Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

Ghostbusters (2016): A Short Review

We went to see the 2016 version of Ghostbusters at the New Park Cinema in Chichester. It’s a lovely little place that usually shows smaller, more arty films. There were no adverts or trailers before the start of the film, which was unusual but welcome. Here’s a picture Ingrid took before the action got underway:


Overall the new version of Ghostbusters is a solid and enjoyable film, though I haven’t come away from it loving it the way that I expected or wanted to. The new female ghostbusters are all excellent characters and all well-acted, inasmuch as films like this require good acting. The supporting cast is strong and, as you have heard, includes much of the cast of the original in cameo roles.

The special effects are also excellent. They’re far in advance of those of original and CGI is as good as practical effects for ghosts, at least ghosts as the Ghostbusters universe tends to view them. We saw it in 2D and the effects may have looked a little more spectral in 3D, the new proton packs have a much more wiggly firing line that makes them seem more like lassoos than in the original.

The storyline doesn’t retread the original though it does keep to a familiar arc. Unfortunately it’s this part of the story that’s not as good as the original. It’s too self-aware and makes many references to the original, little nudges that seem to say “we haven’t cheated you because this is different” and just make you wish that the two films were more similar. It should be a film about these ghostbusters, not those ones.

[aesop_image imgwidth=”25%” img=”” align=”left” lightbox=”on” caption=”Ghostbusters 2016 film poster” captionposition=”left”]

The New York of the two original Ghostbusters films is a cariacature, all crazy mayors and public acess TV. Dana dates a man who plays a cello in an orchestra, Vince runs amok in the park while being chased by Gozer’s pets. Some nut bought a cougar to a houseparty. A caricature, yes, but nevertheless a real sense of place. The new Ghostbusters is set in a New York that has a subway but not much else to mark it out. You get a ghost breakout at an Ozzy Ozbourne concert, but that could happen anywhere. It’s all rather generic and bland, and I’m not sure why.

The backstory of the newer movie gives the characters plenty of motivation for seeking out ghosts but it’s never allowed to pay off. Patty is a great character but there isn’t enough to flesh out her backstory, which is likely to be pretty interesting. Holtzman carries the film at points but we don’t really ever know who she is. We don’t get the same sense of lovable losers who are into ghostbusting because they have to, because there’s no other option. Not one of Stantz, Schengler or Venkman would have worried about tenure in the same way that Erin does.

And then there’s the pretension, or lack of it. The original isn’t pretentious either but it’s a satire of the pretension of its time, when films would muse on man’s place in the universe. This was probably a function of the cold war, when the world was preoccupied by the threat of nuclear war and what might come after. Think of ghosts in that context and then about how joyfully and playfully the original Ghostbusters movie tapped into and blew all that angst apart. You can’t watch that movie and not feel better about the world.

And so this new version, what does it seek to skewer and satirise? Narcissm? Skepticism? Internet comments? The things we fear now don’t loom in some dread realm long forgotten, they exist as a part of us. I don’t know. Perhaps when I’ve watched it ten or twenty times like I have the original I might know, but will I watch it that many times?

Nor was I convinced by the main bad guy: I was never really sure how he ended up with all the technology apart from Abi and Erin’s book and what his motivations truly were. Nor was I keen on monologuing as plot exposition, I would rather have discovered what was going on alongside the ghostbusters instead.

Director Paul Feig and actor Melissa Mcarthy have already made a film that I love as much as the original Ghostbusters: Spy. Spy is a better, funnier, film than the Ghostbusters remake. This begs the question of why you’d remake Ghostbusters when you could play with the genre (in the way that Spy does with the Bourne and Bond films) instead. Obviously Ghostbusters 3 is dead in the water now and Sony needed to make a film to hold on to the trademarks. While this is a more than capable effort, they could have been braver and started again from scratch.

With all that said it’s important to note that it’s great to have a film that passes all the tests for female characters, that features interesting remixes of the original characters, and is put together with love and affection for its source material. It could and perhaps should have been better, but it looks like a sequel is on the way and that could deliver the goods. We’ll have to see.

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