The first trailer for the 2016 pseudo-reboot of Ghostbusters, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, garnered the dubious honour of becoming one of the most disliked trailers on Youtube. More than a month from release, Paul Fiege’s gender-swapped reimagining of the 1984 sci-fi comedy has already been labelled, as a failure. But why? Well I have a few ideas:
1. The bizarre opening of the first trailer
Take a look at these frames from the first trailer for the film
What do they make the film sound like? You would be correct if your answer was “a direct sequel to the 1984 film.” The thing is basically everyone involved with the film has denied that the film is anything more than a re-imagining of the original plot. In an interview on the Johnjay and Rich show, Melissa McCarthy said that “in this movie it’s like the first one didn’t happen. It’s that great story but told totally differently. But it’s the same thing of four unlikely heroes: it’s in New York City [and] ghosts are taking over” and expressed her “confusion” at why Sony had decided to release a trailer that, was probably calling back to the timelessness and universality of the original, seemed to be tying this latest venture as a direct sequel or at least an in-universe project to the original.
2. Hollywood hasn’t progressed since 1984
A big criticism from a number of journalists centred around Leslie Jones’ character, the only black character in the lead quintet. While a few have gone straight for the jugular and labelled the film “a minstrel show“, the biggest problem for many people in this area is that once again, the three academics are middle class white people and the streetwise, somewhat inept fourth character who joins the team partway into the film is a working class black person. Actor Ernie Hudson, who played Leslie Jones’ counterpart in the original film, penned an editorial about his time on the film and the difficulties he faced as a black actor on a very white movie. The fact that Hollywood has decided to ‘honour’ the original by once again having the token black character join halfway through and have no scientific background shows how meaningless the word ‘progressive’ is to the film industry:
Hollywood: Look at how progressive we are! We remade a film from the 1980s but all the characters are female. Yeah! Wooo! #feminism
The general public: But the director is male and the black character still possesses the inequalities of the black character in the original film.
Hollywood: YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP, WE CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF HOW PROGRESSIVE WE ARE.
3. The shot for shots, potential cameos and trailer money-shots
When your film is labelled as a poor quality knock-off of a classic film, the worst thing you can do is remind people of that film in your work. Despite those involved insisting that this is a reimagining of the Ghosbusters, the first trailer opened with a slightly changed but largely frame for frame remake of the famous Library Scene for the first Ghostbusters. We also know that Bill Murray has an uncomfirmed cameo and the second trailer ended with a brief glimpse of a partially burned, very angry, CGI Stay-puff Marshmallow Man. Personally, I don’t care about the female cast or the poor CG but claim your film is a new take on an old film and then give me stuff you have just taken from said old film. The worst thing you can do is having people saying “that would good but remember when the original did X, Y and Z better?”
4. The plot
From little snippets in the trailer, we know that the crux of the film’s plot will revolve around “someone…creating a device that amplifies paranormal activity”. Not only is this basically the plot of the original Ghostbusters, it’s also been done so many times before and usually comes down to the following motivations:
- Grief-stricken scientist just wants to see their family/lover/child etc. one last time
- Crazed religious zealot wishes to prove the afterlife
- Crazy scientist wants to punish the world for not believing them about the existence of the paranormal
The point is we’ve seen it before and if you were going to truly reboot Ghostbusters, just recycling the plot is not the best way to go about that.
In conclusion, Ghostbusters could be brilliant but to be honest, I am sick of the lack of original content in Hollywood and reboots/remakes always fall into the same old traps so I’m not holding my breath.
What do you think about Ghostbusters? Let me know!