazine covers. There were also plans for an alternative male-friendly reboot to run in parallel with Channing Tatum, along with the fact that their licensing (including spin-offs and comics) are still heavily pushing the original four. Feig had to push to get action figures for his four leads, which I think demonstrates how tetchy the studio has been. I think Sony’s marketing strategy most definitely is not leaning into a feminist reading of the film. And I can’t fault them too hard for that. I think they’re as terrified as the modern polarised political climate as anybody, and it’s a bit unfair to suggest they’re trying to paint any criticisms of misogynistic.

        More to the point, I am critical of certain elements of the film, to the point where I spend the final third of the review complaining about certain formal elements of modern blockbusters that undercut the film. I know plenty of reviewers who are critical of other elements of the film, in a way that is not painted as misogynistic or anti-feminist. The reviews have been warm, but not glowing, with many pundits acknowledging the flaws in the film. (Although, and perhaps this is reflected in my review somewhat, European critics seem fonder of it than American critics. Which is a division I’ve noticed a lot with comedies in the past couple of years. I thinks we liked Neighbours and Jump Street better as well.)

        I think that there’s a big difference between those criticisms and stuff like the systemic IMDb and YouTube downvoting, and I don’t think that acknowledging and calling out the latter in anyway undercuts the former.

      • Darren, to be sure, I don’t mean to imply that Sony is waging some secret campaign against critics of the film. And I should distinguish between Sony, whose marketing strategy might be more conservative, and Director Paul Feig, who has blamed much of the criticism of the trailers on sexism (rather than the complaints voiced about the type of humor, etc). And, as you said a lot of the reviews of the movie have been pretty balanced, including yours. I guess I’m worried that if this film doesn’t do well, it will be blamed on sexism rather than those flaws. It’d be more convenient for Sony and Feig to blame a bunch of sexist trolls rather than the quality of the writing or directing.

      • Well, to be fair, it’s hard to argue that financial failure is or ever has been particularly tied to quality. Jurassic World is a testament to that.

        I think the film’s box office is an interesting case. It’s a great opening for a comedy. It’s Paul Feig’s largest opening weekend. However, it very clearly isn’t great in terms of a would-be franchise launcher, which is what Sony clearly wanted from it. Which seems a case of mismanaged expectations. I don’t think sexism played a part in that, and I don’t think too many commentators are arguing that it did.

        At the same time, there is something… unsettling to me about the sheer level of toxicity and vitriol surrounding this film that did not surround Jurassic World or Independence Day: Resurgence. Which were both much worse films, but which did not attract one tenth (or even one hundredth) of the backlash that this film seemed to. And the only real difference I can see between this film and those, beyond the fact that this film (while still flawed) is much better, is that this film is headlined by four women.

    • “Back to the Future remake? Over my dead body, says Robert Zemeckis
      Exclusive: the director of the original time-travelling trilogy won’t allow the film to be rebooted in his lifetime”
      In news that will either come as a crushing disappointment or a soaring relief for fans of the classic 1985 blockbuster, Hollywood won’t be going back to Back to the Future…for the foreseeable future, at least.

      Robert Zemeckis, who directed the film and its two sequels, has vowed that Back to the Future will never be remade in his lifetime – and hopes that his estate will figure out a way to continue blocking remakes after his death.

      “Oh, God no,” the 63-year-old director told the Telegraph, when asked if – as one of the two rights holders to the original film, along with co-writer Bob Gale – he would ever consider signing off on a remake.

      22 films set for a remake or reboot
      “That can’t happen until both Bob and I are dead. And then I’m sure they’ll do it, unless there’s a way our estates can stop it.

      “I mean, to me, that’s outrageous. Especially since it’s a good movie. It’s like saying ‘Let’s remake Citizen Kane. Who are we going to get to play Kane?’ What folly, what insanity is that? Why would anyone do that?”

      The original contracts Zemeckis and Gale made with Universal and Amblin Entertainment in 1984 accord the two men final say on the production of any Back to the Future-related films for as long as they live.

      Zemeckis admitted a remake would almost certainly be a financial success because of the original trilogy’s established fan base. In Hollywood jargon, it’s what’s called a “pre-sold title” – much like this summer’s Jurassic World, a sequel to 1993’s Jurassic Park, which became the eighth highest-grossing film of all time earlier this week.

      “Pre-sold title, that’s the reason,” he shrugged, before adding with a smile: “But can you imagine them getting skewered?”

      Zemeckis also lamented the fact that Romancing the Stone, his 1984 romantic adventure comedy with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, was being remade – although as a director for hire (he was cherry-picked for the project by Douglas, who had enjoyed his early films), he conceded he had “no power over that”.

      Gale has previously ruled out the possibility of writing a Back to the Future Part IV that would pick up the story some point after – or, given the nature of the franchise, possibly before – the end of Part III.

