Even prior to its release in 2016, Paul Feig’s all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was divisive (we’re sure you remember!) Matthew Bartley thinks its (many) criticisms were unjustified, and is here to explain why.
Let’s make one thing clear: this isn’t a claim that the Paul Feig, female-led Ghostbusters reboot of 2016 (now seemingly known as Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) is a classic. It certainly has its flaws: too many scenes rely on improv that peter out instead of hitting a punchline; Neil Casey’s villain is instantly forgettable; and it should have had the confidence to be its own thing, and not shoehorn in cameos from most of the major players from the original film. But – and here’s the thing – it was also subject to one of the most over-the-top and unnecessarily toxic backlashes in cinema history. The first trailer is the most downvoted video on YouTube, and Leslie Jones in particular was subjected to so much online racist and misogynist abuse, that she was forced to quit Twitter. But does the film warrant such hate? Absolutely not. It’s an uneven-but-fun reboot that showed enough promise to suggest that it could have really been a franchise reborn. Why? Well, let’s see…
1. It’s funny
This sounds an obvious starting point, but it really is. Granted, that first trailer didn’t really do the film any justice at all, with no suggestion of the kind of tone the film was going for, and not every joke lands. Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo in particular is dire, and it doesn’t have a line as great as, “Yes, it’s true. This man has no d*ck.” (But that’s okay, because neither does Ghostbusters II). But what you do have is a film that still has enough one-liners (“You spell science with a ‘Y’. And what’s upsetting about that is I don’t think you know that that’s wrong.”), slapstick and character moments to generate laughs pretty much from beginning to end. It’s no surprise that Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have the comic chops for the material, but Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon are the real comic revelations. Speaking of which…
2. Jillian Holtzmann is the best Ghostbuster since Peter Venkman
No, it’s true. Just as Bill Murray strolls through the first two films, his crumpled charisma leaving everyone else trailing in his wake, McKinnon’s demented science pixie effortlessly steals the film away from the other characters. Operating on a different level of reality to everybody else, throwing Wiig one of the sexiest winks in cinematic history and creating an instant meme in the process, her oddball persona is charming, not irritating, and leads to some of the best line readings in the entire film: “Erin, this is just a little bit of grounding so you don’t die immediately.” Oh, and her licking of the photon pistol before entering the fray is cool as hell. It just is.
3. Chris Hemsworth is hilarious
It’s notable that Hemsworth’s Thor only really truly worked in the MCU when they realised a) Thor is best when not taken too seriously and b) Hemsworth is really funny. Ghostbusters also realises this, and Hemsworth’s Kevin is a comic delight, rivalling McKinnon as the film’s MVP. His interview for the receptionist position is a fantastic introduction for the character, just dumb enough to be believable, and the reveal of the two photos that he thinks make him look like a doctor made me laugh so much that I missed the next few minutes of the film. Brilliantly playing up the dumb blonde stereotype, and inverting it to a man, he’s also responsible for possibly the best line of the film: “Hey, that man went out the wrong door.”
The interview scene that introduces Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin.
4. It’s visually fantastic and inventive
We live in an era where, with a few exceptions, most blockbusters are gloomy and dingy affairs. Even the Marvel films, while generally being well shot, can lack a sense of personality. Not so with Ghostbusters. The ghosts are marvellous creations, all pulsing neon and day-glo brightness, and sequences such as the battle with the ghost balloon parade are superbly done. Better yet, there’s genuine imagination in the film, with Feig really thinking about how to frame the effects within the screen. The photon beams, ectoplasm and ghosts flying through the air frequently cross the black bars at the top and the bottom of the screen, creating a visceral and unique sense of chaos. It’s one of the rare films where I’m sad I didn’t catch it in 3D as I imagine the effect of the film breaking out of the screen is even better. And frankly, we need more films where the villain of the film subdues an army of armed police by freezing them into a disco pose.
The climactic Ghostbusters v Ghosts battle.
Sure, Ghostbusters: ATC is flawed. It needs a tighter edit. It needs a better villain and to not have a scene where said-villain has conveniently written down his nefarious plan in a book complete with coloured-in illustrations. And that chemistry between Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis, born and nurtured on SNL, is impossible to replicate – hell, the reheated weak sauce of Ghostbusters II barely replicated it. But a part of me will always be sad that Abby, Erin, Jillian, Patty and Kevin will never get the sequel they deserved. Next year sees the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I hope it’s good, I really do. And maybe the future of the Ghostbusters franchise will be to do it differently every time (after women, children… animals? A SpiderVerse-esque cartoon?) and taking it out of New York with a Stranger Things vibe might work.