Here at CosBlog, I have written passionately about my love for the original Ghostbusters movies and The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I previously expressed my feelings about the troubles surrounding the development of the now defunct Ghostbusters 3 as well as my final tribute to the late Harold Ramis. When it came to the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, however, I kept my true feelings to a minimum publicly with exception to podcasts and a few message boards. We all know by now that the film was marred in controversy since its announcement of an all-female cast two years ago. So I devote this blog piece as a way for me to step back and look at the controversy surrounding Ghostbusters 2016 and the ultimate end result.
The first thing I need to come forward about is that as of this writing, I have yet to see the movie. I don’t plan to use this as a way to bash nor praise something that everyone has an entitled opinion for. That being said, I write this from my perspective as a fan and as a moviegoer.
When Sony announced Paul Feig to direct the new Ghostbusters with a female cast, I will admit I had issues with it. The kid in me who reenacted episodes of the Real Ghostbusters with my Kenner action figures and Fire House playset could not accept this new take. The problem for me was not so much the idea of a female Ghostbuster as there was already the Kylie character from the Extreme Ghostbusters series in the late 90s. I simply did not like the fact that there were no male characters in the group to identify with and what I really wanted was either the original four guys or a mixed gender group to carry on the brand. Yet, I had more distrust towards Sony than the actual all-female concept. The studio mishandled remakes of Paul Verhoeven’s 80s classics like Robocop and Total Recall by casting flavor-of-the-month actors and stripping the films of their R-rated identities to please a PG-13 friendly audience. Their unnecessary Spider-Man reboot had some potential with the real world direction it took as well as Andrew Garfield’s universally praised performance in the title role; however, the follow-up film was a disastrous two hour advertisement for a universe building franchise that came to a screeching halt before it could start.
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters survived a lot more than online hate before the cameras rolled. The massive Sony hacking in late 2014 should have deep-sixed the project, but its studio champion Amy Pascal was given a golden parachute following the crisis and was allowed to produce the film with Feig. Then the cast was announced with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Wiig and McCarthy were obvious choices for the new team while McKinnon and Jones were (and currently) SNL Not Ready For Primetime Players. Each comedienne that was cast was someone I was already a fan of for their respective films like Bridesmaids and Top Five. Some friends of mine tried to get me to warm up to the upcoming film by telling me to think of it as an extended franchise of the ’84 team which I was willing to accept. But then pics from the set started to roll out with the cast in jumpsuits and the new Ecto-1 made out of an 80s Cadillac herse. Outside of McKinnon’s cool homage to the cartoon with her wild glasses and Egon-style hair, my stomach was turning the wrong way with everything I saw.
I did my best to reserve judgement for the first trailer which hit in March of this year. The teaser with mysterious ghostly images of New York accompanied by the original Ray Parker Jr. theme played on a piano was intriguing and chilling at the same time. I was also trying to make peace with the fact that the 2009 video game was as close as we would ever get to a Ghostbusters 3. So that allowed me to keep an open mind once the full trailer hit. As soon as it did, however, cabin pressure dropped big time. Words like awkward, unfunny, and cliched came to mind for me and many others who witnessed “The Power of Patty,” 70s movie references, and an odd bit with McKinnon’s Holtzman character wearing a flashy hat. The original film was shot to look like a supernatural thriller with comedic elements and took itself seriously at times when it came the supernatural. This looked and smelled like a bad SNL parody. What I did not anticipate was the historic amount of dislikes on YouTube which only fueled Sony and director Feig’s pushback to call the unhappy viewers (and many hardcore Ghostbuster fans) words like sexist and misogynist.
On the surface of the controversy, the war of words raged on between those who wished for Ghostbusters 2016 to fail, those who were willing to give it a chance regardless of fandom, and the social justice warriors who only pushed a pro-feminist stance. Virtually any negative talk by someone was met with pushback, specifically James Rolfe aka the Angry Video Game Nerd. Rolfe has expressed his love for the original films and chose not to see the new film due to his disappointment in the trailer. Suddenly, the likes of Patton Oswald among others trashed Rolfe on Twitter without knowing his cult reputation in the online world. Eventually the cast chimed in on verbally attacking the haters on talk shows, “ruining childhoods” by singing the theme, or claiming that the new CGI ghosts looked more real than the ones from the 80s. The original cast would also come out of the pasture to defend the film and its cast on a special episode of Jimmy Kimmel. But there was still something strange in the neighborhood.
