Somehow, despite all the doomsaying and gnashing of manbaby teeth, the new Ghostbusters came out and everything was fine. Trump isn’t President, everyone’s childhoods were exactly as they left them, and we’re not trapped under some kind of grand feminist conspiracy that only exists to replace the cherished franchise media of our youth with – gasp! – girls.
As a matter of fact, it looks like it kinda went how all movie openings went – the people that wanted to see it saw it, the people that didn’t wanna see it didn’t, and everyone’s lives went much the same as they would have otherwise, plus or minus one screening of Ghostbusters. It almost goes to show that maybe everyone didn’t need to get so goddamned uptight about the fact a movie was coming out that was called the same thing as a movie they liked as kids, and also had women in it?
But hey, I’m not an expert, just a guy who talks a lot on the internet, and besides this article isn’t about jean shorts and Reddit – it’s about Ghostbusters!
And as you should not be at all surprised to learn, I went opening weekend with my super best friend in the world (and longtime fellow Ghostbuster) to see a screening at the theater back in my hometown that had recently installed some fancy-ass seats. Full of peach schnapps and overpriced mac ‘n cheese from a nearby restaurant, I braced myself for what was to come.
Guess what? I liked it. I really fucking liked it.
Surprise fucking surprise, I know, but I was honestly kind of surprised by how much I liked it. There was no way in hell I was gonna dislike it unless the dialogue was all replaced in post-production by Hitler speeches or something, but I guess part of me was kinda scared that it might not be as good as I wanted it to be, a fear likely brought on by the fact the trailers were super mediocre and sort of…iffy, on the part of Leslie Jones’ character Patti.
I guess with the trailers in mind, the first thing I was pleasantly surprised to learn was that it was funny as shit. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering Paul Feig’s involvement, there were parts of the movie that reminded me of Arrested Development – maybe not the same ‘hyper-realistic’ tone (as it was a surprisingly grounded movie considering it’s about fighting ghosts) but very much in the line delivery and occasional cluelessness of everyone involved. Much like Arrested Development, nobody is allowed to get too competent – Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann gets close by being the most technically proficient and best fighter (!) of the group, but it’s made pretty clear she’s never possessed people skills and likely isn’t doing this out of some sense of moral responsibility – and everyone at every level of authority otherwise is portrayed as either inept, disinterested, or some combination thereof. The Ghostbusters themselves are constantly made to look like doofuses in ways that the original four never had to deal with, except in the cartoon, and it both makes the movie way funnier and makes them more sympathetic when they actually get their shit together in the last fifteen minutes of the movie, sort of like the original guys did but with a much clearer through line. Kevin in particular is a stand out, and I’ve never laughed so hard at vector clip-art of a hot dog. (Just…trust me on this.)
Plot-wise, with a few exceptions I will say I really appreciated how the filmmakers took a much more “superhero origin story” approach to it. Now, generally I hate that because I know where most superheroes come from, and I’m probably just biased as I say this, but seeing the gradual development of the Ghostbusters and their equipment was way more interesting than seeing it just sort of get finished and be usable in the first movie.
If I can get specific, it actually reminded me a lot of Batman Begins and Iron Man, in the sense that you both see their equipment getting refined and their skills with it get better through the movie, kinda like Batman’s early shitty “ski mask base jumping” outfit, or how Tony Stark goes through a series of increasingly better Iron Man suits both through the first movie and through the series in general. Some of it gets a little pandery – did we really need to see someone spraypainting their logo on a subway wall to show where they got the idea from? – but by and large it really fits the Ghostbusters’ mystique to see them go through several prototyped and shittier versions of their equipment before landing on the ones that actually work.
This sort of ‘origin’ pacing actually really helps with the plot as a whole, and I think the movie is all the better and more consistent for it. My only real complaint about the first Ghostbusters is that they actually don’t spend that much time busting ghosts. Not that there’s anything wrong with character development, but you don’t actually get to see them on the job that often, and the Gozer reveal is sort of ham-handed and just…there at the end, a problem the second one fixes by having Vigo be a much more prominent part of the story. The villain, who is one of the more entertaining parts of the movie (even if he’s probably a little on the nose and close-to-home for a lot of the movie’s detractors), factors into nearly the entire thing, gets his plan going right away, and is a palpable force through the whole plot in the way a good Bond villain is. The movie also goes out of its way to subvert or avoid a lot of the obvious Ghostbusters beats, like “nobody believes the heroes” or “the heroes are arrested by an overzealous authority figure” to stop things from getting too samey. I think I was just really impressed by the simple fact that the movie really made sense in an A-to-B-to-C kind of way, and considering how bitter I am about the pacing of most movies these days that’s really saying something.
Lastly, I did want to mention the equipment and special effects. Not anything worth hinging a movie on, by any means, but frankly my inner 10 year old was squealing with delight whenever they’d show a new version of the proton pack or whatever. One thing I always wished they did more in the movies (and frequently did in Real Ghostbusters, which always ruled) was introduce different equipment for different situations. Seemingly hearing my lifelong psychic pleas, we’re given an embarrassment of riches in the new one including hand grenades, dual pistols (an idea I absolutely had first for my terrible high school Ghostbusters fan film, goddammit), a shotgun, and a fucking dirt bike with a proton pack on it. All the equipment designs are beautiful in a thrift-store-garbage kinda way, all of the new Proton Pack concepts are fun as hell and thematically fitting, and they even explain what all the shit on top of the car is, which is kind of amazing.
Look, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you it’s gonna replace the first one, nor is it some kind of unbridled cinematic treasure. I am, however, going to tell you that it was better than I expected, which means it was way better than most people expected considering my sad, rabid love for this franchise. Did it deserve to make more money? God yes, even despite the fact it isn’t anywhere near the failure that the media is obsessed with portraying it as. Is it the best movie I’ve seen since SPECTRE? Damn straight. Is it worthy of your time both as part of the Ghostbusters legacy and as a movie on it’s own? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Unless you’re part of the Ghostbusters sub-reddit, but in that case I’d just warn you not to bother since you probably don’t have a sense of humor anyway. The effect would be largely lost on you.