Ghostbusters (2016)

Slapdash review: This is a good summer popcorn film, lots of laughs, characters I love being around, and a pretty fun ride. This film personally resonated with me enough for me to see it twice, but YMMV on enjoyment. The cameos are interesting, the film encourages you to watch through the credits. Go see it at least once, and stay for the end credits!

And now for my more lengthier thoughts about the film. BEWARE! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENTIRE MOVIE, ALL THE WAY TO THE END!

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I loved the fuck out of Ghostbusters.

Let me back up and preface this statement a bit. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the original Ghostbusters, and I kept it that way because I am in no mood to compare and contrast the two films at this point in time. I am also not against the idea of remakes. Yes, I’m quite aware that studios are fond of remakes to make a safe bet and quick buck off of name brand recognition. However, I see the potential of taking a story that worked in a certain era and seeing how it transforms for modern audiences, so I’m a bit more forgiving of remakes than other critics or movie goers may be. I remember loving the original Ghostbusters as a kid, but it wasn’t one of the films that defined my childhood. The original didn’t quite speak to me at the right place at the right time.

This new Ghostbusters came to me right at the time that I needed it. I cannot tell you how much I needed this film of four different, intelligent women hanging out, struggling to be recognized, talking about science, and catching some ghosts. I cannot tell you how cathartic it was to see the take down of this particular villain. This movie has come out at the right place at the right time for me, and even though it’s not a great film, it’s a damn good film that’s going to stick with for a long, long time.

It all starts out when a tourist trap/haunted house suddenly becomes very haunted. We then cut to Erin, who is a physics professor that’s on the cusp of being accepted for tenure. Everything’s fine and dandy for her until the owner of the haunted house asks her for her help, since she and a former friend of hers, Abby, wrote a book about the paranormal years ago, Ghosts of the Pasts. Abby has republished the book in every format imaginable without informing Erin, which pisses her off because now she fears a sullied reputation that can disqualify her for tenure. Erin goes to the college that Abby and her coworker/engineer Jillian Holtzman teach at to demand that Abby takes the book off the internet. As a form of negotiation Erin brings the two to the haunted house where they video tape their first ghost, publish it for all the world to see, and promptly get fired.

Their firing, however, is a source of liberation for these women to study ghosts, especially for Erin, who very clearly throughout the film has been hiding the weird part of herself for most of her life in order to create an appearance that makes her fit in. Abby is the polar opposite of Erin, who is comfortable in her skin, who vocally loves what she does, and will immediately speak up when she’s been wronged.

One of the running jokes in the movie is how Abby will order always order soup from the same Chinese restaurant, and she has to wait an hour for only have one wonton or one piece of shrimp in a tub of broth. The running gag’s hilarious, especially when Abby complains specifically about what’s expected when ordering soup. On one level it’s funny because how could a restaurant continually screw something up, but on another level I wonder if this is a comment on the portion of women in any sort of mainstream action, fantasy, science fiction, “nerdy” film. All we’re asking for is a reasonable portion of wonton to broth, but all we’re getting is one wonton split in half in a tub of broth, and we’ve got to wait an unreasonable amount of time for it.

Patty, an MTA worker turned Ghostbuster, is hilarious and perhaps most quotable person in this film, and while I’d like to quote them here, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I want to keep the surprise for you. She’s not a scientist, but she is a historian with a deep knowledge of the history of New York. While I wish we saw more of her historical knowledge, she is the only one who quits her job to join the Ghostbusters. Patty shows courage against the ghosts that clearly scare the hell out of her, but I also found it really courageous of her to take that leap of faith and leave a stable job for another, not-so-stable job that excites, intrigues, and frightens her. The movie also focuses on how she’s useful to the team by recognizing that they need basic necessities like a car, a uniform that can handle some slime, and historical information about the places they’re going to go hunting at, as well as showcases her resourcefulness in order to obtain all these things.

