Word dropped recently that Paul Feig, director of The Heat and Bridesmaids, will direct the next Ghostbusters movie. He’s gone on record stating that he doesn’t intend to do a sequel or anything at all connected to the previous films. In addition to going with a straight up reboot, Feig’s also expressed a desire to have the movie fronted by an all-female cast. Like a hornets nest kicked by a girl playing with fire while showing off her winged reptile body art, a huge chunk of the Internet is all astir about how awful this is. Like so many things, that chunk of the Internet is wrong about this topic.
I’ve gone on record here at TR before about this matter (item 8 on the linked list), and I’m doing so again. Simply put, another sequel in the Ghostbusters franchise would be doomed to suck. Feig’s idea represents the best damn shot we’ll ever have at a good or great movie carrying the Ghostbusters name.
8. Sure, It’s a Gimmick. But It’s a Really Cool Gimmick!
|Thomas R Machnitzki|
|Gimmicks and Ghostbusters kind of go together|
First off the bat, there’s a statement by Feig that needs to be addressed:
“When people accuse it of being a gimmick I go, why is a movie starring women considered a gimmick and a movie starring men is just a normal movie?”
The short answer to that question is that the world is a crappy place. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately it is. I sincerely believe Feig when he says that he isn’t thinking of doing this as a gimmick, but other people will make it a gimmick whether he wants it to be one or not. That’s okay, by the way. A gimmick is not in and of itself a bad thing. Marketing a movie around a talking raccoon and a walking tree with a 3 word vocabulary is also a gimmick, and that resulted in one of the biggest hits of the summer.
In the current Internet landscape, there are a lot of words that have undeserved negative connotations. Among them are tropes, cliches, retcons and gimmicks. These are all tools that are only as good as the storytellers who use them. Some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, including Ivan Reitman, use these tools to great effect. Some of the worst in the game use them too. A gimmick is something that draws the attention of an audience long enough to get them to look at a project. The project itself is what holds the audience for the long haul.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered last fall, the gimmick that got audiences to take a look at the first episode was that it’s a crime procedural set in the shared movie universe of Marvel Studios superhero world. The first half of the season wasn’t strong enough to keep everyone’s interest, but the second half that tied into events from Captain America 2: Winter Boogaloo managed to reclaim the attention of some viewers.
The same thing will apply to this reboot, if it gets off the ground. Having the lead characters be women will grab the attention of audience members who might otherwise pass it by. It will also get the movie a boost in coverage in certain media circles that might otherwise not care. If what ends up on screen doesn’t deliver a good enough story though, word of mouth will kill it. In the digital age, a sucky movie will be declared as such as soon as people walk out of the first screenings of the weekend and that declaration will be spread all across the world. Just look at Dracula Untold; within hours of it hitting theaters, the word went out that it was a bad movie. All the negative response very likely contributed to the movie coming in at #2 behind Gone Giri, which had been out for a week already. The team behind the Ghostbusters reboot has a good enough track record that they likely won’t have to worry about about opening day reviews of death, but the boost in attention coming from people wanting to see a movie centered around women – in a genre that is usually male driven – will certainly be a benefit. That’s a good thing too, because it helps redress a certain absence in the cinematic landscape…
7. There Are Some Incredibly Talented and Funny Women in Hollywood Who Are Not Being Utilized to Their Full Potential.
|One of those women is Gillian Anderson, who recently expressed interest in being a Ghostbuster|
There’s not really a way I know of to make this point without raising the hackles of a certain corner of nerddom, so I’ve no intention of trying. In the realm of western world entertainment (i.e. US and UK), regardless of medium, women tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to choice character roles. There are some great characters out there, to be sure, but they’re relatively few and far between. When it comes to comedy, women are generally the love interest; same with action movies but add in the extra baggage of potentially being a damsel in distress. Sci-Fi movies offer a bit more variety, in addition to the pair of aforementioned roles, there’s also options for wise sage-like font of wisdom and bad-ass warrior woman. The center of the story is rarely found to contain a woman, though.
Even the first Terminator movie was focused as much or more on Kyle Reese than Sarah Connor. The sequel made the questionable choice of splitting time with Sarah and young John Connor. For every Ellen Ripley, we get half a dozen women like Trinity, Leia, Jennifer Parker etc. who get to have their adventure off to the side while the real heroes soak up the limelight, or hog the spotlight… are the limelight and the spotlight the same thing? I’ve never been clear on this. Let me know in the comments if there’s a difference or not.