      Gale suggested that the story would never truly be Back to the Future if Marty McFly wasn’t played by Michael J Fox, whose Parkinson’s disease has forced him to cut back on acting work since the early 2000s.

      “The idea of making another Back to the Future movie without Michael J Fox – you know, that’s like saying, ‘I’m going to cook you a steak dinner and I’m going to hold the beef,’” was how he memorably put it at a 2008 fan convention in Florida.

      Zemeckis and Gale’s original Back to the Future screenplay won them a shared Academy Award nomination for writing in 1986. Nine years later, Zemeckis would win a Best Director Oscar for Forrest Gump.

      After a decade working in performance capture, he returned to live-action filmmaking with the disaster drama Flight, starring Denzel Washington, in 2012

      His latest film, The Walk – about Philippe Petit, the French tightrope artist who walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 – will be released later this year.

      -Robbie Collin
      1 July 2015 • 9:24am

  3. Being i was a fan of the orginal I might watch this. But there is a good chance I will wait for the blu-ray.

  4. Interesting review. I am a fan of Wiig and McCarthy, so I’m likely to see this anyway. It probably helps that while I like the original a lot it isn’t one of my6 all time favourites (conversely Back to the Future is one of my all time favourites which is why news of a remake fills me with terror.)

    I also like Spy, though I do think in some ways it was probably a ‘safer’ film than Bridesmaids. That isn’t meant as a crack at quality at Spy, though I think I do prefer Bridesmaids.

    Regarding the misogyny and diversity controversy I can’t help but recall the criticism that Lucy got over depicting the most evolved human as a *white* woman when had it been made even a decade earlier all the attention would have been on the *woman* part of that casting rather than having a traditional male hero – maybe in a few years the new Ghostbusters will face similar criticism for, as you point out, making the lone black woman the ‘street smart’ one.

    (Though I always found the issues about Lucy problematic – the supporting cast, including all the important good guys, are mostly non-white and Lucy herself is played by a Jewish actress (which I know opens a can of worms regarding diversity.) The most important white men onscreen are a slimy boyfriend who is killed off very quickly and a villain.)

    • It’s a good point, and I remember feeling something similar in the controversy in comic books over minority characters like Miles Morales or Riri being written by Brian Michael Bendis. Yes, it’s not perfect that the most prominent black characters in comics are written by a white guy. Yes, there does need to be more diversity behind the scenes. However, it also seems to me like incremental progress. Brian Michael Bendis is an established name who sells books; he’s one of the biggest names in comics.

      Part of having high-profile black characters is having them in high-profile books, that means having them written by high-profile writers. Marvel has done great work cultivating high-profile and diverse writers; G. Willow Wilson and Coates are both high-profile and diverse writers doing great work. But my inner pragmatist recognises the value in having a black Spider-Man and a black Iron Man written by the biggest writer in comics.

      But I can understand the frustration of those making the complaints, and it’s not my place to tell them their concerns are misplaced or that everything is fine; it’s obviously not. But I do feel like there’s a tendency to dismiss what are big steps forward by insisting they are not enough. And those complaints are perfectly justified and correct; they are not enough. But they are still big steps forward. Criticising Ghostbusters for not getting everything right is fair game, but it seems churlish not to acknowledge that it does a lot better than Independence Day: Resurgence, to pick an arbitrary example.

      • Who cares about “minority representation” in crappy movies and comic books? I don’t care about your identity and it doesn’t elevate this mind rot bullshit at all, if anything, it makes it seem even more tacky and cheap

      • Well, I’d argue that my best friend’s daughter cares a great deal, because she can now dress up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween and none of the boys in her class could mock her or argue that there aren’t any women Ghostbusters.

      • Your best friends daughter is an idiot and needs to be taught to not be obsessed with mindless corporate bullshit. Look up “commodity fetishism” you’re suffering from it more than your average comic book nerd who bitches about mindless nonsense. Marx would be displeased.

        If I ever have kids, I think I might have to prevent any exposure to pop culture until theyre teenagers, at least. I don’t want a kid telling me they want to be represented in crappy, unrealistic movies. That cant be healthy

      • “because she can now dress up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween and none of the boys in her class could mock her or argue that there aren’t any women Ghostbusters.”

        Yay, corporations can sell more bullshit to children…yay progress?

  5. I haven’t seen the film. Your take is interesting. Based on the previews, it looked like a simple reboot with gags that were getting old and not funny 10 years ago. As my wife said, “I’m not against an all female ghostbusters, I’m just against a not funny ghostbusters.” Even ghostbusters 2, with all its flaws and over reliance on sfx still had some original jokes. As I said, I haven’t seen it so it’s impossible for me to know whether those gags are representative of the movie but it’s probably not my taste. If so, I would probably blame Paul Feig and not any of the actors involved. It would be nice to see a McCarthy/Wiig movie without him (maybe a female director?)
    I also find it interesting that they can recast the ghostbusters as four women but there still has to be one and only one black ghostbuster and she has to be the “street wise” one as you point out. Race wasn’t central to any of the roles of the original four characters at least, only socio-economic class – Winston was just out of work and needing a job. It makes the recasting as all female team seem more like a gimmick than a creative choice.

