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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 review

So much potential, so little reward.

I really debated whether or not I would you review this movie. As I'm getting the blog back up and running I realize I should do more movie and book reviews. I have not seen a lot of movies this summer but this is one that friends insisted that I see. In short, I was not impressed. To put it bluntly, the movie had good bones, but just wasn't good. It focused on the wrong things.

In general, I'm not a big fan of Hollywood's endless reboots of late.  For every reboot that goes well, Christopher Nolan's Batman, there are reboots that are just horrible, Terminator Genisys.  Ghostbusters Falls somewhere in between.

From the day it was announced, the movie seemed to want to generate controversy.  I had no issue with an all female Ghostbusters, though felt that a more integrated cast would have been better.  I don't know Paul Feig's work very well, the few movies titles of his I recognize, I never saw.  They just didn't look like something I or my wife wanted to see.  I find Kristen Wiig hilarious in almost everything I've seen her in.  I'm not a fan of Melissa Mccarthy, though I know many people who are.  Rosie Jones is somewhat hit or miss with me, but I found her to be the funniest member of the cast.  Erin Gilber, I don't know if I've ever seen her before, but then I haven't SNL in years.

This movie ultimately failed because it was a reboot, I think.  People are sick of reboots.  Audiences want original content.  And in cases where a reboot or delayed sequel does come, they want it to respect the original.  After the original creators of Ackroyd, Reitman, and Ramis (RIP) spent years trying to make their own reboot / continuation / hand off movie, a reboot without them bordered on insulting.

I think one of the large reasons that this movie failed is because most of the characters were one-dimensional or two dimensional at best. Let's start with the one-dimensional characters. Every male character in the movie, with the exception of the bad guy, was a one dimensional prop. Chris Hemsworth's secretary was inexcusably stupid. I hate inexcusably stupid characters. By comparison, Annie Potts' Janine from the original was a smart, sassy, funny character with attitude and some great lines. I don't know anyone who felt insulted by Annie Potts' character. By the way, her cameo in the movie was excellent, probably the best one. Andy Garcia's mayor again, completely one-dimensional.

Even the main cast was largely not fleshed out. 

Kristen wiig's character, whose name I can't even remember, just fell flat. She was obviously supposed to be the Bill Murray of the group and it didn't work, which is odd, because she's a funny actress. 

Melissa McCarthy's character was obviously supposed to be the Aykroyd,but  none of her jokes were funny. The few I can remember revolved around her food orders getting messed up and her berating the delivery boy.  

Rosie Jones honestly had some of the funniest moments in the movie. Her character was also probably the most fleshed-out. In a lot of ways, she had the most to offer to the team. 

The character of Holtzmann, was supposed to be the Egon of the group. She was no Egon. The character of Egon and even Dan Akroyds's character in the originals worked because they were straight men. Egon never got the joke, he was always serious. Funny things happened around him and he didn't realize it. He'd be flirted with and didn't get it, he'd subtly tell Murray how much to charge, and it was hilarious, but he didn't see it. Dan Aykroyd's character was always over eager and into everything that was going on. Even he didn't get the joke half the time. The character of Holtzman seemed to always be setting up the next joke, most of which fell flat.

One of the things that made the original so good and also gave it a lot of depth is that busting ghosts was more than just a scientific Endeavor for these characters. It was also a business and their income source. These were scientists who had been discredited due to their findings and beliefs and had to find a way to make a living. There were multiple scenes about how they got their money and how they would eventually run out of it. Prior to busting their first ghost, Slimer, they were almost out of funds they were going to be destitute. This movie had none of that. 

Beyond what was just simply supposed to be the scientific endeavor, there was no mention of where they got their funds or their equipment. The only indication about their funding and equipment, was that they stole large pieces of equipment from their University. By the way that would not have been enough to build everything they had.  After that it, appeared that they built all the rest of their equipment out of scrap.  I'm an engineer none of that would have worked. By having them steal all of that equipment it would have made them criminals. Also what kind of scientist, Melissa McCarthy's character, doesn't know that their equipment has a function where it moves, especially since she "designed it herself."

While on the subject of equipment.  What kind of scientist tests out highly dangerous equipment in a back alley?  That was beyond irresponsible and resulted in quite a bit of property damage.  This also occurred after Rosie Jones entered the group, she could have given them access to unused subway tunnels or closed train yards.

Does this movie have redeemable qualities? Yes. Could this movie have been saved in the writing stages? Yes quite easily.