The Ghostbusters franchise has always straddled the line between comedy, action and science fiction, so it’s not surprising that women have been on the sidelines. That’s no reason for things to be that way going forward, though. Hollywood has an abundance of women who are smart, sharp, funny and could rock the hell out of some actioning and sciencing. Give ’em a chance to step up to the plate and some sonic booming home runs can be hit. Just off the top of my head; Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman and Julianne Moore come to mind. When one my fellow weekend open-thread haunters suggested Katey Sagal and Chloe Grace Moretz, I felt like a dork for not thinking of them first.
There’s one objection to this that I can agree with in theory, but not in practice. It would definitely be better to see a female fronted sci-fi flick that isn’t based on a pre-existing set of movies. That, however, is not something I’m holding out any hope for…
6. Hollywood Is too Risk-Averse to Make a Female-Fronted Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy That Doesn’t Have Name-Brand Recognition, so This Is the Best Substitute.
|This is an exception to Hollywood’s standard M.O. and we all know it.|
Hollywood has been very electric in the past decade and half or so. By that, I mean that like electricity, Hollywood has been taking the path of least resistance. The wave of remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and so forth have been a cautious and conservative approach that’s been rewarded handsomely. Trying to launch something new that doesn’t have a built in audience is a much dicier prospect than going with a known property. Even something that’s adapted from another medium featuring a big star isn’t a safe bet anymore: just ask the guys behind Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger.
In the past 3 years we’ve seen Earth to Echo, Pacific Rim and Battleship try to either stake a claim in the “new franchise” territory or at least have a successful one-off outing. Two of those movies were not an adaptation of some degree (even if only trading on a prominent brand name) and all 3 failed domestically. The only one getting a sequel is Pacific Rim, and that’s only because foreign audiences loved it more than the U.S. did. The only new franchises I can recall that’ve emerged this decade are The Purge and The Expendables. So that’s one series that looks like it doesn’t cost too much to produce, and another that looks like it’s a lot more expensive and not necessarily using its money to the best effect. And, let’s face it, the only reason The Expendables is even off the ground is because of its gimmick of bringing together a bunch of once amazing action stars that time and culture have started to move past caring about.
With this kind of harsh, uncertain landscape, it’s not surprising that studios want to tread lightly. As preferable as it might be to see some big stacks of loot tossed at Feig to create a new franchise out of whole cloth that gives a bunch of comedic women a chance to make their mark on the world free of comparison to a movie that has a special place in fans hearts, I don’t know if I’d be willing to throw any of my own money at such a project (if, you know, I had any to spare, which I really don’t). It’s easy to sit back and take pot shots at the powers that be for sticking with established brands, but only if you assume that that’s an automatically bad thing….
5. Cashing in on Name Recognition Doesn’t Have to Be Synonymous With Sucking
I’ve said before that the reason Hollywood keeps going with sequels, prequels, reboots and such, is that audiences keep going for them too. Some people don’t want a good story to end, so studios keep adding new installments as long as there’s enough money to be made.
When, for one reason or another, it’s not viable to make a good sequel (and that’s never been truer of a franchise than it has been with Ghostbusters, but we’ll get to that), a fresh start can work wonders. This was the case with the remake of Halloween, a good move made into a great movie when Rob Zombie was brought on board and allowed to add his own spin onto the first 30 minutes. While some (myself included) have argued that Zombie’s backstory for young Michael Myers eliminated the air of mystery surrounding the character, it’s an origin that fits very well into the mythos nonetheless.
Lacking the preferable option of having an original sci-fi movie featuring a bunch of smart, funny and talented women at the center of the plot, dusting off a title that hasn’t been used for a movie in 25 years is a good way to go. The possibilities and directions opened up by rebooting the Ghostbusters franchise are vast and intriguing enough to not be a bad trade-off compared to what more can be done with an entirely new IP. The benefit here is that the brand name makes this project a lot more attractive to the investors who will be putting up the money that goes into this movie. If the use of that title means the difference between a hilarious bit of eye candy with a cool plot hitting theaters or a totally original screenplay that’s also cool getting tossed aside, that’s a price well paid.
