By Eric Hanes
I hated it.
I know that this isn’t exactly an unprecedented opinion considering the record breaking trailer dislikes on YouTube, or the general controversy surrounding the release of the film regardless of that trailer. All of the political backlash, the twitter wars, and constant arguing over whether or not the film needed to be made at all, and we finally get to see the movie itself, and the experience can be summed up in a single word: uninteresting.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start in critiquing the film, as there is just so much material to work with, but I’ll break it down into a few basic categories: the characters, the writing (plot and dialogue), the visuals, and the absolute disrespect to the original film, which admittedly would not be grounds to hate this film if it were good.
As a general point, Paul Feig’s attempt at a reboot for the classic franchise is, on its own, terribly boring. Disregarding the original film, or even its much criticized sequel, there is more than enough reason to declare this reboot as offensively bad material. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones as our new cast of Ghostbusters, with Thor star Chris Hemsworth as their absolutely bumbling receptionist and some other guy as the main villain, whose name everyone just kinda forgets. Though the actresses have a nice chemistry, their interactions with one another are entirely too boring to be considered comical, as it often boils down to a few people energetically spouting fake science jargon, Leslie Jones screaming something sassy, and Hemsworth being unrealistically moronic for any functioning human being (though his charisma still makes him the most enjoyable performer, next to Jones, who is also far more entertaining than her fellow Ghostbusters). The film just sort of meanders about in setting up these relationships, forming a weak and straightforward plot with them, and filling up a large amount of time with improvised “comedic” dialogue that tests the patience of any viewer not completely enamored with the leads.
Oh yea, and SPOILERS
I sincerely wish that there was more to say about these characters, but they are not developed whatsoever and remain absolutely two-dimensional throughout the film. Wiig is neurotic and proud, McCarthy is neurotic and hungry, McKinnon is neurotic and childish (though the film tries its best to push her as some sort of badass, which is impossible to buy when she is constantly doing things as lame as queefing in someone’s face, lip syncing, and making generally lame jokes throughout the course of the film), and Leslie Jones is loud and abrasive. If it seems like I just don’t have the vocabulary to differentiate between their personalities, the use of “neurotic” to describe three characters is in no way a mistake. The three main Ghostbusters are maddeningly similar to one another, with only one quirk generally separating them.
The film lacks a great deal of weight and development regarding its characters. For instance, Wiig’s motivations in the beginning of the film are completely forgotten about fifteen minutes in, completely removing any reason to invest in her character at that point in the film, and McCarthy’s character never manages to grow up from the state that the film initially shows her in. The character is incredibly selfish and ruins her friend’s career, but all is simply forgiven and she never has to face any sort of consequences. There is a scene at the end of the film in which she is about to die and must be saved by Wiig, but because of the lack of development and how generally annoying the character had been to that point, I felt entirely indifferent about whether or not she was gone forever. McKinnon’s wacky and ultimately cringe-worthy character has what is obviously meant to be a heartfelt moment of personal revelation at the end, which is played as a throwaway for laughs, and because of the laughable delivery, lack of setup, and the way the other characters respond to it, the only response it managed to elicit from anyone that I viewed it with was confusion.
Hemsworth was stupid and completely undeveloped, there’s nothing else that can be said about it.
The main villain appeared to be the director’s personal jab at nerds and nerd culture in general, as he was simply an edgy young man that felt that he had been underappreciated by society, despite doing nothing with his life. He has an inexplicable amount of successfully made equipment in the basement of his workplace, which begs questions such as “How the fuck did nobody notice this stuff?”, and “Why the fuck is this guy not rich?”. Apparently, he had gotten his ideas regarding the paranormal from a book that McCarthy and Wiig’s characters had written, despite the fact that it was written when they had no physical evidence of ghosts or working equipment. The movie then goes on to treat his suicide as a joke, despite its rather abrupt and gruesome nature, and the film’s general tone not supporting a successful suicide.
A great deal of what was wrong with the film was the way that it was laid out in the first place. It attempted to be nearly the same as the first film, in terms of the beats that the story went through, but the changes that it made to those beats rendered many of them uninteresting, or even annoying.
