The gluttony of Hollywood

I was going to blog about something else, something more literature based, actually, but instead I’ve been forced to detour, on a subject that I feel I need to speak about, whose second trailer dropped less than 48 hours ago.

Ghostbusters (2016).
I will not rant at the screen, nor at my audience. I promise.

Since the first two trailers for this 2016 reboot have landed, there has been, I think it is safe to say, a certain amount of negative vitriol over the whole affair. Some of it fair, most of it not, but all of it justified by those that spout it. Including me.
Recently, a YouTube channel that I subscribe to attempted to answer some of the questions as to why the first trailer received more negative (i.e. thumbs down) votes than any other movie trailer in the history of YouTube. The Screen Junkies team, three white guys, were pretty vague in their arguments, to the extent that I couldn’t be sure if they were intending to be non-controversial, or they were just uneasy talking about a movie that has THE two defining social characteristics, sex and race, as its main talking points?
I’m not going to link the vid, you can find it on YouTube. But needless to say some of their arguments sounded pretty weak. Including gems like:
‘If Ghostbusters was remade with four guys, you wouldn’t get this sort of backlash’, and ‘How can you say something is rubbish if you haven’t seen it?’
The second point is valid, to an extent, the first just made me laugh.
I do NOT like this Ghostbusters remake/reboot/rewhatever. I have reasons, some are meaty, some are more nitpicky, and here they are:

1. The title. Ghostbusters. Unusually for a reboot, or at least for a GOOD reboot (Red Dawn, anyone?) this new movie has the exact same name as the 1984 original. Therefore when you search for the movie from now until the end of, you were see ‘Ghostbusters 1984’ alongside ‘Ghostbusters 2016’. With nothing to differentiate between the two. It’s a little unusual, because assuming the reboot is a success it would still draw comparisons to the original, losing some of its thunder; and if it’s bad then it sullies a classic movie for the rest of time. No one wins in this scenario. And if you talk about the movie it’s worse. Anyone I know is calling it Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters: the one with girls in it. And I know we’ve all heard less flattering titles than that one.

2. Timing. The last Ghostbusters movie was 1989, and there was talk of a third movie for the best part of two decades since. The main sticking point for everyone was the cast, with Bill Murray being the most hesitant to don the proton-pack for a third time. This dragged on for years, culminating with the tragic death of Harold Ramis, making everyone think the project was done. Then, less than two years after the man’s death, here comes the remake/reboot/rewhatever. Huh? Did the Ramis estate have rights over this, or something? I cannot think this timing was coincidental. I hope it was, but I am sceptical at this one.

3. The original cast. Rumours abound that some of the original cast are in this new movie. But only as bit-characters, or minor cameos, and probably playing ghosts. Yay… 
I can’t figure the angle here. If no one of the original cast were interested, why appear at all? I mean, money aside? Losing Ramis kinda sounded the death knell for an original reunion, but I can’t believe having an older Ackroyd, Hudson and Murray appear, the three of them keeping the proverbial pilot-light on, the ghost-hunting equipment all in mothballs and unused, and having them hand the reins over to the younger generation would be a bad story?
This point is confusing many people. The 2016 movie is set in the same universe as the 1984 movie. So do the girls know of the original guys? The term banded about is “re-boot”, which implies starting something over, which implies they don’t. Do regular New Yorkers know about the 1984 group? If it’s in the same universe I doubt they’d forget the Chrysler Building blowing up. Or the ooze flooding the streets of the city. It’s New York, people remember.
The director has stated that ghosts are going to be unknown for this universe, that is, no one has seen them before. Hmm… this sounds patronising, especially to the audience. Then this IS a modern day sequel, but NO ONE in the movie has heard of or seen ghosts before? That would be like someone in Dr. Who not knowing what a Dalek is. Amy Pond didn’t know, but that was because of a longer storyline. Great for a TV show, not so much for a movie.

4. Sex. Oh boy, here we go. When rumours of this movie began eighteen months ago, the key point was pretty much ‘The New Ghostbusters are all women’ as its tagline. The second question, behind ‘Oh, who?’ was ‘Oh, why?’
It’s a fair point, because what are you gaining? If it’s the same movie, with the same name, and the same premise, making the four primary leads women adds… what? Seriously, I don’t know. With a franchise so beloved by millions of people, men and women, I’m not sure what the creators are going for? It reminds me in a lot of ways of The Italian Job (2004). A remake, with the same name, where the only nod to the original was the use of three Minis. It is actually a good film, with a great cast, but because it adopted the name of the beloved original, it was crucified by the press, and bombed at the box office.
The director is Paul Feig, responsible for movies like ‘Bridesmaids’, and ‘The Heat’ (and as a side note, and ‘I Am David’, an adaptation of one of my favourite books as a child), two awesome and hilarious comedies, both with women in primary roles. Mellissa McCarthy is the defacto lead, with the other three actresses all working extensively in SNL, among other movies. An experienced, well-known cast, and all used to ensemble comedy, great!
As a Brit I don’t have access to SNL, but I’m hoping, like with the original cast who all came out of SNL or Second City, they can handle the job. There, that’s the benefit of my doubt.

