Film Review: Ghostbusters (2016)
In 2016, Paul Feig released Ghostbusters, rebooting the titular franchise. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Michael McDonald, Ed Begley Jr., and Steve Higgins with cameos by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Ozzy Osbourne, Al Roker, and Pat Kiernan, the film grossed $64.1 million on its opening weekend. It currently has been nominated for the Teen Choice Awards for Summer Movie: Comedy, Summer Movie Star: Female, and Summer Movie Star: Male.
When a book she published with her friend proves to be unpopular, Dr. Erin Gilbert distances herself from the book and her friend, Dr. Abby Yates. However, years later, Gilbert learns that the book has been republished, threatening her academic reputation. In her attempts to get Gilbert to get the book out of publication, she assists her and engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann on a paranormal investigation. The trio witness a malevolent ghost which renews Gilbert’s belief in the paranormal and the group begin to fully research the paranormal, soon joined by MTA worker Patty Tolan. Meanwhile, an occultist is attempting to bring about the apocalypse.
Coming into theaters following a marketing campaign that included a poorly-received trailer and theme song along with the filmmakers basically insulting those who gave a negative opinion, Ghostbusters turned out to be a remarkably mediocre film at best. The best part of the film seems to be that it wasn’t trying to be a carbon copy of the original film, but gave a solid attempt at trying to be its own thing while throwing in callbacks and nods to its predecessors. Some worked, like how they checked out a firehouse as a base before settling on a space above a Chinese takeout restaurant, and some just felt a little too obvious, such as when a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man balloon squishes the girls during the climax.
The story itself is decent for the most part, showing how the Ghostbusters got together prior to the addition of their fourth member and that they were adamant on a more technical sounding name for their endeavor before public opinion changed it for them. Further, the idea of a person calling forth ghosts via technology out of an attempt to create the apocalypse by means of ley lines is actually a pretty interesting idea, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
One reason was the villain’s motives, wanting to cause the apocalypse and make humanity suffer because he was looked down upon and picked on himself, which in and of itself causes him to see the majority of mankind as vermin awaiting their execution. Yet, the film’s attempts to show that he’s despised and picked on fall pretty flat as it’s pretty much explained that the reason no one likes him or even likes communicating with him is because he’s just plain creepy. What’s more is that he’s never shown as bullied and when he shows up to the metal festival, he has a couple interactions with the crowd and is warmly received by a couple of people. It’s a rather poor attempt at characterization, considering that he’s his own worst enemy as his contempt for humanity stems from people looking down on him because of how he carries himself. There’s no indication that he was looked down upon for anything other than the fact that he’s such a creepy person. What this feels like is that more thought was put into how the villain would carry out his scheme with not a whole lot going into his characterization.
Another aspect that leaves the film’s execution wanting is how the Ghostbusters don’t do a whole lot of ghost busting. The only ghost they really capture is at the ghost dragon from the metal concert, which Gilbert sets loose out of a desire to prove that they’re not frauds. From that point forward, instead of capturing the ghosts, all they really do is start destroying the ghosts. It’s quite the shift, going from containing the specimens to Holtzmann showing them some weapons they can use in their fights that really leads to the ultimate showdown where all of them are seen taking out all the ghosts that come their way. There’s not even a montage that would explain the ramp up and it just feels like it’s going from zero to overkill way too fast.
Then there’s the acting, which is all over the place. What’s notable is that McCarthy demonstrates the range that she does have, however it’s mostly seen when she’s on screen by herself than when she’s with the others. That’s actually the issue with the main four. When by themselves or are interacting with other characters, they act quite well, especially during the climax when they all get featured fighting the ghosts one-on-all. However, when they’re all together, it doesn’t feel like any of them have any chemistry and that none of them really want to be there. That’s all coupled with some really odd characterization, like Holtzmann just being straight up manic and random instead of a normal person with some odd quirks and Kevin being the most idiotically moronic person to ever live.
The editing could have done with some improvements as well. There’s the time when Tolan takes them to the subway to investigate the ghost she saw and then all of a sudden she’s just hanging with them all the time, making it really feel like there’s a scene missing where they officially made her a part of the group. Something similar happens later after they think they’ve beaten the villain. Gilbert is at home taking a look at the villain’s copy of the book she co-wrote and finds his complete plans. Her instinct is to go to the mayor first before showing up to rescue the other three from the aforementioned balloon and when she gets there, they’re excited to have her back. Again, it feels like there’s a scene or two missing that would explain if or why she left them.
The film has a lot of problems that shouldn’t exist on the budget with which the filmmakers had to work. To be completely honest, this shouldn’t have even been a feature film and would most likely have worked better if it was a series on television.