Your summer 2016 movie release schedule has turned into an expanded version of what we’ve increasingly seen over the last ten years with more sequels and remakes than ever before: new entries in all the Marvel, DC, and X-Men universes along with staple genres like horror (The Conjuring 2 and The Purge: Election Year), kid (Pete’s Dragon and Finding Dory) and sci-fi (Independence Day: Resurgence and Star Trek Beyond). Cynics might call it a crass dash for cash by studios reworking existing franchises into the ground for a shot at a big box office as opposed to coming up with new ideas. Fans will always say it’s a case of giving the people what they want: more chapters/episodes in the stories they’ve come to know and love.
Add into this equation the new reboot on the block: the all-female Ghostbusters. Directed by Paul Feig and starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth, this remake of the beloved 1984 classic has its work cut out for it to win over old fans as well as a new generation of moviegoers. Whether you watch Ghostbusters in the theater or wait to see it online, here’s what you need to know about it.
Ghostbusters Then and Now
The original Ghostbusters starred Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Jones as the titular parapsychologists cruising around the streets of Manhattan in the Ectomobile and Annie Potts as their secretary/confidante. Directed by ‘80s comedy master Ivan Reitman (Meatballs and Stripes), it was a story of their earning redemption through their efforts, finding true love, and of course, saving New York City. Added to this mix was Ray Parker Jr.’s infectious and Oscar-nominated theme song with its immortal catchphrases “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” and “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” which led to it being the second highest grossing film of the year (behind only Beverly Hills Cop). And, demonstrating its cultural staying power, in 2015 the Ghostbusters full movie was added to the United States Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, based on its designation as being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.
In 1989, after being pressured by their movie studio for a sequel, the original cast and crew got back together to do Ghostbusters II. Despite a game effort from all involved, it failed to recapture the magic of the original with either fans or critics. Since then, rumors have periodically circulated that a third movie was in the works, but owing primarily to Bill Murray’s reticence, things never progressed past preliminary discussions. (Still, there were a slew of related side projects: two animated TV shows, video games, comic books, and even a theme park attraction.) After the death of original Ghostbuster Harold Ramis in 2014, however, Columbia Pictures decided to go for a straight-up reboot sporting new, all-female Ghostbusters.
The Man with the Plan
The fate of the new Ghostbusters this time around is in the hands of writer-director Paul Feig. While not exactly a household name, he started out directing episodic TV—everything from Freaks and Geeks to Arrested Development to The Office—before graduating to studio films featuring Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy: Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. (His co-writer on the script is Katie Dippold, a MADtv alumna and The Heat screenwriter.) At the very least, Feig has a proven track record working with the two leads in particular and comediennes in general. In several interviews, he has also talked about the challenges of doing a reboot of a beloved classic: how to make it fresh yet still be faithful to its source material.
The Cast of Ghostbusters
- Melissa McCarthy is Abby Yates, the energetic true believer of the bunch who’s also a big Patrick Swayze fan, especially Ghost and Roadhouse. McCarthy is white hot these days with a series of recent comedy hits: Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy (all of which were directed by Feig), Tammy, and Identity Thief. In addition, she is familiar to TV viewers from the long-running (and recently cancelled) Mike & Molly as well as the earlier Gilmore Girls where she played bubbly chef Sookie St. James.
- Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a quantum physicist who is laughed out of academia—and a prestigious teaching job at Columbia University—when it comes to light that years earlier she co-wrote a book about ghosts being real with her friend Abby Yates. In the trailers, Erin comes across as a prototypical nerdy scientist who’s more comfortable with big ideas and chalkboards full of equations than people and the real world; however, we can expect her character to break out of her shell over the course of the movie. Wiig first came to audiences’ attention with a two-year run on Saturday Night Live before breaking out in feature films including Bridesmaids, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and The Martian. She is also well regarded for her voice work on Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Her, The Simpsons, and How to Train Your Dragon.
- Kate McKinnon is the engineer Jillian Holtzmann who is always building cool gadgets and equipment for the team to use. (Think James Bond’s Q with a punk rock sensibility.) McKinnon is another Saturday Night Live veteran—and Columbia University graduate—who is also known for her voice work, which ranges from The Venture Brothers to The Angry Birds Movie to Finding Dory.
- Leslie Jones is the streetwise Patty Tolan who helps the gang get around town and navigate New York City life. Plus, she supplies them with the new Ectomobile, a Cadillac hearse. Jones cut her teeth doing comedy gigs around the country with increasing success to the point where she, in the footsteps of Wiig and McKinnon, has been featured on Saturday Night Live for the last couple of years.
Reprising the Annie Potts role from the original Ghostbusters, Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Kevin, the newly-hired secretary for the team. Moviegoers are more used to seeing him in big-budget action films like Thor and its sequels plus additional appearances in Marvel Universe movies. For once, we’ll get to hear him use his authentic Australian accent! Even if you don’t go to the theater, this alone makes it worth your while to watch Ghostbusters free online when you have the chance.
