Most people can’t remember being very, very young at all. Memories are stuck inside like a library full of endless file folders, but we have trouble accessing the card catalogue to see what we can peruse from, say, twenty years ago. Me? I do remember being three and four years old. The late 1980’s were a time ruled by knee-high socks, bright pastels, big hair, and junky music. No smartphones, no laptops nor tablets. That time was much more liberating – yet, on any given Saturday morning, I was always up by 8 in the morning to flip between CBS and ABC. Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were housed on CBS later in the morning, but prior to that ABC aired The Real Ghostbusters. The cartoon was spun from the popular 1984 movie and ran for seven wildly popular seasons, spanning 147 episodes. Sure, the show was much lighter tonally and supervised in majority by the legendary J. Michael Straczynski. Toys dotted stores across the country. Hell, in my parents’ attic to this day, and I kid you all not, I still have every single one of the toys – the firehouse, the proton pack, and the action figures. I grew up an uber Ghostbusters nerd.
After all – “cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria!” Ghostbusters is one of the most quotable movies of my generation.
So imagine my disdain when, two years ago, Sony leapt at the chance to reboot the franchise. No, not put forth the third sequel that had been gestating for near a decade. Nope, a full-blown reboot. The first trailer didn’t excite. Nor the second. Then Sony had to get the original stars to start endorsing. In theory, 2016’s Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (yes – Sony had to add a subtitle after the backlash the studio received) could be the start of a very troubling trend in the film industry. We already live in the age of the reboot – but what if soon studios start rebooting franchises that are timeless? Has Hollywood lost touch with scripts regulated to the Black List that they must now fully reboot franchises fans don’t even need?
The thing is, if you look back at the history of the third sequel, you’ll find enough material that’s ripe to formulate an insightful documentary. For years Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and Dan Ackroyd attempted to craft the perfect script that would bring all four together. At every turn Bill Murray would oppose, much like he wish he had with Ghostbusters II (the sequel that he’s made fairly known was more about the ghosts and less about the cast, unlike the original movie). Ramis brought in Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stutpnitsky, who scripted Year One for Ramis after their work on The Office, to whip up a draft. Murray shot it down. Ackroyd, together with writing partner Tom Davis of Saturday Night Live, tried their hand at a draft. Their take took the team to an alternate dimension of Manhattan, called Manhellton. Again, Murray nixed the treatment.
Then, a breakthrough. Reitman, Ramis, and Ackroyd (along with Etan Cohen) scripted a draft that would show the team, now getting long in the tooth, training a more youthful team featuring Oscar (yes, from Ghostbusters II) and passing the baton. Oh, and Murray was a ghost haunting Egon, Ray, and Winston. Murray wasn’t warm on the notion but – he was open to it. And so, in 2011, Sony greenlit the movie and allowed the three men to complete their script, get Murray to agree in full to returning, and get the cast assembled. Rumors swirled we’d see Michael Cera and Jonah Hill as part of the younger cast. However, as all great stories go, it only takes one tragedy to derail a happy ending and swerve us in a new direction.
You almost have to envision a room full of Sony/Columbia executives, lit cigarettes dropping ash into half-filled ashtrays, waiting for that precise moment that we would lose Harold Ramis from our lives. The only reason up until 2014 that a remake was never brought into the conversation was because Ramis refused the idea. It was near sacrilege to take a movie that’s greatly impacted our popular culture, flip it onto its shell, and start anew. Alas, Ramis indeed did pass away and Sony quickly swept in like a crow circling a corpse, ready to strike. And strike they did, when announcing Paul Feig as the new director of Ghostbusters. Somewhere in fandom, you could hear the million screams of fans realizing what was about to happen.
Feig wanted a reboot. And I quote, “I didn’t respond to [the script]. And also I didn’t want [the new characters] to be handed the keys to the kingdom in a kingdom that had already seen these ghost attacks.”
My problem with the remake is not within the cast at all. Hell, the idea of a female-driven team is damn near perfect! I’m an avid admirer of Saturday Night Live on a weekly basis during the season. I happen to appreciate most of Melissa McCarthy’s work. (Hey, not every slugger can hit a home run at every at-bat.) Kate McKinnon is an up-and-comer with great timing. Wiig has the range to play a role straight or completely manic. And, of course, Chris Hemsworth, he’s got comedic chops aside from kicking Asgardian ass. My problem lies in pissing away not just two movies, but also seven seasons of a cartoon masterminded by Straczynski. No. Instead, Sony managed to coerce Ivan Reitman, who hasn’t had a moneymaker of any sort since the 1990’s (No Strings Attached hardly broke any ground back in 2011), to simply produce the remake. Paul Feig, who has long been the tour-de-force behind McCarthy’s rise as a comedienne, tossed out all existing scripts and ideas and decided just to remake the Holy Grail.
I could scream “Violation!” at the top of my lungs all day long, or until I turn blue in face and black out in a pile of my spittle. (The latter is likely to happen.)
Anyway, we already had the sequel in 2009, in the form of a video game published on the XBox360. Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd worked closely in the development and used their ideas to create a game that served as the third movie that the fans deserved to finally witness. (Getting Bill Murray to come back was easy too *and* Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zedemore gets the expanded role he deserved.) See for yourself.
