Monday, August 8, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost

It has been some time since I watched the new Ghostbusters movie.  I have been vary lazy with my writing lately, Many other interesting things to do.  But I did see it, so let's have a review.

Short answer:  I liked it a lot and think people should see it.

Longer answer with minor spoilers:

A lot of manufactured controversy surrounded this movie.  Rebooting a franchise (or re-imagining it in some cases) is always a dicey thing.  If the original was so good that the desire to recreate it exists, then you have to question if doing it again is even necessary.  In general, I'm ambivalent about them.  There are a lot of reboots that didn't need to happen, while there are some that I genuinely enjoy, that are better interpretation of the original idea.

At no time, however, have I felt a reboot "robbed me of my childhood" or "ruined something".  The old stuff is still there, waiting for me to use it.  But that is what some people (generally male, generally white) claim this movie does to them.  And they came out in force online to trash a movie they haven't seen.  The trailer set records for dislikes on YouTube, IMDB had a poor rating BEFORE the movie was released.  (I have a question about the value of allowing a movie to be rated before anyone could have seen it, but that is an aside.)  The disdain shown was clearly about casting choices rather than the quality of the finished product.

They dared to make all four ghostbusters female.

This movie is trapped at the intersection of two related trends:

  • The public acknowledgement that women are poorly represented and portrayed in entertainment
  • Backlash against the growing diversity within "traditionally white male" hobbies and activities, especially geekdom

The producers of the new Ghostbusters decided to bring something new to the franchise while addressing the first point and got attacked because of the second.  Which, in my opinion, makes it important for the movie to succeed.  As loud as the voices decrying are, they are relatively few and we need examples to show they can be ignored.

But, Ghostbusters cannot succeed and be a bad movie at the same time.  And there are so many ways a movie like this can be ruined.  Get a director invested in the concept of "male privilege", starve the budget, shape the story by focus group, ... The list is near endless.  But none of that appeared to happen here and we have a movie that can stand or fall on its merits rather than be a victim of its time.

So, what did I think of the movie?  Well, the plot was solid but I thought the dialog was a little flat in places.  It was a unique story with unique characters rather than just gender swapping the originals.  The visuals were good and the movie paced itself well.  Finally the casting and performances were solid.

To that last point, I have not been a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy and was a little worried about that.  On the other hand I am a fan of Kristen Wiig as was excited about that.  As it turns out they both give great performances and look entirely comfortable in their characters.  Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones both owned their roles and Chris Hemsworth had tons of fun in his role as eye candy.

The film didn't trade on overt sexuality, nor on "we are girls doing guy things" (the (reverse?) misogyny of Kevin the exception).  Instead, it simply tells a story about ghosts and scientists (and a subway worker) with little care for gender.  The ghostbusters are held back by the government to cover a conspiracy, not because they are female.  Their individual struggles are driven by their past and their actions rather than their gender.  In some ways this world is more equal than the one we inhabit.

There are plenty of nods to the past, from the original firehouse to Slimer to the Sta Puff Marshmallow Man.  The cameos were heavy handed but otherwise I found them to be nods to the past that don't interfere with the now.

Not everyone I know like the movie, or liked it as much as I did, but the distribution seems to be on the positive side.   And that makes me happy, because I wanted this to be a good movie, both for itself and for what it represents.

So go see it.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
15 seconds at a Colorado waterfall

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