I finally got around to seeing Ghostbusters 2016 and the experience has left me with far more mixed feelings that I’d anticipated, but it has also confirmed a few things for me that I’d suspected since the controversy surrounding the film began.
I should note before I start that this was the theatrical version of the film and not the extended one released on Blu-ray, which I will try to watch when the opportunity arises and I may adjust the follwing views accordingly when I do.
Of all the reviews I’ve read concerning the film none seem to concern themselves with the film itself, preferring to talk about why the film has had so much negative criticm; as if these two things aren’t linked by definition.
With this review I’m going to concern myself with the film only.
Thats the only thing thats really important.
Ghostbusters 2016, or Ghostbusters – Answer the Call as the end credits call the film (and a title I prefer I have to say), has pretty big shoes to fill and considering peoples general dislike of remakes it seems unlikely that it’ll fill them to most peoples satisfaction; so I pressed “play” with relatively low expectations.
The first thing that struck me was saturation of colour in the film, the second thing that struck me was how odd that this was to be the first thing to notice.
I’ve never began a film with the desire to turn down the colour… ever… and I’m a big fan of Dario Argento movies.
With this one I was tempted.
The saturation is somewhat distracting, and it cheapens an over all look that is pretty good if the garish blues and reds can be overlooked. The mansion we open in is densely packed with ornate furnishings and the frame is filled nicely. I’d say the set decorators had their work cut out for them as this follows on through the film, leaving very little dead space in Answer the Call’s visual landscape.
The mansion in question is in the heart of New York and is now a museum. We follow a young man as he leads a tour group and learn that the spooky goings on in the building are carefully constructed hoaxes designed to bring in paying guests.
But in the celler something much more real stirs and we get a rousing sequence where the young man is accosted by something off screen.
The theme music cranks up and the main title appears over his frightened face and something odd happened.
I suddenly realised that the sequence had triggered in me a profound bout of nostalgia and I discovered that I really wanted to like this film.
As the film unfolds we realise that someone is placing contraptions across New York city, devices designed as propellants for ghostly activity and we know that someone has a plan to unleash something apocalyptic in one of the most densely populated places on the planet.
If only there was someone to call…
In her office in Columbia University Dr Erin Gilbert battles to be taken seriously, discovering to her dismay that a book she wrote some years before has found its way to the internet. She tracks down the sourse to find and old friend with her own battle on her hands.
The book is about paranormal phenomena, and the friend is a would be ghostbuster.
Initially reluctant Erin finds herdself drawn back into the world of the paranormal by her old friend, andinevitably she and the mysterious would-be villain attempting to transform New York into a gateway to the underworld cross paths.
Theres much more that works in Ghostbusters – Answer the Call than which doesn’t. Its just unfortunatel that those things that don’t work are so important to the films success.
For the most part I liked the characters a great deal more than I thought I would.
Kristen Wigg as Dr Erin Gilbert works very well and her almost childlike flirting with Chris Helmsworth could have been used to greater affect. It’s endearing and she manages to allow this to play out without damaging her characters seriousness in the process.
Next on my list would be Kate McKinnon as Dr Jillian Holtzman, who provides the groups tech. She is less of an Egon clone and more of Q from the Bond movies. She seems to take some pleasure in wanton distruction and simply likes wires and things in general that flash and go beep.
This is something I can relate to.
Next would be Chris Helmsworth as the improbably dopey Kevin, the Ghostbusters receptionist. Not only does Helsworth show some potential as a comedian, he was the only one who provoke any laughs from me during the film, but he manages to walk the line between annoying and likable rather well.
Then we would have Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan who doesn’t bring a great deal to the table in Ghostbusters – Answer the Call, but isn’t anywhere near as irritating as our final cast member Melissa McCarthy, playing Dr Abby Yates, whom I would say actually damages the film.
The reason I say this is because a great deal of the potential of this film rests on the relationship, and chemistry, between Wigg’s and McCarthy’s characters. They were childhood friends and there should be some animosity between them as Abby (McCarthy’s character) believes Erin (Wigg’s character) abandoned her to pursue their shared dreams alone.
This has great dramatic potential for the film and in the final moments of the film this rift is resolved, the problem is that we never felt there was a rift to begin with.
A great deal of the problem here is the poor writing, but Wigg shows that we believe her half of the falling out in spite of this, whereas McCarthy just falls flat.
The script of course is the films problem, its not even “the main problem” its actually the whole of it, any other issues the film has are just irritations and I believe I would have been irritated by them regardless; this is a remake of a much loved film after all.
The script on the other hand borders on a crimimal misappropriation of beloved icons of film.
Really, that should be a criminal offense.
And the writers should be charged with it.
Even as a director I don’t think Paul Feig did too bad a job, no – he’s no Ivan Rietman, he’s not even a Hudson Brothers…
,,,see my review of Hysterical for explaination on that one…
…but he’s not a terrible director, mainly his work in this film is just uninspired.
As a writer however…
Well, I’m not sure I can express my thoughts without resorting to unintelligible sounds and the odd bodily function.
I realise that comedy is subjective, or at least it’s success can vary vastly from person to person or group to goup, but I literally…
… And I use the term literally to mean “in a literal or strict sense, as opposed to a non-literal or exaggerated sense” of the word…
…I literally cannot believe that many, if any, people read this script and genuinely thought “this is funny”.
I cannot believe it.
I also find it difficult to believe that no one noticed some of the editing errors the film contained, continuity is obviously something they thought mattered only to other people.
On the other hand…
I find, as I write this, that I have an odd affection for the film Ghostbusters – Answer the Call.
I know, thats weird isn’t it!
I know that I probably shouldn’t… But I do.
A lot of people tried very hard to make this film work, Kristin Wigg, Kate McKinnon, Chris Helmsworth… and yes, even Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy try very hard to make it all work, even though they have very, VERY little to work with from the awful script provided to them.
This isn’t even to say the script is ALL bad, it isn’t as there are a few ideas that work, or at least could have worked, if the writers had given them the chance.
The original 80’s film wasn’t a spoof, it didn’t “send up” the horror genre or pick fun of parapsychology. The characters weren’t broadly absurdist and they weren’t “knowing” about their situation as comedy characters.
The original film was written by believers in the supernatural and this is, I think, one of the keys to its success. The film was played straight, it poked fun at the characters traits but not at the characters themselves or the situations they found themsevles in.
The terror dogs are frightening and Dana’s abduction in her kitchen is something out of a nightmare.
The horror aspects of the original film are played intact, without ridicule.
And this is why it works.
Ghostbusters – Answer the Call does none of this.
Theres no genuine fear involved and the characters play in the world of the supernatural without being genuinely affected by it.
Abbys possession isn’t frightening, and Kevins transformation isn’t a thing of nightmares.
And if this film had a chance of working they HAD to be.
The ghosts had to scare the audience but the script does all it can to undermine the horror, and this is mystifying to me.
I suppose, to bring this part-rant to an end, I still think an all-girl Ghostbusters is a good idea and can work, and personally I’d love to see it given a second chance as a film.
Just next time, if there ever is one, it has to be given to someone who knows the subject and wants to treat it with the respect it deserves.
In my opinion the only people who deserve the blame for the failure of this film are the writers, and I suppose those who green lit such a mess of a script.
I want to leave on a positive note, so…
I have to say that I was pleased to see the bust of Harold Ramis in Columbia University at the beginning of the film… That was a nice touch, and it was much appreciated.
I just wish they have respected his vision as much as they did the man.
Damn… I said I’d end on a positive note didn’t I!
Erm… Kate McKinnon had cool hair…
There… Fixed it…