Friday, May 05, 2017

Ghostbusters (2016)


Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (KateMcKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) may have not laughed their way throughout the story but it feels like they did. That’s because the 2016 Ghostbusters had the comic pacing of a sitcom or more appropriately a Saturday Night Live.

The 2016 version in fact was firing more rapidly than the original in 1984 and that’s bad for conflicts because whatever tensions can be made is diffused regularly every few minutes.

Not that there was any big conflict in the original Ghostbusters. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) despite calling himself a scientist you know was always fooling around. Peter seemed more interested in the possessed Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) than ghosts taking over New York. He was not the same as Egon (Harold Ramis) or Ray (Dan Aykroyd) who were more on the technical side. 

The normal guy trying to understand the technical guy; how many times has that worked to endearing effect? If Peter wasn’t enough then audiences can see through the eyes of Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) the new hire as he had to feel himself way through the original three. That or you can take Winston as just the token black guy.

In the 2016 Ghostbusters, with the exception of Patty, the original three of Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann are all scientists. Patty, supposedly the average woman, true blue New Yorker didn’t offer much challenge. 

The relationship of Abby and Erin was intended as a frame for the entire movie. There were even scenes that even served as bookends: the start when they were separate and the end when the two wholeheartedly reaffirmed their friendship.

When they were apart, Erin was making a name for herself in academia working on legitimate fields which mean the exclusion of the paranormal, her primary passion.  She was in denial; gave up after therapy and ridicule by society that doesn’t take ghosts seriously.

One day she was made to confront her denial after a visitor asked for expert opinion on a haunted house.  The visitor was quoting from a book that she co-authored with Abby who remained in the field of paranormal research. 

Erin confronts Abby in order to get the book under wraps but was caught in the excitement of the first apparition. They practically end each other’s sentences after that which makes the bookend at the end of the movie unnecessary.

Everyone was practically on the same wavelength firing comedy on all cylinders.  It was a joy watching them in a Saturday Night Live kind of way, but I did get the feeling for the first time that the team composition was just too neat.

Without the non-technical challenge to the scientific dynamic of the team, the paranormal terms were on overdrive and went overboard. Abby didn’t pull off the expert sounding vibe instead looks like she was saying a mouthful and stressed out about it. Holtzmann who was aiming more the weirdo engineer vibe was talking more slowly and pulled off hers. And it seems all Erin did was agree.

Chris Hemsworth stuck out like a sore god or rather a sore thumb. If he was aiming for the adorable stupid beefcake – if there is such a thing – then it was a failure. Watching Chris was an irritation because he’s not Kevin, he’s Thor. Was he in the cast to draw in the women, having conceded that they have lost the men and young boys.

Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) had her quirks but was never a bombshell. I don’t understand why Kevin needed to stick out like he did. The smart scientific bosses and the stupid receptionist dynamic didn’t work.

Another of the movie’s faults is the battle scene. Battle would be defined as two lines; one line has the heroes and the other line has the ghosts. Since Ghostbusters is aiming for the young demographic the ghosts were never lethal, and never going to be, despite expository dialogue to the contrary.

As far as I know my proton packs they are meant to function as a kind of an energy rope with ghost traps always at the ready. They never destroy, they just trap. So imagine both lines, nonlethal, charging into battle; it’s not very compelling.  

Holtzmann did make additional weapons that acted ‘lethal’ as can be for ghosts but this had limited use. But were they lethal? Even considering the science in the story how would you destroy a ghost? If you can't kill each other then the logic of battlelines are lost. The ghostbusters always fall down to traps and a containment unit.

The main foe is a downgrade from the original Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; it now looks like a man in a sheet and the bottom soles of his giant feet look like socks.

Structurally there are similarities in story structure between the 2016 Ghostbusters and the 1984 one. Having said that, I don’t see the logic of the Ghostbusters having a Men-in-Black status, being an urban legend - unsuccessfully - instead of an above ground hero.

With exception of Rick Moranis (who backed off) and Harold Ramis (who died) the original cast were present, effectively giving the movie their blessing. Can it have a sequel and a status equal to the first? Honestly I would want them to after some adjustments. Ghostbusters got me through those nights when I overthink too much in the dark. This generation should have theirs.

Ideally it really should have been a diverse group: mixed genders, different ethnicities. Going with what we already have I really love Holtzmann; the hair and those glasses. Her style of weirdness. Perfect! Patty’s size and energy are very important. But what separates Erin and Abby? There were the most boring to watch despite the paranormal jargon.

The 2016 Ghostbusters can go places if it can separate itself a little more from Saturday Night Live.