At least two of the original ghosts (and fan favorites) should be making appearances as well: Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. In addition, original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver will be making cameos. (Sorry, folks! Rick Moranis couldn’t be convinced to come on board.)
The Tale of the Ghostbusters Trailers
A solid director with a recent track record of success and a gender-bending cast alone do not guarantee success, especially when it comes to a remake of a classic. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the reaction to the Ghostbusters trailer over the past few months.
The official trailer received, at best, what one could call a lukewarm response:
- There was an immediate hue and cry because the three Ghostbuster scientists were white while Patty Tolan, the urban, streetwise transit worker character, was black. Actress Leslie Jones countered by asking, “Why can’t a regular person be a ghostbuster?” Director Paul Feig chimed in to say, “Grow up and leave my cast alone.”
- It just wasn’t funny. Clocking in at over two and a half minutes, the first thirty seconds are a somber reintroduction to the Ghostbusters Then, we see Kristen Wiig’s character getting slimed and subsequently complaining that stuff went in every crack and was really hard to get out. Every crack! Most viewers/commenters just didn’t find this line—or most of Melissa McCarthy’s—that funny. The faint praise that was offered was mostly directed toward McKinnon and Jones.
- As a sign of just how much the trailer was disliked due to being too slow and unfunny, at least two re-edits done by fans— one by Mike Colver and Wes Adams of the Circle City Ghostbusters and another by Bevan Bell—earned many more positive responses, mainly by cutting the existing trailer by over a third and using more dynamic versions of the classic theme song.
- Need more evidence of how much fans hated the trailer? As of June 2016, it’s #9 in the Top 100 most disliked YouTube videos with 880,000 dislikes against 252,000 likes. In fact, it’s the only movie trailer in the Top 100! (Then again, how many were just irked all they could watch was the trailer as opposed to a Ghostbusters online free version right away?)
Money Grab or Good Fun?
The new Ghostbusters may have bitten off more than it can chew in fighting both the legacy of the original movie as well as the perception it’s a money grab comprised of comediennes of the week. Like The Big Lebowski, the original movie has legions of adoring fans whose ranks have only grown over the years as they watch Ghostbusters online (or VHS/DVD in ye olden days) over and over again. There are at least fifty Ghostbusters clubs and fan sites ranging from the Steel City Ghostbusters to the UK Ghostbusters to the Ghostbuster Hawaii Division. As opposed to just being fans, most of these groups like the Bay Area Ghostbusters in California make appearances in full Ghostbusters regalia—complete with their own Ectomobile—at various charity events. For them, the original movie—and kinda sorta the 1989 sequel—are the thing. And most of them don’t see a justification for doing a remake for the sake of flipping the genders of the main characters. After all, can you see “the Dude” becoming “the Dudette” in a remake of The Big Lebowski?
And, ever since Star Wars, merchandizing has become a critical revenue stream to support big-budget tent-pole movies. The estimated budget for the new Ghostbusters is $154,000,000 which means it needs all the help it can get earning that back, unlike your new favorite mumblecore movie shot with someone’s iPhone and edited on a tablet. Still, fans want to know this ancillary product is something they should really want and is a value-added experience and not just a money grab. And there is certainly plenty of merchandise to choose from … look at just the books alone you can get:
- Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal by Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates. Yes, for $15(or less depending on the retailer) you can get the self-proclaimed “newly revised and somewhat updated” book that leads to Gilbert being fired from Columbia University at the beginning of the movie.
- Ghostbusters Movie Novelization by Stacia Deutsch. For those who want to relive the movie and again.
- Ghostbuster’s Handbook by Daphne Pendergrass.
- Ghostbusters by Nancy Holder. Yet another novelization. Perhaps it is sort of a Rashomon kind of thing?
And none of this includes the inevitable action figures, LEGO sets, proton packs—both large and small—video games, and more, more, more. You’ll need to watch the Ghostbusters full movie stream super closely to keep track of all this stuff!
Know Before You Go See the Ghostbusters Full Movie
Perhaps everyone is just overthinking the whole thing. After all, the original Ghostbusters likely didn’t come out of the chute knowing (or even really believing) it would become the cultural icon it did. It was just a fun movie about ghosts—one of Dan Aykroyd’s interests—with some funny guys doing some funny things. All the baggage after that—the sequel, the animated TV shows, the video games, Hi-C Ecto Cooler Slimer juice box, and everything else—was a result of what happened first: a funny movie that appealed to a lot of people, no more and no less.
Anyone who goes into the new Ghostbusters expecting it to carry the burden of the first film’s history and 30 years of expectations belonging to impossible-to-please fans should know that’s too much for any movie. Perhaps we should all just take a step back and see the new movie for, at best, what it hopefully is striving to be: a funny movie with some funny characters doing some funny things … with ghosts! After all, that was more than enough for the first one. Why can’t it be enough for the reboot as well? Try to keep that in mind whether you see it in the theaters or wait to stream Ghostbusters online.