The New 'Ghostbusters' has Plenty of Gender-Swapped Hilarity

Ensign Lestat's Film Log, 10.01.16

True confession, I haven't seen the original 'Ghostbusters' film, or its sequel, or any tie-in series. Nor am I in the least bit inclined to watch them. But I was excited to catch the new 'Ghostbusters', not only because of the hype surrounding it, but because the trailer was genuinely amusing. The cast of actors looked stellar, headed by the always hilarious Melissa McCarthy, alongside Kristen Wiig, a woman of many talents, SNL mainstay Kate McKinnon and a brand new talent (for me anyway) Leslie Jones. What could we complain about?

A lot apparently. For some reason, the majority of previous fans were offended by the gender-swap, despite it being a reboot, and set in a world that hasn't met ghosts yet. Did they expect the original cast to return? The film's trailer has the ignominious honour of being the most disliked trailer on Youtube, the eventual film flopped and lost tons of money for the studio, and what should have been a franchise-starter has come to a halt with all sequels completely shelved. All because some people decided a group of women can't possibly be as cool as the original and carry a film reboot of a beloved franchise.

That and apparently the theatrical cut was a disaster. Well, that doesn't help. Having watched the extended cut only, I can't comment on what the rest of the world saw in the theatres. The scenes that were cut out added a lot of depth and hilarity to the film, despite extending the runtime. For a rundown on what you likely missed, head over to io9.

If it isn't obvious yet, I loved the new film. It's not perfect, and I will delve into its flaws, but it's hilarious and the main cast work beautifully together. They're an extraordinary lot, full of diverse talents that make their interactions spectacular.

Wiig's ability lies in being serious despite the comical situations surrounding her; McCarthy is the quintessential comedy queen, whose characters are the emotional draws that ground the story and McKinnon, from what little I've seen of her, is restrained in her humour, modulating her voice to enunciate the dialogue to comic affect. Jones brings a separate dynamic, the comedian who's witticisms and smarts keep the plot going. Each one brings an essential component to the story and makes the team a united front.
Who you gonna call?
I don't watch many comedy films, they're not to my liking. This one, however, for the most part, leaves out the gross out humour of most comedies and just sticks to making a coherent story. Granted, the majority of the scenes rely heavily on gags, only some of which pay off, but there's still an action-packed story behind it.

I wish the cast had been more racially diverse. In an effort to maintain the look of the original, the Ghostbusters are three white women and one black one, while the potential love interest is also white. I won't complain about the latter, but we could have mixed up the main four a bit. I think the current cast is brilliant, but would love to see more diversity.

The writing suffers greatly from a lot of false starts and false beats. Some gags are overlong, prolonging the scene for no given reason. I'd go into them, but that would just prolong this blog for no given reason.

Where the film fails is the middle. Act 2 sags to the point of stagnating, which came us a bit of a surprise to me. The beats were completely off, as if the writers and director were desperate to eke out the runtime now that they actually had the studio's sign off to make the film. Scenes that were cut for theatre, should have been kept in place of the tedious introductory/training scenes from Act 2 - the runtime would have evened out.

Some of the scenes are out and out homages to the original, and maybe a few too many of them were too on the nose. Most of us felt the same way about 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', a beautiful film that is occasionally let down by its eagerness to please previous fans. Here, many of the homages went right by me so it didn't bother me, except when they slowed down the pacing of the story.
How much is too much?
I liked the action in Act 3. It was fun, funny and intelligent (in a comedy movie way). It utilised the skills of each character and gave them their due. It did get my heart racing, which I wasn't expecting, and the emotional beat at the end was particularly glorious.

What works in the film, aside from the excellent chemistry between the main cast, is that it has included legitimate comedy by the writers; you can and will laugh out loud. I'm also impressed that the Ghostbusters' gender wasn't a huge factor in the story. Despite it being pivotal in the film's failure (because people can't see beyond gender), the fab four aren't belittled or ridiculed for being women scientists or women ghost hunters. They're ridiculed, initially, because no one believes in ghosts, and later because they are the target of a smear campaign. The film doesn't rely heavily on a message of gender-equality, it just presumes it exists in the world. While it is important to call out the misogynistic culture of the world through art (watch 'Supergirl' for some on point discussions about gender dynamics), I really liked that in this film they just take equality as a given; because sometimes all you need is to escape into a world that treats you equally well, or poor, irrespective of your biology.

What I also liked about the film were the cameos. Despite not having seen the original films, I know of the cast, and was legitimately pleased to see several of them appear. Heck, even the film's writer, Katie Dippold, and director Paul Feig turn up in cameos. Who doesn't love cameos? They always add to the credibility and canonical acceptability of a sequel or reboot, kind of in the way TFA felt more like it was part of the Star Wars universe because the original cast was in it. And the same with 'X-Men: Days of Future Past', which would never have been believable had the cast from the original trilogy not joined the proceedings. In the new GB film the actors play different characters from the original films, yet, it means they've given their seal of approval to the new generation. Or they were in it for the money, either way, the viewer gets a lovely surprise.

It's also superbly cool that Sigourney Weaver's cameo sees her as the mentor for team engineer Holtzman (McKinnon), which is a huge upgrade from what her character was in the original series.

Let's also put it out there - Chris Hemsworth is great in the film. It's a frustratingly curtailed role, but I feel like that because I like Hemsworth. Had he a bigger role, it would have taken away from the actual GB's screentime, and that is not something I want to see. He's there as eye candy, and as much as people want to complain about that, I DON'T CARE! He's shown a healthy amount of respect, which is more than what most female eye candy characters get. He keeps his kit on throughout, and isn't sexualised. The camera doesn't zoom in on his assets, the ladies don't keep looking or commenting on parts of him either. He's a big, dumb receptionist, but he's tolerated by the team because they don't have anyone else. Also, he's pretty. I love that Hemsworth took on this role, it makes me think he's a very secure person for doing it. Which is a sad commentary in itself.
We need to talk about Kevin.
His character arc is another homage to the original, with the addition that he gets to show off his incredible dance moves. I knew he was on a dance show once, but who knew he had some actual moves. Great to watch.

There's a lot of dancing in the film, especially in the extended cut. I'm not going to complain. I love dancing - watching it, anyway, have two left feet myself - but everyone in the film has such good moves, I'd love to see a 'Ghostbusters: The Dance-Off' some day, even if it is just an SNL skit (all these people, including Hemsworth, have been on SNL, surely they could put that together). Only once did I feel the dancing was an unnecessary addition, but even then, if we cut out that scene we'd miss out on some cool Leslie Jones moves, which I don't think I'm ready to miss out on.

Flawed though this film may be, I'm hoping the extended cut will bring some much-deserved love to it and the cast. I loved this film, despite some doubts in the middle period. I wouldn't mind seeing more of these incredible characters and more of this fun action. This film is a real package deal of humour, emotion, eye candy, dancing (who can resist that), and most importantly a female team who are there for each other and for the world. What more can anyone ask for?

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