The opening scene is meant to mirror the library opening from the original, but the neon colors and lack of subtlety render it far less scary and intriguing. The scene in which they search for a base of operations even takes them to the same firehouse that the original cast inhabited, but due to the lack of an Egon or Peter character, and the presence of two Rays and a dead fish, the scene lacked any of the whimsy of the original by failing to invoke that same feeling of starting a brand new business. Even at the end of the film, when the villain asks them to choose his form, as the original villain had done, he becomes the logo and gets shot in the groin, which is a fairly obvious visual metaphor that I’m certain the director pleases himself to at night, perpetually patting himself on the back for what he has done with a franchise that previously held no negative or political messages.
The dialogue is probably mostly improvised in terms of the comedic scenes, so I cannot really blame any writer for that (though I can blame Feig), but that does not explain things like the main villain’s absolutely nonsensical dialogue. The man is supposed to be a threat, at the very least, yet he is treated as a pathetic social outcast who craves absolute power, and nothing else. Though he was not very well developed, my greater criticism of the character is that his characterization that was present was in no way effective for the position of a main villain in a comedy film. He was not funny, and he was not strong, he was simply awkward and unpleasant, but not in any compelling way.
I do not claim to be a master of cinematography, but the film was shot in such a way that it clearly was not trying to evoke the same feelings as the source material. It was much more of a modern comedic format, with plentiful closeups, bright contrasting neon colors, and shots that focus almost exclusively on the characters themselves. The muted tones of the original are forgotten in much the same way as the actual horror atmosphere had been forgotten. Yes, the 1984 Ghostbusters film was not particularly scary, but it maintained a convincing science-fiction and horror atmosphere and made the comedy more of a secondary aspect, which was based entirely in the characters and their interactions as a result of the setting that the premise creates. This new film seems to act as if the comedy is the main focus, which makes the premise and setting altogether seem unimportant, and because the characters are expected to carry the movie, their failure makes it an unmitigated disaster.
The Absolute Disrespect
There is absolutely no point in continuing further in terms of criticizing the actual film based on its own merit. It’s hot garbage and you should avoid it, even on DVD or Netflix in six months. However, because it is a reboot, it has effectively set itself up to be critiqued on the basis of whether or not it improves upon the original, modernizes the original, or in fact was even necessary in the first place.
For starters, no, it does not improve upon the original. The original movie sets a consistent tone with likable characters and memorable sequences, with some great dialogue that is only possible as a result of a fun and simple script with a reasonable and interesting series of events. The main cast of Ghostbusters is far more interesting, with Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman being the lovable yet disgusting womanizer that enjoys complaining, Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz acting as the energetic yet immature heart of the group, and Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler supplementing their more important lines and actions with his reserved genius and uncomfortable social weakness. Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore joins them in the middle of the film, but acts as the representation of normal working men that do not have an obsession with paranormal science and engineering, and yet at no point does he resort to acting like a buffoon. The dynamic between them is fun, relatable, and not at all forced, making it a joy to see them all in action. The new film has none of that, and it’s easily its biggest fault. The original even made its villain something of a mystery, which worked with the tone and plot far more effectively than the reboot’s annoying habit of checking in on their villain every few scenes.
The new film fails to evolve or modernize the franchise in any way. Why is Leslie Jones’ defining skill the fact that she “knows New York”, when Google is a thing now? Why does the secretary have to live at the base despite advances in communication technology? Why is every shot so lazily framed, every joke so poorly thought out, and every interaction so painfully dragged out? Newer films are supposed to improve on the mistakes of the past, and while the original was certainly a classic that holds up well to this day, there is no excuse for the reboot to not at least be more well crafted. The cheap CGI reminds me of the Scooby Doo live action film from over a decade ago, and cheapens the tension in the film that the original achieved with its very first spectre.
This reboot was not necessary. It was made to make money, and it was made to push a political agenda, and it seems to have failed at both given the backlash at the box office, where it is struggling to break even, and online, where it is being lambasted for its refusal to respect its audience.
This movie was not necessarily the worst of all time, but it was perhaps the most boring pile of shit I have ever managed to sit through that had advertised itself as an action movie, a comedy, and a continuation of a childhood love affair many of its viewers had experienced. There was no magic in its conception, only science. Ironically enough, the science that put this movie through the Hollywood machine is about as sound as the science employed by the titular team.