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TAC Reviews...Ghostbusters (2016) - A Childhood Killer??

 

Naturally the above is not the full title of the reboot Ghostbusters film that was released in 2016, however, considering some of the reviews that it has been getting and the hate surrounding it, this might as well have been the title. There is no denying that the film is bad, really bad, but does it deserve to be called a “Childhood Killer”? I am going to be doing a review of the reboot but first I want to discuss the phenomenon that was Ghostbusters.

 

 

The first film was released in 1984 starring Bill Murray as Dr Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stanz, Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore with Sigourney Wearer as Dana Barrett and Rick Moranis as Loius Tulley.

 

The premise was that a trio of scientists were fascinated by the paranormal and whilst are seen as a group of hacks by the general scientific community they never the less believe that ghosts could be captured and contained. They encounter a full torso apparition in the New York Public Library and after being fired from Columbia University, decide to set up their own business as professional paranormal investigators and eliminators.

 

One of their first clients is Dana Barrett, a woman who had a very bizarre encounter in her apartment. Eggs jumped from their shells and cooked on her countertop, and a voice coming from her fridge called out the word “Zuul”. Terrified she seeks out the Ghostbusters. Peter investigates her apartment but can find nothing out of the ordinary. It seems that their business is going to fail when they get a call to go to the Sedgewick Hotel to capture their first ghost. They are successful and suddenly the floodgates on paranormal activity open with the Ghostbusters being called in to capture ghosts all over Manhattan. They recruit a new member to their team, Winston, and begin to realise that the existence of so many ghosts is leading up to something far more powerful entering their world. But to do that it needs someone to open the door and Dana is that person…

 

The first film was a massive hit, the cast were all perfect, the special effects can still hold up even now in 2018 and the film was thoroughly entertaining. It spawned toys, clothing, numerous games, an animated series (The Real Ghostbusters) and was popular enough to score a Video game in 2009 in which the key voice cast all reprised their roles.

 

Naturally with the original film being such a hit it was inevitable that a demand for a sequel would be high. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the original film with Ivan Reitman directing. The trio reunited with Aykroyd and Ramis writing the script for the sequel with Reitmnan once again in the director’s chair following pressure from Columbia Pictures to make another film following the success of the first film and The Real Ghostbusters animated series.

 

Responses to the sequel were…mixed to say the least…

 

Let me go off on a slight tangent that I promise is relevant…tell me, what makes a good sequel??

 

A film which takes ideas and concepts established in the first film and messes with them. Take Terminator 2 that took the unstoppable cyborg-killing machine from the first film and made him into the good guy. Or Blade II in which the evil vampires of the first film are replaced by a greater threat forcing the Daywalker to team up with a group of vampires to stop it. There are other examples which used the first film as a stepping off point to do something new and take the sequel in a new direction.

 

However there are countless examples of sequels that did nothing more than rehash the events of the first film, doing nothing new, nothing fresh, and nothing original.

 

Sadly Ghostbusters II fell into that category.

 

Set in 1989 the Ghostbusters have pretty much gone their separate ways and although they are still in contact they don’t really bust ghosts any more. No one seems to believe in ghosts despite New York being overrun with them in 1984 and a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man strolling through the city so the Ghostbusters are considered to be nothing more than hacks…again.

 

Dana Barrett, mother and Peter’s ex (who is not the father of her child) runs into more trouble when her baby’s pram is taken on a wild ride after rolling through some pink slime. She goes to old friends Egon and Ray to seek assistance, who in turn discover evidence of something under the streets of New York.

 

Meanwhile a painting at the Manhattan Museum of Art, which contains the soul of 16th century cruel madman guilty of genocide named Vigo the Carpathian, awakens wanting to reborn into the modern world. Dr Janosz Poha (played by Peter MacNicol), a colleague of Dana’s (who now works at the museum) is brainwashed by Vigo into serving him.

 

Vigo wants to return to life by possessing the body of a child, and Dana’s baby son Oscar is the one he has his eye on…

 

Ghostbusters II is a very safe sequel and is just the original film over again. Now I have to confess that I saw Ghostbusters II first so whilst I know that many people didn’t like it much, I actually do. I like the cast, I like the story, and I think this film’s version of Ecto-1 looks really cool.

 

However, I can see why people were disappointed by it when it came out.

 

Unfortunately fans are fickle things, on the one hand fans want something new, entirely fresh and original in a sequel, however stray too far from the established events and everyone throws their toys out of the pram.

 

In the film Highlander, immortals battle one another throughout the centuries until one finally stands victorious winning the “Prize”. In Highlander 2 (the original cut anyway), it turns out that all of the immortals are aliens that are mortal on their own world but immortal on Earth as long as there are others of their kind. Connor (the protagonist of the first film) is aging after winning the Prize in Highlander but then others of his kind arrive, he kills one restoring his youth and immortality. There was also a plot regarding an energy shield that was around the Earth, and the story was set in the future, whereas the majority of the original was seen in the past. One of my skin sacks friends is a big Highlander fan and apparently the second film was heavily re-cut and edited to remove any mention of the immortals being aliens. It has also been widely regarded as a non-canon story that everyone just kind-of forgets about. Subsequent Highlander sequels basically just redo the events of the first film over and over again

 

So venture too far and everyone criticises, do the same and everyone criticises.

 

Despite its mixed reviews, Ghostbusters II still managed to be the 9th highest grossing film of 1989.

 

A third Ghostbusters film was not beyond the realms of possibility, I mean these days popular films spawning trilogies is almost the norm (usually with the films declining in quality as they go). John Wick, The Matrix, Beverly Hills Cop, and Rush Hour are just a few examples I can think of off the top of my head. However, Bill Murray apparently did not want to return to reprise the role of Peter Venkman in a subsequent sequel because he was disappointed with how Ghostbusters II turned out with the special effects taking over from the actors themselves. Dan Akroyd wrote a script in 1999, and the cast considered that Murray would be replaced by Ben Stiller. The film couldn’t get the funding so was shelved. In 2014 Harold Ramis passed away and with him Ivan Reitman decided to abandon the project leading to the third film being indefinitely cancelled.

 

It seemed therefore that the Ghostbusters franchise had run out of steam, and the final swan song was the 2009 Ghostbusters The Video Game which reunited all of the principal cast. It was a good game and there is a full review of it in the TAC Reviews...Games in the section of this website. It was also considered by many to be the unofficial Ghostbusters III as the Rookie (the character you play as) leaves at the end to establish another Ghostbusters in another city.

 

However, as we all know there is no intellectual property that cannot be dredged up in order to ring a few more pence out of people, and so instead of a sequel, a reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise was released in 2016 with an all female group of Ghostbusters.

 

Like I said, the reboot was bad, so very, very bad...but why was it so bad??

 

The film opens with a tour guide showing people around a supposed haunted house, the tour goes well but an actual ghost appears. Meanwhile Kirsten Wiig (I cannot remember her character’s name and cannot be bothered to look it up) learns that a book she wrote with Melissa McCarthy’s character Abbie (I only remember that because that is Abbie’s name) about the existence of ghosts is being sold on Amazon without her permission. She goes to visit her former colleague and discovers that she is still working on proving ghosts exist with her assistant...a Spengler-wanna-be (again can’t be asked to look up her name). They are told about the encounter the tour guide had and venture to the house to investigate the sighting. They encounter a ghost that vomits all over Kirsten Wiig, but they capture the incident on tape and it goes on YouTube.

 

Kirsten is fired from her job at a university so she decides to reunite with McCarthy and Spengler-Wanna-be to investigate other ghosts. A strange man seems to be using electronic devices that are in the vicinity whenever ghosts appear.

 

The three recruit a stupid but gorgeous receptionist, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as they start their business of ghost busting. They may already be too late as the strange man seems to be trying to bring an army of ghosts into New York...

 

Can you tell I wasn’t invested in the film??

 

Let me explain why this film was so bad...basically it does nothing right.

 

It wasn’t funny, the characters were not interesting, the story was lacklustre and the special effects somehow look faker than they did in the 1980s. I have seen Kirsten Wiig in both serious and comedy roles before and I consider her to be a decent actress, but here she is completely and utterly wasted. As for the rest of the cast Chris Hemsworth was the only one who got a couple of smiles out of me during the film, he is thick as a brick but manages to get out a few good lines. I am pretty sure though that he is using maybe 10% of his acting talent because he knows that the film is going to be crap so knows there is no need to give it his all.

 

Plus I have absolutely no idea why Melissa McCarthy is a Hollywood star because as far as I can see, she is not a good actress, she isn’t funny, she isn’t charming, and is not charismatic, so why is she famous?? As far as I can see it she is basically the female version of Zack Galifianakis except he is funny, charming and is fun to watch on-screen. She has never made me laugh and I cannot understand why she keeps getting film roles when there must be far more talented people out there.

 

For a film called Ghostbusters the girls do precious little Busting of ghosts, in fact I think they only successfully trap one ghost and then release it to prove to a sceptic that it was real. For a bunch of scientists they are pretty stupid. Their ghost busting weapons are really more for show than anything else and we get plenty of painfully unfunny slapstick as they tryout their new gear. In the climax of the film the girls are set upon by a group of ghosts and they use their equipment to battle the phantoms, but they seem to use their equipment to slam them into cars and the ground seemingly knocking them out...

 

 

So they are knocking ghosts unconscious, people are generally rendered unconscious when the oxygen flow to their brain is interrupted, so explain to be Ghostbusters how are the ghosts being knocked out when they have no blood flow to the brain?? Plus the ghosts can pass through solid objects so how are they being slammed into solid objects, shouldn’t they just pass through??  

 

The girls use various weapons which look like they would be more at home in a Call of Duty game but they are definitely not at home in a Ghostbusters FILM!!!! Yes there were variations on the classic proton packs in The Video Game but they fitted with the game play. Spengler-wanna-be grabbing a pair of pistols and shooting ghosts was just stupid and was not the cool sequence as it was obviously intended to be.

 

Plus the main bad guy possesses Kevin at one point and is able to hypnotise a bunch of police and swat teams members, after the girls beat his ghost minions and step around the unconscious ghosts – yeah why are you stepping around a ghost – just walk through them. As they approach the bad guy he doesn’t use the army of humans under his control to simply tear the girls limb from limb, no instead he allows them to choose his final form...which ends up looking like the Ghostbuster’s logo...

 

 

That is just Wrong!!! Is nothing sacred in this film??? The best that the writers could come up with was to have the ghost from the Ghostbuster’s logo being the big ghost they have to fight at the end of the film.

 

Like I said the film is bad, nothing about it works, but personally the most bitter pill for me to swallow was the involvement of the original cast and the references to the previous films. Basically all of the surviving members of the original films (with the exception of Rick Moranis who retired from acting a long time ago) cameo during the film which to me feels like they are giving it their seal of approval. Each time one of them popped up I found myself crying out at the screen shouting with increasing volume “[Actor]...Noooooooo!”. Literally all of them pop up, even Harold Ramis wasn’t spared as a bust of his head appears near the beginning of the film and I wonder if he is spinning in his grave.

 

What really pissed me off about the film wasn’t the fact that it was just terrible and only Chris Hemsworth managed to make me so much as crack a smile, it was the fact that it did not need to be this way.

 

Okay, let’s think about what Ghostbusters started in 1984...it proved conclusively that there is life after death. That spirits of the deceased are capable of returning to haunt the living, so how does that fit in with religion?? If there is life after death then does this mean that certain religions are right and others are wrong?? If ancient gods exist then what else if true?? The scope of how the world could be changed in the wake of the events in that film could be immense, but let’s imagine that the reasons the Ghostbusters were discredited by the events of the second film was because tensions between religious groups almost resulted in religious wars. So, the Ghostbusters took the fall and pretended to be frauds for the sake of the wider world but then another threat arises which they have to deal with which again leads to tensions that means the Ghostbusters have to once again discredit themselves for the sake of the world.

 

Perhaps that is too dark for a comedy...

 

Okay, let’s keep things more simple...everyone knows that ghosts exist and have accepted it. As a result there is a Ghostbusters Headquarters in every major city, we have Ghostbusters: London, Ghostbusters: Hong Kong, and so on. The technology that Stanz and Spengler developed in the first two films could have been expanded on, with almost thirty years of refining and developing the proton packs and traps. We could have easily had a sequel in which the original Ghostbusters have retired and this is a new group that have taken over. The original cast could act as mentors and having them arrive in the final battle to help would have been an obvious but great thing to see. Hell the idea that Egon has passed away could have been part of a sub-plot in which Stanz is trying to find him, and perhaps his ghost could help in the final battle in some way...these are ideas that have occurred to me but imagine what this film could have been.

 

Maybe a soft reboot in which the events of the first film happened but took place in New York with the new film happening somewhere else.

 

Unfortunately we got nothing in the least bit fresh or original or even fun to watch, even bad films can be fun to watch, but this film was none of those things.

 

Is Ghostbusters 2016 a childhood killer??

 

No, it isn’t. Simply because it is perfectly acceptable to simply ignore it, and pretend that it doesn’t exist. As far as I am concerned there are only two Terminator films, there is only one Highlander movie, and that is the great thing about being self-aware you can choose what to like and what to disregard.

 

I am a big fan of both of the original Ghostbusters films and The Video Game but this new edition was absolutely terrible. Nothing about it worked, none of the jokes were funny, and the cast were mostly just bland and uninteresting. So you know what, I am just going to ignore it, therefore as far as I am concerned there are only two Ghostbusters movies.

 

Ghostbusters 2016 or Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (as I have seen the film being called) is a piece of shit. If it had not been a Ghostbusters film it would just be bad, but by trying to be a Ghostbusters film it has to be able to stand up to the other films and it cannot. It falls woefully short of what made those films so good and so much fun to watch. It is getting a solid Thumbs Down but people shouldn’t forget that Ghostbusters II was not especially well received so take my advice and ignore this reboot. This doesn’t stop people from enjoying the previous films, and calling it something that destroyed their childhood is just melodramatic which makes me think that the people who called it that had a pretty lousy childhood. I’m willing to bet people will still be talking about the original 1984 film and the 1989 sequel in years to come, but the 2016 reboot is destined to sink into obscurity to be forgotten which is what it deserves.

 

 

2/10 – Chris Hemsworth is the only reason Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t getting a 1/10. If you want my advice just pretend this film doesn’t exist and sooner or later it will end up as nothing more than a footnote in the history of failure.

 

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© Chris Sharman