Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Ghostbusters (2016).

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The hate for this movie coming out is unlike anything I have ever seen for any movie franchise ever. This hate came from people calling themselves fans of the original and the cartoons. I admit, when I first saw some of the designs and such, I had extreme reservations. I believe I may have also said some pretty dry things about not looking forward to it but as time went on and we saw more, I started to understand the threads of the film, of the story that was being woven.

Growing up, I had two favorite cartoons and movies; ask my parents. Batman the Animated Series and Tim Burton’s excellent Batman movies and Ghostbusters and anything related therein. I even watched a few episodes of the unrelated 1970s live action show but to me, the Ghostbusters have always been the Boys in Grey (plus Janine. She was always a Ghostbuster to me and always will be). I had the toys. I watched the episodes until my mom probably was drove crazy and one Christmas (the best ever), my sister and I both got Proton Packs, traps and PKE meters. I’m telling you, we played with those toys more than anything else we ever had.

As I got older, I began to appreciate all the mature jokes and cerebral real world mythology that the cartoons and film pulled from and I realized that Ghostbusters, the cartoons especially, were not intended for kids. They were simply animated. Some of the episodes posed difficult questions about what it means to be alive or if we should fear death, others explored deep character arcs that proved to be incredibly poignant and made them three-dimensional people. We got stories that took us to the Other Side (even one where we went to Hell itself!) and others where we saw the Boys in Grey lay everything on the line and were ready to give their lives to save the world from mass destruction. If it weren’t for the humor, Ghostbusters would be sci-fi horror and there is no doubt in my mind without the jokes, the movies and the shows (especially Extreme Ghostbusters) would be downright terrifying. Monsters that rip your eyes out for looking at it? Yup. Hellraiser like demons invoked through the act of writing that came to our world, taking innocent people and cutting them up and twisting their bodies into living monsters? Yup. Historical figures that come back to right a real life wrong so that they can finally rest in peace? More than once. Casey Jones and the OK Corral shoot out ring a bell? How about the genius way the stories and technobabble was written? Again, the originals were lightning in a bottle.

Through the years, the Ghostbusters canon has existed in some form or another, from Marvel comics to the short-lived 88MPH studios run to the current (and still on going) IDW Ghostbusters series which is currently continuing the canon that the first two original movies and the realistic video game left off, leading to a wonderfully deep expanded universe that rivals Star Trek and Star Wars.

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That said, I believe it is at the the heart of why so much hate was leveled at this movie. People were upset, understandably so. The words “remake” and “reboot” are probably the two most hated terms in Hollywood today and these remakes hardly ever come close to being good with the exception of the Star Trek films and there is a heated debate about them as well (I love them personally and look forward to more…I even fly a Kelvin Timeline T6 Heavy Command Constitution cruiser in Star Trek: Online as my main character’s ship, the U.S.S. Endurance). I was even more worried when I saw the casting, especially that of Melissa McCarthy. I did not know who any of these women were (and no, I do not care that the cast is made up of women. Why should that even matter? We never once questioned four dudes). I had never seen any of their previous work except McCarthy, who through my experience was mostly used in comedies for her slapstick and while she was very funny, I couldn’t picture her as a scientist, not even a quirky one like Ray.

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Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy)

The pictures leaked of the gear and I saw the proton pack, the trap and the PKE meters and especially the new ECTO-1. I saw small hints of the different canons of Ghostbusters history in them. Hints and throw backs to Extreme Ghostbusters, the animated series and even to the video game and IDW series. I saw that while most of the people were hating on it claimed to be fans, that they were so busy hating it and spewing racist, sexist junk that they never stopped to see what was happening. There was a deep respect for the roots of the story they were trying to tell and it was not apparent from the trailers (which do not do it justice).

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Old vs new 

So I went and saw it yesterday and I finally let go of my expectations, wishful thinking and projected ideas. Please understand, I KNOW Ghostbusters. I know the characters, their histories, the lore. I wrote pages and pages of the Ghostbusters Fans Wiki, from mythology to technology. I can tell you how a proton pack works, I can describe to you ever class of spirit in the fictional Tobin’s Spirit Guide. I’ve written two full length Ghostbusters novellas, “Mutes” in which the Ghostbusters are called to Utah to help a rancher and his family under siege from what appear to be UFOs mutilating his cattle but are actually harbingers to something far worse and “Iconography”, the sequel to “Mutes” in which a rich collector steals an ancient statuette, unleashing a hellish curse on himself leaving Kylie and Bryan (the Rookie’s official name from the video game) to Deal with the mess while the other four Ghostbusters head to a paranormal conference and meet old faces, friends and foe alike but not all is going to be smooth sailing as there is something at the conference that is entirely unearthly.

“Mutes” and “Iconography” were part of a three-story series set in the IDW Ghostbusters universe with smatterings of the Real Ghostbusters tossed in. The third story was called “Hunger Strike” and it involved a wendigo getting set loose in Manhattan. Still working on that one by the way…the point is, I KNOW Ghostbusters. I had to, both as a fan and a writer.

