It takes a particularly large pair of cojones to remake the original Ghostbusters. The original is a stone cold paranormal comedy classic, and to remake it would only draw unfavourable comparisons to the original. The original was lightning in a bottle: a perfect cast, with the perfect director, perfect writing all created at the perfect moment. There is simply no way to follow it up, which the original creators tried to do in the terrible sequel, Ghostbusters II. But here comes Paul Feig, a director notable for doing some okay comedies with women, strides forward determined to make a reboot of the original with an all female cast. And somehow, with everything working against him, managed to pull it off with great aplomb.
Let’s get one thing straight: Paul Feig is not a good director. The way he uses the camera has no real merit to it (i.e. if two characters are talking, you best enjoy shot reverse shot for the next 5 minutes) and the only signature style to his movies is the fact that he uses funny women to tell his stories, a merit that can’t be attributed solely to him. Bridesmaids and Spy are both funny films, but the visual style he brings is that of an A Level student finishing their final project. And so, going into Ghostbusters I had no reason to expect anything other than a visually bland, but altogether funny film. What I didn’t expect was one of the funniest films I had seen this year, with Feig finally doing something different with the camera other than dumping it on a tripod and walking away. The camera actually moves in this film, guys! He’s still no visual auteur, but he’s finally reached a level of competency in his direction.
So the plot goes that Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is a physicist at a prestigious college hoping to gain a better paid job, but is worried that a book she wrote about ghosts and the paranormal in the past is going to prevent her from gaining it, because her co-author Abby Yates (McCarthy) has just put it back into print. When confronting her, Gilbert meets Yates’ assistant, Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) and from there go on to explore paranormal activities, after Gilbert is convinced to go back to researching her previous subjects. Whilst doing this, they meet Patty Tolan (Jones), a subway attendant who is a scholar of New York’s history, and the four of them go on to take down the evil plot of Rowan, a recluse nihilist sexist weirdo, who is trying to use Doomsday machines to bring ghosts back into the real world.
It seems a little contrived, but it works. What’s more amazing is that the writers so clearly anticipated all of the backlash that this film would get, and put their crosshairs so squarely on the people who they knew would be most angry with it: recluse nihilist sexist weirdos. “But Ben”, you say, “that’s the exact same description you gave of the villain?” Yeah, that’s funny isn’t it? Not only did Feig realise what a can of worms he was opening by making this film, but decided to use that negativity and make it the villain. Just as The Lego Movie used the ideas of Lego to inform its plot, Feig is using the anger that surrounds remakes (and the sprinkling of sexism that comes with an all female one), reverse engineers it and fires it directly back at the critics who were attempting to boycott the film before it was even released. This results in the final comeuppance of the Ghostbusters, shooting a ghost possessed by the villain squarely in the testicles, not a gutter level joke, but a thematically apt way of resolving the plot.
This is a film for women and the casting of Kate McKinnon was not only a stroke of genius, but also fitting into this theme. She is the breakout star of the film, stealing every scene she’s in. But her, as well as the rest of the women in the film, are not there to appeal to men. If this remake was made with Jennifer Lawrence, Megan Fox and Cameron Diaz, I very much doubt we’d have witnessed the same backlash. These are women who are funny, and were chosen because they are funny, not because they are stereotypical eye candy. McKinnon embodies this above and beyond the rest because she is gay (also the character is gay too, but it’s never explicitly said in the film). This isn’t a film saying that men aren’t allowed to watch it, but it is saying that it’s made for women, which so much of Hollywood seems to ignore.
The true revelation of the film has got to be Chris Hemsworth. Entering the film as the Annie Potts equivalent, he plays the bone idle secretary. He is a farce, a one man show. Every line he comes out with either prompts confusion or laughter. Just as in the original, Potts was the useless but attractive secretary, Hemsworth again fits in the role. (Oh the only main male character is an idiot and there for the sake of eye candy, how about that). The only issue with how funny he is, is that the film is a little too aware of that fact. At times he seems forced to the fore just so we can see a bit more of him when it really wasn’t necessary. It also relies a little too heavily on Hemsworth’s ability to improvise in order to bring the comedy, which brings its own problems that the rest of the cast do little to mitigate. Certainly not a dealbreaker for the film though. The only major negative is that the villain is essentially vestigial. There’s no real motivation to be doing what he’s doing. He just sort of meanders about trying to get the ghosts into the real world because he’s a bit of a loser and no one likes him. In a way it seems as though the statement the film was trying to make got in the way of the actual plot, or maybe the footage giving Rowan a bit more depth is on the cutting room floor.
The final verdict is that this film is incredible. Not quite as good as the original, but certainly almost as good. Infinitely better than Ghostbusters II, go and watch it asap.