Getting the cast to cameo in quick roles isn’t going to help polish a remake that tries to BE the original. Having Reitman go on a press tour won’t improve the movie’s image with audiences. Hell, having Ackroyd and Murray sell out by praising the movie. Getting the original cast to pop up in the reboot in new roles. See, that’s one thing I don’t think Feig, who during production became a bigger blowhard than Michael Bay or Zack Snyder, fails to realize. The original was something special. In 1984, Ramis and Ackroyd were like a volcano that couldn’t cease spewing molten lava. If either made a project, it was guaranteed gold. Their script was put on screen but largely changed due to the impeccable ad-libbing skills of the three leads. Sure, there were words on paper, but only the situations got filmed – the dialogue was improvised. And adult! These days, some of the shrewd humor would be borderline R in some circumstances.
Plus, Ghostbusters was a massive success because the film dipped its toes into different genres. At the forefront, it was largely a comedy propelled by the quick-thinking and dry delivery of Murray, the sarcasm of Ackroyd, the seriousness of Ramis, all witnessed by the ordinary Winston. Oft times, the thematic material crossed into unspeakable horror. The designs by Industrial Light and Magic, utilizing live-action props and rigged sets, as well as puppet creatures and practical effects, thrust you into the situations. I mean, I remember being a kid and leaping out of my skin when Dana is fastened to her chair by the arms ripping through the fabric. Everything in the original felt real. Nothing felt forced at all, like forcing our heads into a filled bathtub. The humor was delivered with dry delivery, the spectacle was grandiose, and you felt like you were riding along with these everyman-like characters.
Now? Ghosts completely created by CG that look boring and uninspired. Ooh, I’m really scared. I get it though. The 1984 original was more adult fare. The 1989 sequel was aimed more at children like myself watching the ABC cartoon but still retaining the quick wit that Ramis and Ackroyd initially delivered five years prior. I fully understand that Feig’s reboot is aimed at children. I’m pretty sure having those images pushed into our faces was more than enough proof for die-hard fans, as well as the million of pundits across the globe. I just don’t feel like this is all…necessary. Do you? You mean that parents who grew up during the height of the franchise in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s can’t buy the originals on home video, sit their offspring down for two hours, and pass the torch to their children all without needing a full-blown reboot? It’s bad enough most of today’s blockbusters need CG in order to put a finished product on the screen and feel like an Activision video game. Remember the build-up to the final showdown in Ghostbusters II, when the boys use the mood slime to have the Statue of Liberty casually stroll down Manhattan to fave Vigo, the Carpathian? Yeah. That sequence was a sight to see with practical effects – but to cheapen that in the modern era? That same effect would be lost.
Plus, hello! Industrial Light and Magic didn’t even lay a fingerprint on the reboot. Not even a trace of DNA. I mean, if you’re going to have a movie set in New York, at least make the city look like New York. What, you can’t even the famous landmarks that the originals held near and dear? But hey, why stand out when you’re born to fit in with every cooker cutter blockbuster these days, right?
At least I take some solace knowing that the reviews aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. (Though, reports are now swirling Sony paid for certain reviewers to give glowing endorsements. Like, River Of Slime glowing.) If you’re expecting something different, well, let me climb up my podium here, okay, the mic is on and we’re all powered up, and – THIS IS NOTHING ORIGINAL. At all. This is a movie that tries to recapture the essence of Ramis and Ackroyd’s original but doesn’t have the laughs, the heart, and certainly not the soul. I remember in the making-of featurette in the Ghostbusters II Blu-Ray that Ackroyd and Reitman both wanted to go forward in their established universe without rebooting it back to the beginning. I guess money talks and bullshit walks, amIright?
Oh, who am I to change anyone’s minds anyway? We don’t need a franchise that was so simple, so pure, so original to keep passing down through the decades untouched! People have made up their minds. Most will see it once just to compare to the original before going back to the everyday ho-hum droll of their lives, their Pokemon Go, their jobs and lives. Most times, you only catch lightning in a bottle once. You know – the movies that are wholesome and good and never age a single day, the ones that no modern CG-infused blockbuster can even light a match to at the end of the day. I hope that, at the end of this weekend, Paul Feig and producer Amy Pascal are grinning like the idiots they are. (Pascal’s name should ring a bell. She single handedly ruined the Spider-Man franchise and started the property’s journey to a deal that brought the character back to Marvel Studios.) Sure, it’ll make money this weekend. Will it have legs like the first two did over 25 years ago? I’m sure that it won’t just as sure as I know I keep adding white hairs to my chinny chin chin. The dam will burst and movies that we pass along to the next generation are all fair game. What’s next? Back To The Future?
All I have to say is – are you happy? Are you? Sometimes, sacred originals should be left the HELL alone.
If you can live with a remake that tries too hard to be like the original, knock yourselves out. I’m going to loop the originals on Blu-Ray for the next week or two or even month.
Jerrold spent his childhood in southeastern Pennsylvania ingesting far too many TV shows and movies, thus creating a stark-raving mad geek. He’s a movie aficionado, binge-watches Netflix, and is a total TV junkie. His addiction has led to an unhealthy and rabid obsession of various geek pantheons – Star Trek, Star Wars, both DC *AND* Marvel,
cult 80’s and 90’s television, Supernatural, The X-Files, Doctor Who, and, and…holy overload. He’s still waiting to run away in a 1967 Impala or a blue police box.