5. Three white scientists and a black civilian. That was the 1984 cast.
Three white scientists and a black civilian who works for the NYC subway. This is the 2016 cast. So she’s actually lower than Ernie Hudson. He walked in off the street, she’s under it.
Now, I know many people think I’m overreacting. Fair enough. But you can’t sit and tell me that no one in the pitch meeting for this movie didn’t wonder whether that racial dynamic might stick in people’s throats? Especially in USA 2016, with the flashpoints in Florida, Ferguson, Missouri and #blacklivesmatter all make international headlines? Really? REALLY??? And, if this is reboot, as everyone keeps saying, why can’t they switch the roles? Make Patty a scientist, and stick Erin in sanitation? What would you lose? Except, maybe your stereotyped preconception of modern urban minorities…

6. Humour. Of the two trailers I’ve seen, not a lot has made me laugh, which is a bad sign. Now, this could be me, I have a preference for dry, observational, irreverent humour, which is why Bill Murray’s Veckman character hit my funnybone so hard in the original. They were funny, but they were smart, (e.g. “This guy’s a sailor. He’s in New York, we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble!”) and they were pretty close to the knuckle; everything from swearing, multiple shits, dicks, the “Ghost Head” scene, and Ackroyd and Hudson smoking like chimneys, none of which would make it into a PG film in 2016. Plus there was a lot of physical comedy, the best possibly being the scene where the trio wreck a ballroom, in a happy mockery the working-class destroying eighties excess (who dines at midnight except the billionaires?). I don’t know if the studio think women can’t do physical comedy, but in the trailer all we see is McCarthy being belted twice, (once when she’s possessed, once when she isn’t!) and she’s the queen of physical comedy in today’s Hollywood. A precedent exists, I just hope there’s enough of it to make the story work. Speaking of the trailer…

7. This is the trailer for the 1984 film.

What do you see? Actually, what DON’T you see? One ghost, no Stay Puft, and ABSOLUTLY NO EXPOSITION of when, or why or who. Unlike the 2016 version. As with Hollywood these days, both trailers tell the viewer what the situation is, some of the juiciest visuals of the ghosts, the vomiting, the fact that Patty works in the subway, where the car comes from (she didn’t know it was a hearse? That’s weak comedy…), Chris Helmsworth being one of the villains, and McCarthy getting possessed. It’s not as bad as the Terminator movies (who basically tell the plot in the trailer), but it’s close. And it does the movie no favours, as we’re all seeing currently, what with the amount of negative press the movie is getting.

8. Physical comedy and SFX. In the original movie everything looks authentic. When the boys fire their proton-packs these uncontrollable orange beams shoot out, roasting anything they touch, from marshmallow to a domestic trolley, to a ballroom bar. It’s gleefully realistic! In the trailers it screams PG-13 CGI, red beams of light and CGI ghosts shrinking away in horror. You would think Hollywood would learn following Mad Max, but I guess computers are still the way forward.

And here we are. These are my main points, there are probably some more. But the question is: am I going to see this movie? Probably not.
And not because I don’t think the girls are going to be bad, but because I don’t think the story or the approach is there to make it any good. Rebooting a franchise is dangerous, just look at Michael Bay. You have to bring something new to the table, but that new thing has to be good, at the very least.
The script has to be funny, the characters believable, and the action authentic. So far, on the basis of two trailers, I think this movie is 0-3 on those points.
And when the Screen Junkies say that you can’t judge something without seeing it, I think that’s a pile of tosh. How many movies had awesome trailers only to fall flat when you see the finished product? Likewise you can see a terrible trailer and be genuinely surprised. BUT, you can also see a bad trailer and know the movie will be… less than stellar. And I think ‘Ghostbusters 2016’ is a prime example.
It’s a reboot. A modern day, watered-down, neutered version of a timeless classic. Behold, this is 21st century Hollywood, and shouldn’t we all be lucky to have it.


2 thoughts on “The gluttony of Hollywood

  1. My husband recently mentioned to me all the backlash about this trailer. I hadn’t heard anything of it, but I also hadn’t actively been looking for it. It will be interesting to see how this does at the box office. Great points here. I am a fan of the original, but I’m also a fan of Melissa McCarthy. I’m pretty sure I will see this, and I’m also pretty sure I’ll find it mediocre.

    1. I agree. Part of me wants to see the movie, just to see the flaws. But if everyone goes to watch it, purely to rubberneck the car-crash that it is, then it will make serious $$$ and the studio will green-light a sequel, regardless of how funny/unfunny/awful it actually is. World War Z is a classic example of that, unfortunately…

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