I'm a fixer by Nature. When I see something that could be good I want to fix it. Maybe it's the engineer in me, maybe it's the writer. Whatever the case, I see many ways in which this movie could have been fixed in small subtle ways that would have made it better. 

The core movie itself was good. The Ghostbusters concept should have work in today's world. All the various Ghost Hunter shows out there prove that people are willing to believe in the existence of ghosts. The movie even references this. The movie has a lot of good references in it to the originals and to the modern world. 

I will say however, that I found it shocking that only one person in the movie ever used a cellular phone. The movie seems trapped in a different age. Anyone who's seen the previews, and not the movie, will know the scene at the concert of the girl use a selfie stick, who still uses a selfie stick?, to take a picture of herself, Rosie Jones, and some kind of demon. That is the only time someone whips out a phone to take pictures. By contrast, look at the new Doctor Who. In Matt Smith's first episode, when the aliens invade, the way he tells that somebody, Rory, knows something more is going on is that he's the only one not taking pictures with his cell phone.

So how would I have changed this movie to make it better? Well there's a couple of easy fixes that I would have used:
#1:  Make the movie a continuation of the original not a reboot. 

There's a reference in the movie about how they've covered up similar incidents in the past obliquely regarding ghosts. That could have been worked into the movie much better to make it a full-on continuation of the original Ghostbusters. Look at Star Wars episode 7, one of the reasons it works so well was that it was a continuation of the old story bringing it into a new generation.

#2:  Moving out of New York. 

Now hear me out here. With a largely Saturday Night Live based cast I understand why they made it be New York again. But why not move it someplace else? Maybe it's just because I'm from the west coast and the southeast, I really don't care that much about movies based in New York that are constantly referencing things in New York. Why not move it someplace new, some place that might not get as much exposure in movies. Now that I'm based in Seattle maybe I'd like to see it someplace up with the Pacific Northwest. Or how about down for their self down in LA, or Dallas, or Chicago, or any other major or minor muscle. It did not have to be New York and by taking it out of New York it could have taken the whole concept in a fresher Direction.

#3:  Have the movie be a handoff. 

This could have been done this very easily.  The beginning could be largely unchanged.  But after they find their first ghost, they are contacted by the remaining members of the original Ghostbusters. At that point it's revealed that ghost activity has been pretty low level for the last couple decades. 

It could even be a great meta reference to all the ghost hunting TV shows. The Ghostbusters themselves are funding these TV shows in order to find ghosts throughout the country. They then send in one of their regional franchises to catch any ghosts that are too dangerous or  harassing to the owners of the properties. 

The Ghostbusters than offer the new lady Ghostbusters a franchise. This takes care of so many issues in the movie in particular those involving funding. From there the movie could be largely unchanged you could still have these characters busting their first ghost getting caught in public at cetera. But instead of the mayor telling them that they can't be so public, it's Ghostbusters headquarters telling them this. They could then explain that with the help of the government they have kept the existence of ghosts to a minimum.

It also creates a great means of character growth.  Imagine them receiving their first shipment of OG ghostbusting gear, and Holtzman commenting on how "80s" it is before souping them all up to create their new gear.

#4:  More fleshed-out characters. 

All of these characters could have been fleshed out a lot more. By having the movie be a continuation instead of a reboot, it would have allowed the characters to become much more their own as well. At the same time make The Supporting Cast not insulting and more real. Especially the secretary character. Chris Hemsworth's character could have been very funny very sassy very maybe not as intelligent as the rest of the crew but he didn't have to be just an idiotic pretty face. If they wanted that they should have cast Ashton Kutcher.

It would have even allowed for them to fix some of the character mistakes of the original.  Winston, for instance, was originally written as an Air Force Veteran who helped teach them tactics.  The studio forced the change to have him instead be a guy off the street looking for a job because Ernie Hudson was an unknown (another good cameo, but not as good as Annie Potts').  They could given that backstory to Rosie Jones' character, and it would have made a nice nod to the original as well. 

#5:  Make the final villain's form more original.

Don't get me wrong, that the villain was a live person manipulating ghosts was great.  His final form however was far too marshmallow man like for my tastes however.  I liked that he used their symbol as his final form, sort of, but it just felt off.

#6:  Overuse of CGI.

This one should go without saying.  In an age when practical effects are making a comeback, neon CGI ghosts just don't work anymore.  Even the scariest movies of late that use ghosts hardly show the ghosts.

With those changes the movie, and even the franchise could have been saved.  At this point however, it is dead in the water and I doubt that we'll get any kind of continuation.

Overall I give the move a 3/5 stars.  It has the bones of a good movie, it just failed to deliver in the end.

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