Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review -- Ghostbusters (2016)

Like many people, I first heard of the new Ghostbusters reboot because of the internet backlash, starting on Day One, before anyone had seen a single frame of the movie, from sexists on the Internet. It was funny how a pretty good movie from the '80s became an untouchable, perfect classic the second somebody decided to reboot it with all female leads.

Though I hated the backlash and those behind it, I knew that the new Ghostbusters wasn't guaranteed to be good just because I didn't like the people who hated it, so I waited to see what sources I trusted on the internet thought of the finished product. All the genre blogs I follow that reviewed the movie thought it was at least decent. So when my cousin asked if we should see it, I had no objection.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good movie, much like the original. It was better than the original in some ways and worse in others. From here on out I'm going to give my more detailed impressions, which will be spoiler light. However, if you're a member of the "no spoilers" crowd and haven't seen this film, you can stop reading now.

Detailed Review

Fortunately, the writers of this version of Ghostbusters, Katie Dippold and director Paul Feig, decided not to do anything close to a shot-for-shot remake. Instead, they repeated many of the motifs of the original film in a completely new story. Like the original, much of the humor in this movie is low-key and character-based, which means it delivers laughs but not always big ones in every scene. The characters played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon embody all the personality traits of the Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray characters from the original, but not in the exact same combinations.

The character-based humor requires good performances and chemistry from the actors, and the cast delivers. In fact, I think the interplay between Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth as the himbo receptionist may be better than that between the cast of the original. Their reactions to each other seem both natural and funny. Well, this occasionally isn't the case with McKinnon's Holzmann character, but that character is over-the-top by design.

A couple of characters get much more screen time than their analogues in the 1984 film. Jones, as the one black lead character, gets a meatier role than Ernie Hudson did in the original. The writers play around with stereotypes by having her sell herself to the others as someone who "knows the city," but having that turn out to be a different kind of knowledge than one might initially suspect. She also gets her fair share of good lines. And one of the ironies of this female-led remake is that the handsome man steals the show. Hemsworth seems to get a disproportionate share of the good lines and bits, and his performance here seems like more of a star turn for him than his bland portrayal of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The only major problem with the script is a tendency to try to improve on the original by inserting extra or more extreme action sequences. And to facilitate these action sequences, they need more different kinds of crazy gadgets. The proton guns and ghost traps aren't enough any more in the current Hollywood action arms race. It also seems to have trouble deciding how quirky and surreal it wants to be at times. However, none of these nitpicks detracts from the overall experience of the film.

Overall, this is probably not the best movie of all time, but neither was the original that is now being held up as an exemplar of film-making. Both are enjoyable summer blockbusters, nothing more or less.