Enter Midnight’s Edge. I’ve been following their YouTube channel ever since their in-depth video documentaries on the problems surrounding Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. They would soon uncover the realities behind Ghostbusters 2016 through serious research in the hacked Sony emails. I would highly recommend anyone with interest to watch their videos, but I will say in a nutshell that Midnight’s Edge discovered such controversies as the following:
– Sony usurping Ivan Reitman after Harold Ramis’ death by going with a reboot instead of a sequel.
– Feig’s desire to reboot the series because a continuation with antiquated technology was considered “lame”.
– Internal battles with cast members over who had better jokes than others.
– Sony purposely deleting constructive feedback on the YouTube trailer link while keeping the most nasty comments up to push the sexism narrative.
– Sony threatening litigation towards Bill Murray and other original Ghostbusters cast members if they refused to cameo and promote the new film.
The more videos they put out, the more angry I became. But my disgust was never at all directed to Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon. This was Amy Pascal and Paul Feig’s blatant disregard for continuity and disrespecting even the most mild-mannered fans. As soon as I saw the TV spot with Slimer riding in a car with a female Slimer, I had enough.
Once the initial reviews came in, more questions were raised. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a certified fresh rating. Yet, the majority of those positive reviews came from online bloggers and movie websites. Meanwhile, the top critics in America either bashed the film or gave it an okay review. Richard Roper was notoriously attacked by the SJWs for his scathing review. Many have considered the positive reviews some kind of bias agenda to silence the haters. But the majority of reviews were consistent in one way: Ghostbusters 2016 was not a disaster, but nowhere near the level of a classic.
I have spoken to friends of mine on both sides of the fence. Some loved the film, especially the Holtzman character. Others thought it was either a waste or just a DVD rental. As much as Sony tried to spin its box office take, the industry trades would label the $140 million reboot as a flop due to not breaking even overseas. Sony just did not take into account the difficulty in making a comedy translate to other cultures as well as a “no ghost” ban in what could have been the lucrative Chinese market. The haters may appeared to have won the battle and Ghostbusters would be a moot point as far as sequels were concerned. Unfortunately, a number of attacks on Leslie Jones’ website and Twitter account brought out the worst in people. For as much as Jones’ Patty character was depicted as a stereotype, she was clearly the wrong target as many celebrities rallied to her side and made her more popular than ever. Even I thought that level of hate was just going too damn far.
In the months since Ghostbusters 2016’s release, a few small developments went under the radar that inspired me to write this piece. One was Ernie Hudson’s recent comments about the reboot being ill-conceived. Hudson was initially against the reboot when it was announced months after Ramis’ death. Then he changed his tune once the studio hired him for a cameo and did the Kimmel appearance. Now he chooses to say that Sony disregarded the fans while also defending the female cast and the film itself being passable. Ivan Reitman happens to also agree with Hudson as well. Another development was the box office disappointment of the comedy Masterminds. That film featured Wiig, McKinnon, and Jones in leading roles. Yet, there was no controversy and no massive push by the SJWs to support that film.
If you were to ask me what the legacy of Ghostbusters 2016 will be in five years from now, it will likely be infamous for sparking toxic political debates and bringing out the worst in geek culture. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, and Jones will continue to succeed in other film projects over time. They should not be shamed for accepting a project with big money involved. Paul Feig, however, should never be trusted with a massive budget ever again. If he truly wanted to be progressive, he could have easily made a mixed gender team that most audiences were willing to embrace as long as he respected what came before. J.J. Abrams was aware of that with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and fans love the new characters he put together. As for Sony, they have a lot of work to do before anyone can take them seriously again. Having ex-Fox film president Tom Rothman as your top guy is not a good start.
For the people who loved the film, however, don’t let the negativity sway you. Everyone’s viewing experience is different and there are kids out there who may grow up to have a love for this film in the same way I did for the original in the late 80s. Only time will tell if that’s true or if it will be as forgotten as the 2010 Karate Kid remake.