Ghostbusters is a property worth revisiting. With the cool technology and funny contrast between the comedic leads and serious ghosts (well, mostly serious, Slimer notwithstanding), this concept has a lot of potential. Still, it’s a bold task to attempt a new version of this concept, but sort of necessary given the loss of Harold Ramis & disinterest nature of Bill Murray confirmed that would never happen again with the original cast. Hell, the original cast had their own attempted return with Ghostbusters II and all that ended up coming out of that was a pale imitation of the first. So, do the modern comedic chops of director Paul Feig and an all female cast put their own creative spin on the Ghostbusters property? Well… sort of.
The biggest strength of Ghostbusters is that the four leads don’t feel like retreads of Ramis, Murray, Dan Aykroyd or Ernie Hudson. Each has their own fun personality that is strengthened by each actress to some degree. Kristen Wiig is a solid lead, with her journey to accepting paranormal investigation again after leaving it being slightly rushed yet still engaging. Her friendship with the enthusiastic Melissa McCarthy serves as the backbone emotional arc for the story and their chemistry feels genuine enough to support their misfit-done-good nature. However, they’re bumped up significantly with the presence of Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Jones manages to be more than what one would fear in the part as a caricature, managing to be a capable part of the group that deftly separates her from being a Winston clone. McKinnon is thee best part of the entire show, adding an infectious charm that permeates her co-stars into a consistent sense of joy at their successes. They all keep the energy of the film alive, along with a little help from Chris Hemsworth as a lovably moronic receptionist & small turns from Michael K. Williams, Cecily Strong and Zach Woods amongst others.
From all that, one can tell that this modern Ghostbusters takes certain worthy new directions from the original film. Certain aspects like an elaborate action sequence for McKinnon during the third act are things the original four couldn’t do in the ’84 or even ’89 due to technological constraints. The technological updates in terms of ghost fighting equipment are fun if ill-define and the ghosts have even more variety in design and movement than any number of the ghosts in either of the previous Ghostbusters films. Yet, there’s one crucial thing this entry does take from the original and technically the second that honestly hurts the ability to stand on its own: the beat-for-beat plot structure of the first one.
Every point of the plot is more or less similar with what came before, with the changes being more cosmetic than anything. There’s the original three being ousted from academia, there’s the political aspect of the city doubting the mere presence of ghosts, there’s a third act “save the world” angle. The latter is more a direct syndrome of our modern blockbuster culture, but it’s also done in a rather sloppy fashion. The editing during some of the more elaborate ghost sequences proves that Feig isn’t the best action director, which was even a weakness of his best film Spy. Ghostbusters is very much shot like a comedy with a few horror sequences here and there, which are done competently though never too impressively. If we manage to get a sequel out of this iteration of the franchise, I’d hope for a more visually engaging director to come in and mix things up, along with a story that allows for more experimenting with the concept.
Then again, being freed from the contrived structure isn’t the hugest annoyance with the new Ghostbusters as much an overall unnecessary dependency on relying on nostalgia for the original film is. This reboot offers the chance for Sony to take the franchise onto new avenues, but everyone here is still beholden to callbacks and cameos from those involved with the past that it ends up depleting the chance to stand on its own. It would be one thing if this was a sequel that involved the old characters, but going for a reboot inherently means a certain amount of separation is encouraged. With our modern blockbuster culture, our biggest problem is a lack of progression. A lack of growth from what has come before in terms of formulaic storytelling and recalling what came before incessantly rather than innovate with a previous concept. Ghostbusters is enough of a mixed bag to move two steps forward, but there’s always a step back around the corner that constrains these talented actresses from being allowed to spread their wings. Still, Ghostbusters is adequate enough a reboot if for no other reason than managing to capture the most essential element of the franchise: an authentic chemistry between its leads that keeps things from falling apart.
Rating: 3 out of 5 New Pieces of Ghost Tech