Holtzman is surprising. Not because she practically steals every scene she’s in. Not because she is so passionate and creative in her work. Not because she just hits this perfect balance of being outrageously goofy and weird and serious and passionately loving every moment of her job. Everything I just said does count towards her being surprising, but what caught me off guard the most was the end of the movie when she gives a toast. For the first time in the movie we see her nervous as she expresses gratitude to the Ghostbusters and that they are family to her. It’s a moment where I realized that I assumed that she was just a goofy nerd who is married to her work because that’s what I perceived her to be, and it didn’t occur to me that there could be more depth to her until right then.

And now let us talk a little bit about Ghostbusters’ main villain: Rowan. I’ve seen some disappointment with his character because he’s perceived as a weak villain and he’s human.We don’t know all that much about him really. His only mentioned backstory is that he was bullied, so now he’s going to be the bully (which he tells himself in the mirror because of course he does) and bring on the apocalypse.

When he confronts the Ghostbusters for the first time, however, he becomes sickeningly real. The Ghostbusters tell him to not destroy the world, and he assumes they only want to save it because they must have received decent treatment, treatment he feels he never received. He feels like he’s never received this because he believes he’s entitled to certain treatment. He believes himself to be a genius who was not given proper respect. He is that every day, white male entitlement douche that will take everyone down with him because of a bruised ego.

I don’t see a weak villain, I see a representation of what I see almost every goddamn day; from mass shootings to internet abusers to the rabid fanboys who harassed Leslie Jones on Twitter and tried their damnedest to skew the reviews for this film to make it come off as the worst thing ever spawned because heaven for fucking bid women take roles that were once played by men. This movie allowed me to put all of my internalized fears and anger on this little piss ant and watch him being brought down by four women who don’t see all that much good in the world but still fight to save it.

This movie came at the right place at the right time. There are no fat jokes, there are no bullshit cat fights, and Abby only fights Erin over the extremely dimwitted but super hot and super confident Kevin in order to maintain professionalism between the two. Kevin, by the way, was hilarious and you could tell Chris Hemsworth was having the time of his life. In fact, everyone seemed to really love and want to be in this movie!

The Ghostbusters struggle with being recognized as legitimate scientists, and they’ve got two knocks against them: they study the paranormal, and they’re women. In order to prevent “mass hysteria” (lol), the government has to paint them as frauds, sometimes using sexist sound bits to sell them as frauds. At one point during a news conference they’re even labelled as “sad, lonely women.” The Ghostbusters check their youtube comments of their ghost videos, the first one calling them bitches who can’t bust ghosts. A key part of Erin’s character development is that she was bullied as a child and called “ghost girl,” a title that is shown to both infantilize and delegitimize Erin, but a title she also begins to reclaim and not be ashamed of. Even though mainstream media and their government paints them as frauds, by the end of the movie New York literally lights up with love and recognition for the new Ghostbusters.

Was the opening scene to the movie a bit blah? Yeah. Did some of the improv humor drag a bit? Yeah, that too. Did it feel like Patty’s story was cut down a bit when it would have been great if we had more? Definitely. Is that a great film? No, it’s not, but I still really love it because I love these characters interact and work together, enjoyed the big ghost fight at the end, and really gave me the warm fuzzies because I feel this film was shot with what women would perceive it and didn’t give a shit about the Rowan Norths who would try and tear it down because it’s a reboot of the original.

I’ve been hearing a little bit of disappointment over the fact that this movie is a reboot, not a continuation of the story. Not that having a sequel decades after the last movie is impossible (look no further than Mad Max, for example), but I’m actually glad they went with the reboot route to start fresh. All of the original Ghostbusters cast appear in this film (even Harold Ramis) and even the Stay Puft and Slimer ghosts are here, and the way they’re integrated makes me think that this is an alternate universe that ponders who the original Ghostbusters will be be if they were never Ghostbusters.

As you can probably tell, I have a lot of feels towards this movie, more than I properly articulate. I’m glad this movie exist, and I can’t wait to see more of Leslie, Holtzman, Abby, and Erin.

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