There are certain films which should never be remade. City Lights, Citizen Kane, Singin’ In The Rain, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Jaws; these are just a few examples of films which are so perfect and integral to the history of cinema that they are impossible to improve on. Ivan Reitman’s much beloved 1984 comedy, Ghostbusters, is not one of these films.
It’s with this in mind that the amount of vitriol that has been aimed at Paul Feig’s female-led reboot from day one, has seemed overblown to the say the least; to the point where it has somehow become the most controversial film of the year. Some might say that it’s because their childhoods are in some way being attacked, or that the footage they’ve seen hasn’t been funny in the slightest – a statement which is fair enough – but, there’s no denying that, in most cases, a lot of the negativity seems to have stemmed not from the remake itself, but rather from the fact that it’s led by a group of women.
Somewhat perversely, the irony of all the misogyny that has haunted the film since it was announced, is that it only serves to make this tremendously fun reboot all the more enjoyable as its leading cast of likeable characters take a proton stream to the male ego – quite literally in one sequence – and stand together in defiance of ghosts and fanboy trolls alike.
Making the wise decision to ignore the previous two films, we’re introduced to a new group of characters who are brought together to bust some ghosts. Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a physicist on the verge of getting tenure at Columbia university, who finds her integrity on the line after she discovers her old school friend has published a book on the paranormal, against her wishes, that they wrote together.
That friend is Abby (played by Feig’s frequent collaborator, Melissa McCarthy) who draws Erin back into the paranormal along with her zany co-worker, Jillian. When the three experience an apparition which spews green slime over Erin, they team up with Patty, a worker on the New York Subway who has an experience with the ghost of an electrocuted prisoner, to stop a bullied hotel employee from unleashing ghouls all over the city.
The cast are at the top of the list of reasons why this is as successful as, if not more so, than the original source material. Not only do you have two of the best comedic actors working today in Wiig and McCarthy, both of whom are at the very top of their game here – much like Bill Murray was in the 1984 version – but they are supported by a strong cast that includes a hilarious Leslie Jones, a scene-stealing Kate McKinnon and a revelatory Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters’ handsome-but-dumb receptionist.
Technology has also improved since 1984, and whilst there is something charming about the visual effects of the original, the vibrancy of the spectres – of which come in all shapes and sizes – that swarm the screen are more colourful and striking than anything we saw in the first two films. The finale in particular looks like a cross between a rave and a recent music video from Coldplay, which is a good thing in this instance.
The biggest thing to take away from the film, however, is just how progressive it is. There’s a brilliant role reversal in the way in which Hemsworth – Thor, for goodness sake – is the ‘blonde’ of the piece; someone who has the looks, but not the brains, and who needs saving from the group of lead heroines. There’s clearly a lot of fun being had in that relationship, not least from Hemsworth.
But more than that, there are multiple references to the backlash the film has received that include, amongst other moments, a scene in which McCarthy reads a YouTube comment which reads “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts” – a comment which could literally have been taken from a response to one of the film’s trailers – and a line later on in which the villain of the piece proclaims “You shoot like girls”. There’s something quite thrilling, rewarding even, to see four strong actors seemingly embrace and own the negativity that’s been thrown their way and essentially shout a big ‘fuck you’ to the sexists.
The hardcore elite who consider the original untouchable should find something to enjoy in the various cameos from Murray, Ackroyd and more, as well as the various winks and nods that Feig is obliged to include. However, this Ghostbusters works best when it’s doing its own thing and moves away from the awkward references that come with the franchise. It is confident enough, bold enough and fun enough to the point where it needs nostalgia as much as it needs a man to come along and save the day. It’s a flawless resurrection of a long dead franchise, and, in a summer of mostly disappointing sequels, it’s easilythe best blockbuster we’ve seen so far this year. Ignore the trolls and go see it.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com