Over the coming months/years between now and when/if this reboot emerges into local theaters, a lot of the chatter will surround phrases like “keeping true to the spirit of the original” and “sticking to the established formula”. These terms tap into another misguided notion…
4. The More Different it Is From the Original Franchise, the Better.
|As a counter example, here’s something that speak for itself|
A big and recurring batch of arguments among people I know involves the new set of Star Trek movies from JJ Abrams. One of the top arguments on the pile is whether or not these movies “feel” like Star Trek. For my two cents, they don’t… and I’m okay with that. The last prior theatrical outing for the franchise was one of the worst movies of 2002 as well as one of the worst in Star Trek history. For as much flak as I toss at Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I’d watch that again before Star Trek: Nemesis.
The fact of the matter is that fans had gotten bored with the franchise even if they still loved it. For all the flaws in his pair of new movies, Abrams has definitely breathed new life into Star Trek. His movies are more action-oriented and less contemplative, but they’ve got me excited for future installments. I’m hoping that Feig can do the same for the Ghostbusters franchise. A lot of people hoping the same thing, are going to say that the most important step will be to keep the key elements intact, but I disagree.
Breaking away from the established trappings of the franchise and striking a completely unexpected direction would be a much more entertaining path for Feig to take. The recent remake of Total Recall was at its most boring anytime it stuck to what the previous movie had done. The element of an elevator running through the middle of the planet was the most interesting idea and it got the least amount of attention. Visual callbacks to the original like the three breasted prostitute weren’t all that interesting (especially with the PG-13 lack of nipples) and the whole story felt like it was something that could have been a lot better if it’d been cut loose from a perceived need to match up to the original film. What’s really hilarious, is that anyone who’s ever read the short story from which the original film was adapted (Phillip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”) in addition to seeing the original Total Recall has all the evidence necessary for seeing how great a story can come into being when the source material isn’t a ball and chain for the film maker. Seriously, if you’ve never read “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” go do that immediately or as soon as you possibly can.
With all this in mind, I’d like to see Feig go nuts. Take the base concept implied by the title (busting ghosts) and build something completely different around it. I’d love to see some crazy things that any big studio would likely squash, like say, having the main characters be Wiccan mystics or myth-debunking rationalists who stumble onto the supernatural out of different circumstances and develop a different approach for dealing with it. I know this might seem crazy, but I think it’d be fun to see a different method of busting ghosts than the proton packs and traps from the previous movies. Dowsing rods and crystals, or special camera lenses and mirrored surfaces or something.
I know that those ideas sound insane to a lot of people. The typical objection being that something that different wouldn’t feel like a Ghostbusters movie at all. That’s my point, though: why try to feel like something that a large swath of fans have already decided will always be superior. With this movie being a reboot, I’d love to see it take that term to its full potential and start from as fresh a slate as possible. Flush the old software session, start up a new program and add some original lines of code into the mix.
If the previous examples of Star Trek and Total Recall as good things that happen when a new path is taken aren’t enough to convince that a completely different kind of Ghostbusters could be awesome, perhaps you might be convinced by… a completely different kind of Ghostbusters!
3. There Are Already 65 Episodes Worth of Proof That a Different Take on the Title Is a Great Idea!
You may or may not know this already, but when Ghostbusters was in development, the studio had a bit of a hurdle that had to be cleared in the realm of legal malarky. There was already a TV series that had used that title. Filmation’s The Ghost Busters was a short lived show that ran for a scant 15 episodes in 1975 before getting canceled and being largely forgotten. Columbia had to pay some money to Filmation to use the title, and no one had the forethought to secure that title for other media like television. So when Columbia backed out from talks about doing a cartoon of the movie with Filmation, and decided to have the animation done by DiC (insert your own joke about what kind of move that was), Filmation decided to do their own cartoon based on their short lived TV show. If you’ve ever wondered why the cartoon versions of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston were called The Real Ghostbusters, this is why.
Sadly, its legal entanglement with the more famous version is the most remembered thing about Filmation’s Ghostbusters. It’s actually a really fun, goofy bit of ’80s cartoon magic that’s worth checking out. My brother and I watched it on TV as kids, and once we got over the shock of it not being like the movie, we loved it. I showed the first episode to my room mate and his response was “the stupider it gets, the funnier it is”. The show has a lighthearted wacky vibe that sets it apart from it’s slightly grimmer copyright cousin, and things like a robot ghost or a talking gorilla or a space pirate are all able to show up during their various adventures.
