Only idiots pre-judge films. Trailers are increasingly so misleading (for better and for worse) that the only true test of a movie is when the lights dim and the titles roll.
And yes, idiots pre-judged this film.
First up, the so-called 'fanboys' declared the all-female cast 'appalling feminist propaganda' from the moment it was announced, allowing us to identify precisely who to unfollow on all social media from the moment it was announced.
The next level of premature opposition came from those who watched the trailers and deduced that this was to be the unfunniest film of all time. OF ALL...TIME. In their defense (which hurts to even write), the trailers were weak, offering little beyond a rapid succession of scenes in which the four lead actors yelled and screamed maniacally. But, then again, the trailer for 1999’s Three Kings made it look like a the movie after the movie you'd watch during a bus trip for an under-15s rugby tour, and it turned out to be one of the more poignant anti-war films of the past few decades.
If there was to be any merit given to the Ghostbusters pre-judges, it came in the form of the scepticism over reboots for movies that both got it right the first time and aren't wedded to an age so forgotten that a modern spin would offer something new and fresh. The original Ghostbusters was made in 1984, yet there’s little beyond the big hair of Ramis and Weaver to even remotely date it - a factor that contributes heavily to its re-watchability. Again, though, the same could be said for Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), which only sixteen years later would be spectacularly reimagined by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins. The key word there, of course, is ‘reboot’, which - unlike remakes - have licence to reimagine the story, characters and setting of the original for a new audience.
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is unreservedly a reboot. Indeed, it bears so little resemblance to the the first film that comparisons are, by and large, pointless. Beyond the theme song, name and general ‘busting of ghosts’, this is a new film for a new generation, lead by four comedic heavyweights in their absolute prime. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are a powerhouse ensemble, embodying four distinctly new and wonderfully defined characters. Wiig's uptight academic with a zero-point flirtation game, Erin, bounces perfectly off McCarthy’s acerbic renegade scientist Abby, while McKinnon’s genius inventor Holtzman is so absurdly odd that only Jones’s streetwise Patty could keep the balance in check. Their chemistry is immediate and infectious; a courageous and capable collection of heroes (yes, heroes, not ‘female heroes’) supported by an amusing turn from Chris Hemsworth as the team's ‘himbo’ secretary, Kevin. The only time gender is ever even touched upon in the film is in a nod to those internet fanboys, with Wiig reading aloud a Youtube comment that declares: “Aint no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”.
To suggest that this film’s shortcomings have anything to do with its female leads ‘being female' is so plainly dim as to not even warrant comment, conveniently ignoring the fact that just five years ago Feig, Wiig and McCarthy delivered the funniest film of the year in Bridesmaids. No, where this movie falls short (and it's here where comparisons to the original are, unfortunately, unavoidable), is in its story. The original Ghostbusters is a deceptively complex story masquerading as a simple one, with multiple vignettes that not just cleverly, but critically, come together at the film’s climatic crisis point. EPA intervention, an overloaded containment unit, bureaucratic interference and the seemingly-irrelevant lives of several apartment dwelling strangers all suddenly merge with both the Ghostbusters’ own story and the ever-growing menace from the opening scene in a spectacular (and genuinely spooky) explosion of paranormal activity.
By contrast, Feig’s Ghostbusters is a disappointingly simple film striving ever so hard to seem more complex. Everything that happens on the supernatural front is the result of a single, poorly-defined human villain whose motivations for bringing about the apocalypse are nothing more than that he was bullied as a child. Contrast that with Ackroyd and Hudson in the original film as they considered, with genuine trepidation, the possibility that Judgment Day was truly upon them. Their fear became ours, and that combination of bona fide supernatural horror with outstanding humour was what made it one of the most successful and enduring comedies of all time. That’s what is so noticeably absent in this reboot: the laughs aren’t nearly as frequent as you’d expect, and the scary stuff simply isn’t. Yes, there are some spectacularly funny moments (Jones’s debut outing as a Ghostbuster during a metal concert being the standout), but for a cast of this calibre, you’re right to expect more, while the ghosts scarcely feature until the effects-laden finale that’s over as quickly as it begins.
All in all, this is not a film that’s going to ‘destroy your childhood’ like so many clairvoyant haters ardently suggested. The four leads compliment each other magnificently and there’s no scene-stealing; each has her moment in the light, yet knows when to let the others shine. The post-credits scene offers a tantalising hint at what the sequel might concern itself with, and - given the potential for this franchise with such outstanding actors at its helm - here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later. Feig's Ghostbusters is not a particularly memorable film, but it’s an excellent step in the right direction and an exciting glimpse of what might be in our future.