    • Except that to call Leslie Jones’ Patty “street-wise” is a grossly misleading description of the character – she is, in fact, a history nerd with an incredibly cheery and upbeat demeanour who possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of New York’s history. She’s as much a geek as the rest of the team, and if the image of this character has somehow become that of the token black, streetwise ghostbuster, that’s runs contrary to the film’s actual depiction of the character. (The assumption that Patty’s declaration of “I know New York!” somehow automatically equalled “street-wise” was a fairly depressing reaction to an admittedly underwhelming trailer).

      For the record, I didn’t like the movie as much as Darren, but although it has problems (and it has many) the gender switch is most assuredly not one of them.

    • To be fair, Patty is simply a problem carried over from the original Ghostbusters. Winston might have been written as a more nuanced character, and Ernie Hudson has waxed lyrical about how much was cut from the script, but the end result is that he is the most flat and stock of the four original characters. Patty actually gets a little more development than Winston does, to the point that we do get to see her day-to-day life and the film does explain why she is the one with a deeper understanding of the cultural history of New York. It’s still problematic and not ideal, but it’s also a criticism that cuts the original Ghostbusters just as (if not more) deeply. (And I say that loving the original Ghostbusters.)

      With regard to the “gimmick.” The reality of modern blockbuster production means that something like an all-female Ghostbusters team (or even a male-female Ghostbusters team) is a conscious choice and not something that happens naturally organically. As a result, it is inevitably a “gimmick”, in the same way that making Sulu gay is a “gimmick.” It would be better if these things did happen naturally, but blockbuster cinema has had decades to allow for that possibility, and it hasn’t happened. So it’s not ideal, but an all-female Ghostbusters team is still a net gain over the alternative of a(n inevitable and default) rebooted all-male Ghostbusters team. And while some fans might prefer there were no reboot, that is just not on the cards.

      But I definitely feel like the casting is a creative choice that Paul Feig feels strongly about.

      Again, regardless of the quality of the film (and quality is very good, if flawed) it seems churlish to argue that this film existing is a bad thing. If it’s not your thing, that’s cool. The original Ghostbusters still exists. But I think there’s an inherent good in little girls being able to see loud and clear that there’s absolutely no reason that they can’t play as Ghostbusters.

      • Darren, I agree that the idea of an all female Ghostbusters is a good thing and you’re right about modern cinema forcing this rather than an original film with an all female cast. Though just to be contrary, Ghostbusters does not seem poised to earn more at the box office than Feigs other female ensembles. I guess I just prefer a fresher take and I am not a fan of Paul Feig. I was just noticing a few days ago that many of the better shows feature predominately female casts, orange is the new black, enlightenment, transparent, and these shows are not exactly trying to be like other male dominated mainstream shows. It might be a better long term result for audiences to change their tastes. I may see the film though because I have heard from several folks that the trailers did not do it justice.

        Daniel, thanks for adding that. I think it’s like Darren said, its a problem that comes from carbon copying the original. Though it does sound like they made these characters their own.

  6. Sexism is not the only reason why people might be reluctant to watch this movie.

    The Legend of Tarzan was just another adaptation of the character in a long string of ones. Independence Day Resurgence was a sequel to a 90’s Blockbuster that nobody expected much from.

    Ghostbusters on the other hand is largely considered an 80’s classic which, aside from spin offs like the Extreme Ghostbusters, is mostly remembered as the “Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson”. The fact that this is a reboot with a new cast after so many years would leave people a little concerned, especially if the trailers looked terrible.

    But still, from your review it seems the movie isn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll watch it, maybe I won’t. I just wanted to point that out.

  7. All they did was swap the genders and pretend everyone hated it for this reason, when practically no one did. And they turned the black character into a dribbling retard and yet the film was supposed to be “progressive”…

    And of course the film was horrifying. And Ive never even seen the original and hated it.

    • Um… You do realise that Leslie Jones’ character was the only member of the team with an understanding of New York City? To be fair, having her area of expertise be the real world in contrast to the more academic understandings of the three white characters plays into other uncomfortable stereotypes, but it’s not at all what you have completely misrepresented it as being.

      • Actually the film caused a lot of controversy by making the black character a stereotypical dumb black girl, which was ironically racist given the fact the film tried very hard to market itself as uber progressive and PC. The movie is in fact very very racist and sexist, and is just an unwatchable mess at that. It’s very odd what Hollywood produces now. A film about four white guys comes off as far less offensive than a film about three white chicks and a black girl…

      • Add the fact that they made all the female leads into walking stereotypes instead of characters and most of the male characters into idiots, and you have something that offends everyone. What a mess.

        The special effects were awful too. Why did anything think this would do well?

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