Following the journey of Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr. as they’re thrust into taking over the family business of ghostbusting from their fathers (who’ve been kidnapped and taken 100 years into the future), the show ran for 65 episodes in 1986 and went into syndication popping up here and there. It only had one season, but it was a fun season and it shows how very different an approach to the same title can be. While the guys with the proton packs had a new bad guy every week, Eddie and Jake were mostly caught up with fighting Prime Evil, a guy less intimidating than his name might suggest. Prime Evil was cast in the same mold as Duke Igthorne from Gummy Bears or Skeletor from Masters of the Universe: an overly dramatic, not-all-that-scary doof constantly being undermined by his henchmen who are mostly a pack of bungling dipshits.
It might seem blasphemy to suggest that such a wildly different approach to the franchise could be an improvement, but we need to face an ugly truth here…
2. The Original Franchise Is Not Nearly as Good as We’d Like to Remember.
|Aykroyd and sequels just don’t seem to work|
As much as I love the classic Ghosbusters crew, if I’m being completely honest, the franchise has only ever touched greatness once, and that was in its first outing. Everything since then has been “almost as good” at best. I liked Ghostbusters II when I saw it, but it wasn’t quite as jaw droppingly cool as the first one. It’s only in recent years, after frequenting nerd sites like this, that I’ve realize most fans look at the sequel less favorably than I do, and I can’t really blame them. While my memory of the 2nd movie has been kind to it, I don’t know that it’d hold up so well if I saw it again today.
The cartoon series was fun, but even as a kid it was noticeable that the voices were being done by very different people. Adding more frustration was the baffling character design decisions that had the cartoon versions of the team looking only barely like their movie counterparts. As time wore on, the show succumbed to two common problem with cartoons in the ’80s and ’90s: first and foremost, it started to run out of ideas but kept going anyway. Even worse, it placed too much focus on the cutesy comic relief character that TV writers of the day seemed to think was necessary to keep kids interested, despite kids hating such characters.
For all the things I can say I love about The Real Ghostbusters, Slimer is not and was never one of them. He was the Scrappy Doo of the Ghostbusters universe, and every scene with him on screen was a waste of time. When the 3rd season of the show was retitled Slimer! and The Real Ghostbusters, it signaled the beginning of a downhill decent into sugar coated crap that my 9 year-old self hated – and 24 years later, that hate is gone but not forgotten.
So with all previous attempts at recapturing the glory of the first movie having fallen short of the mark, I’m definitely in favor of stretching out into new territory, but even if the only choices for moving forward with this franchise were “another sequel” or “nothing at all” I’d still vote against another sequel, because I don’t see any good coming from one…
1. Every Plausible Direction to Go With Ghostbusters 3 Would Be a Massive Letdown.
|These fiends will feast on your tears of disappointment if given the chance!|
No matter how much certain people whose last names contain the same letters you’d find in the phrase “yay dork” might want to see a follow up to Ghostbusters II, there are two big stumbling blocks that can’t really be navigated around. One is Harold Ramis having passed away, and the other, the stumbling block that prevented a sequel from happening when Ramis was still in the land of the living, is the years-long, passionate disinterest expressed by Bill Murray at returning to the role of Peter Venkman. When he suggested that he might do a 3rd movie if his character was killed off in the first act, a script was commissioned which revolved around the team going into the netherworld to save Peter, which kind of missed the point of Murray wanting his character written out of the story.
As it stands now, there are three likely things that could come out of another Ghostbusters sequel:
A) We get 3/4 of the core cast, one of whom is phoning in a tepid performance out of a sense of obligation and or getting a hefty paycheck.
B) We get 2/4 of the original cast in a story that would just not measure up to what any of the fans want to see.
C) We get a torch passing movie, where Ray and Winston hand the reins over to a new team.
Neither of those appeal to me at all. The third option is one I keep hearing suggested by friends as a way to bridge the old franchise with the new one. Aside from my already stated desire to see something new and different, I have a bigger problem with this idea. As sad as it would be to see Ray and Winston in a lackluster adventure, it’d be even sadder to see them reduced to being side characters in someone else’s story.
It’s worth noting that an approach similar to Option C was already tried once in cartoon form. It was called Extreme Ghostbusters and it only lasted a season. I’m not saying it was bad (because I never actually watched it); I’m just saying that not enough people thought it was good… at least not enough according to whoever was in charge of deciding whether to not to green light a second season.
With all due respect to Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson (although it’s hard to determine how much respect is due to Hudson after he recently dined on his own foot), I just don’t have any desire to see Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddmore return to the silver screen. The time has come for something new, and if that something new is also used to fill a gap in nerd cinema by giving a quartet of women a more upfront role than they’re usually handed, so much the better!
Previous Topless Robot Articles by Greggory Basore Include: