Written by Adam Markiewicz
On March 3rd, Paul Feig and Sony Pictures released the first full trailer for their Ghostbusters remake. I’m not sure if it’s officially being called a “remake,” or if the studio is spinning it as a “reboot.” There was even speculation that this was a sequel, as the trailer calls back to the original with a “30 years ago” mention. On the other hand, there’s a very direct reference to The Exorcist in the trailer, which could mean we finally get that Exorcist/Ghostbusters mashup/shared universe crossover movie we’ve never dreamed of.
But now I’m getting off topic.
I’m going to be blunt right off the bat here. Ghostbusters, like Star Wars, is very special to me. Star Wars was there at my first moments of consciousness. Ghostbusters is the first movie I distinctly remember loving. I was only four years old when I saw it, and immediately became obsessed. I watched and re-watched the movie endlessly (to this day, I can pretty much quote it word for word); I watched the cartoon religiously; I had all the toys, video games, board games, coloring books, comic books, novelizations, trading cards, underoos, Ecto Coolers… I was a fanatic. I make no apologies for this, and I don’t believe any are necessary.
My old friend Pete Vandall likes to tell anyone and everyone the story about me going up in front of our first grade classroom to talk about the coffee stain on the rug as though it were ectoplasmic residue. “From a class five full roaming vapor,” I told them. It’s an embarrassing moment of my childhood I’ll never be allowed to forget, inspired by one of my all time favorite movies. My opinion is completely biased. I can’t offer any sort objective analysis when it comes to the idea of a Ghostbusters remake.
However, I’m not here to judge the film. It hasn’t even come out yet, and trailers can (and often are) incredibly misleading. And my reaction to the trailer is (obviously) going to different than how most other people react to the trailer. But there are things about this movie that irk me, and I’m honestly not sure if it’s because I’m too close to the original movie, or because they’re legitimately irksome. So let’s explore, shall we?
First off, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. They cast all women in the leads. And you know what? I don’t see the issue. I have no problem with it. For a lot of reasons. Mainly, it’s 2016. There’s no logical argument against it, and the only complaint come from immature and insecure man-baby neckbeards whining about girls ruining their stuff only because girls don’t like them. The fact that the cast is mainly women is not itself a problem. The problem was in the presentation.
As has been pointed out time and time again recently, Hollywood is not the welcoming, liberal land of equality it makes itself out to be. Unless you’re a white man, of course. And I honestly believe Paul Feig had nothing but the best intentions when casting this movie, and I wholeheartedly agree that a movie like this can and should be led by women. But I think it’s incredibly naive to think that the studio agreed. More than likely, they saw it as great marketing. Not in the traditional sense (I don’t think the word “women” is said even once in the trailer). The studio saw an opportunity. The news of an all woman cast generated discussion about the movie, it raised the visibility of the project. It became a form of free marketing.
I wasn’t at all frustrated by the idea of an all woman cast, but I was frustrated by the presentation. Had it been a matter of fact announcement – “these are the actors in the movie, here are their names, no reason at all the reference their gender or make note of the lack of non-women in the movie” – it wouldn’t have bothered me at all. Instead, it was presented like “we’re gonna cast all women. ALL WOMEN. You have a problem with that, the fact that we’re casting ALL WOMEN in this remake of a movie that originally starred ALL MEN? Does this bother you? DOES THIS BOTHER YOU?!” The studio saw a little smoke and tossed some lighter fluid onto it. They trolled everyone and got some free marketing in return.
Of course, this is speculation. I wasn’t involved in any production meetings, I don’t have any contacts at Sony, and I didn’t read any of their emails. I’m just hypothesizing based on what I know about Hollywood and human nature. What’s frustrated me about this casting, and the way it was handled, is that the initial negative reaction from misogynistic assholes was so strong that there’s become an equally strong reaction from SJWs. It has become a political statement to support the movie, to the point where it’s now impossible to tell if people are genuinely excited, or if they’re just supporting a feminist cause. And that annoys me because it means there will be people who will say they enjoy the movie because of politics, not because of any artistic merit.
So instead of demanding quality movies with central parts for women, we’re settling for anything we can get that happens to have women in the cast. That’s not solving anything, it’s not making anything equal. It’s just proving that this kind of marketing can work.
In the end, though, I like the cast. I think they’re all talented, and I’m sure they could all make an enjoyable movie. Which brings me to my second problem with this movie. It’s a remake.
Given, that’s not exactly fair. There are plenty of examples of quality remakes made by talented directors. David Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing. The only Zach Snyder movie I’ve thoroughly enjoyed was his remake of Dawn Of The Dead. A good director, with a unique vision, can bring something new to even a classic film. But we’re not in an era of newness. We’re in an era of nostalgic franchise building. And while Paul Feig is enough of a name to have some control over the movies he’s making, Sony isn’t going to gamble and let him make something really out there or different than the original Ghostbusters. They want a franchise. Especially now that they’ve lost Spider-Man. There’s been talk of an all male Ghostbusters spinoff, an eventual cross over, sequels upon sequels. Even Dan Aykroyd (who’s completely bonkers, by the way) believes Sony can make a Marvel-style shared universe out of Ghostbusters.
They’ve got the franchise, so now it’s all about nostalgia. So we get a Jurassic World trailer for Ghostbusters. Familiar imagery set to a slow rendition of the famous theme song on piano. It’s nothing new. It’s what we know. We remember this, so we’re obviously going to see it. And I think the new Ghostbusters will likely feel the same as Jurassic World. A watered down version of something we’ve already seen that’s more about call backs and references than anything new. I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But I doubt it. Much like Jurassic World, the new Ghostbusters comes several years after a disappointing sequel. It’s been proven already, thanks to the sub par Ghostbusters II, that the premise alone can’t make the movie. Simply updating the effects and switching genders for the leads won’t make the movie feel any more fresh. Something new needs to be brought to it. But why bring something new when you can just reference that part everyone liked in the original?
In the end, though, I’m a pragmatist. There’s been talk of something new involving Ghostbusters for decades now. Sequels with the original cast, sequels introducing a new cast, sequels with Bill Murray, sequels without Bill Murray. It was going to happen. It was inevitable. I’m not at all excited by the trailer, and I’m incredibly skeptical that the movie will be worthwhile. But who knows. Maybe I won’t leave the theater wishing I’d seen He-Man instead.
Adam is a comic writer and illustrator for SubHero Productions. Follow him on twitter @AdManComics