Yesterday the Internet lost its mind. At least, a tiny fraction of it lost its mind. Okay, the Internet lost its mind a long time ago so this is but a minuscule reflection of how much of its mind it has lost.
The new Ghostbusters trailer is out. (I know you thought this was about the Republican debate where a worried nation was relived to learn Donald Trump believes his penis is plenty big.)
Much belabored and much endured, let’s put aside the whole “women shouldn’t be Ghostbusters” thing because it is ridiculous. Anyone who would fault this movie on those grounds is clearly not fit to discuss it in mature and rational terms. There’s so much more wrong about this movie trailer than a bogus gender argument.
All four leads in the film — Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon — are funny actors and are going to give their best. I have no doubt about that, but I cannot say truthfully that I found the trailer funny. To me I felt they were really playing up the horror angle much more, with jerky, breakaway editing and glitchy “welcome to your worst nightmare” soundscapes, as you might find in a trailer for a Saw movie.
The movie looks like it has a ton of budget behind it. I’m not convinced that the effects hold up. As a longtime devotee of practical special effects, models, animation, etc., the mummy bandages of CG that wrap so tightly around the scenes in this trailer have a distancing effect. More to the point, the digital ghosts looked, to me, like neon-colored Colorforms slapped over top the image.
We still have a long way to go before the film’s actual release, so there’s always the possibility digital color grading will be employed to dial it all back and blend it together. Trailers are as much a test as they are marketing. The studios are paying attention, and since this is the Sony Studio we’re talking about, they need to be. After the collapse of Spider Man as their trusted franchise, they need Ghostbusters to do well.
I found the fan reaction online to be very interesting. The opening titles on the trailer indicate that the Ghostbusters are following in the footsteps of…and with that, there was a sigh of relief. This New York is the same New York once inhabited by Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, and Egon Spengler. With anticipatory, contradictory zeal, articles went up with director Paul Feig shooting down the reassurances. “No, no, no this is most definitely a reboot, not a remake. These are the original Ghostbusters now. The others do not exist.” What one expects from the prospect of a new Ghostbusters is pleasure and anticipation, not a kind of sadness. But why should anyone take these fictional creatures so seriously?
A digression with a purpose. Steven Spielberg said of the penultimate scene of Jaws that it was preposterous that Chief Brody (played by Roy Scheider) could have ever shot the oxygen canister in the remorseless killing machine’s mouth to “blow him to hell.” However, by this time, the audience was so invested in the well-being of these characters, they would accept the absurdity. They did, and in many theaters the audience actually rose to their feet and cheered.
Long after the Star Wars prequels, what hooked audiences back to the franchise enough to make The Force Awakens so successful? Was it the new robots, the new characters, or the promise that practical special effects would be used above the requisite CG? No…again and again people said it was seeing Han, Chewie, and the Millennium Falcon back. It was the return of Leia, the promise of a return of Luke.
Every successful novelist has said in interviews that they can develop the most whacked-out, messed up and far fetched plot conceivable, but if the reader loves the characters, it will succeed.
And that’s the real problem with this Ghostbusters, at least from this vantage point. Those characters that the die-hard fans love don’t exist in this world. It was Feig’s intention to have the current Ghostbusters go through the whole learning process, and not simply have the old guard bequeath all the answers to them as students. He felt that the core of the humor would be to have them stumble through their formative steps without mentors.
I also read some dismissive statements from other writers saying that the first film from 1984 will always remain, so the irate and incensed should just back off and watch that one if they’re so offended. I don’t buy into the philosophy. If we are told for decades that the key to a great story experience is a cast of great characters, but are at the same time assured those characters are easily forgotten and we should casually go along with these other characters, that’s a steep left-turn.
Ultimately, one’s ability to enjoy the new Ghostbusters will depend on their ability to unify these opposing forces. Yes, there will always be the original. It will not disappear and won’t be nullified, but you cannot expect people to be happy about its manufactured obsolescence. While not my all-time favorite movie, I know many people who claim it as exactly that. Of course they’re going to feel a sense of loss.