From the moment the film opened and I saw what the story line was, I was IN. Without giving spoilers, its unique. Its not a remake of the first Ghostbusters film. Yes it shares threads but that’s it. Its its own unique tale and while the trailer did not do it justice, believe me, the jokes make much more sense in context with the full scenes and there are some genuinely creepy moments that the jokes do not make less creepy because they are so well done (case in point, the entire opening sequence and the ghost in the subway….he was definitely a 10+ on the creep-0-meter).

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The gear itself evolves; we get to see it built from the floor up, see the effort it took and the history that made it all possible from the work of Abby and Erin. While my favorite character is Holtzmann (the brilliant if not slightly off her rocker nuclear engineer, inspired by my friend Alexandra Holzer who consulted on the film whose father in turn inspired Dan Akroyd, hence her name, HOLZmann), Abby (McCarthy) and Erin (Wiig) truly have an interesting arc through out the film that, especially after reading the novel, makes many of the scenes between them almost sad and yet you can see them re-bonding (sorry, no spoilers) throughout the film and its a gradual slow arc that pays off nicely in the final fight. Leslie, who plays Patty, is just as phenomenal.

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While the other three have the brain in regards to science, Patty’s talents lay towards research and history (much liker OGB counter part, Dr. Winston Zeddemore who started out as former Marine and electronic warfare expert and construction worker and became a doctor of Egyptology and History, though whether Patty follows in his footsteps is to be seen and if she doesn’t, I love her how she is!).

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Kevin…where to start with Kevin. He is not a Janine by any means. Janine was an expert and the office quickly fell into chaos without her and her bite and attitude more than once kept jerks in line, human or otherwise. She even hit on a demon-god, before blasting him into the next world. Kevin is sweet but stupid. To be blunt, there is no other way to stay it but he’s got little quirks and much like Abby (while the others find him annoying–she does too–), its good to give Kevin a chance because his dimwitted self does actually grow on you like I said and in the end, he proves that he’s willing to improve and might yet be the one thing that stands between mass hysteria and…well…more mass hysteria.

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Slimer’s cameo is well done and isn’t overly hammy; it perfectly fits his origin and character to show up when and how he did PLUS his behavior is exactly like his video game counter part: not sweet and gushy like a puppy but not overtly malevolent, just incredibly mischievous and at one point, kind of creepy which is how Slimer should always be.

The villain is NOT the subway ghost (though he looks the part) and the villain is interesting, much like Peter MacNicol before him but not as outlandish. MacNicol’s Poha was never evil, he just became a pawn. This film’s villain, when you look at the clues and the things he does and says, his behavior projects exactly what he is: a broken, utterly destroyed human being who is very angry and is willing to cause millions of people to die, suffering as they do and then prolong their agony as long as he can. He’s got a score to settle with humanity and it reminds us that “it’s always the quiet ones” isn’t always funny.

The effects are great, the mythology is kept intact, the equipment’s design it turns out was inspired by real world particle physics and the production company had scientists come in and advise on the construction of the packs and the science behind them and scarily enough, the science is legit. It could be done, given enough work and effort to build working packs. All the equations you see on the white board are real physics equations. The novelization is worth a read too; it expands greatly on the relationship between Abby and Erin as well as gives insight into Patty and Holzmann. There is a scene in the film in which Erin describes what got her interested in Ghostbusting and the paranormal and while I was watching it, I kept waiting for someone to crack a joke or say something funny.

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They never did. It was a serious moment, and it was one the more poignant moments in the franchise history since we finally got to see what motivated a Ghostbuster to do what they do and much like Egon in the animated series, her experience is a truly terrifying one that gets fully explained in the books and I realized that while Holtzmann was my favorite to watch, Erin came in second because of the depth of her character and what she had gone through, having gone through similar experiences myself which also led to my study of the paranormal. The scene where the soon to be Ghostbusters come to investigate the haunted mansion from the opening sequence and the guys just throw the keys on the ground and say “Nope. Not going. You have fun. It’s all yours.” got to me as well; I’ve had that same experience from a client who contacted my team years ago for help with strange things going on in their house. The client literally handed us the keys and left. He was scared out of his mind and the opening ghost is no Eleanor Twitty, a sweet gentle librarian guarding her stacks….definitely not.

All told, once I let go of my expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised, not only by the writing, the story itself, the effects, the depth of respect that was put forth into the film but especially by all the actors and I’ll say MOST IMPRESSED by Melissa McCarthy. She did not play the hammy slapstick laugh factory for a change. She wasn’t a walking joke but rather a fairly normal human being with a sensor of humor that did not overpower her humanity. I actually bought that she was a scientist.

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Just like the final fight, Ghostbusters (2016) is a blast and if you are a fan, go see it. You WILL like it. All the original cast cameos are wonderful, especially Bill Murray’s (naturally) and Harold Ramis even has TWO, though the first is a bit of a hit in the feels. Ernie and Annie are superb and Sigourney, wow. Just those brief moments were pure GOLD. Morranis would have made it complete but as it stands, Ghostbusters is a helluva good time. Go see it. Enjoy it. I sure did!

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PS

That post credits scene was perfect and sets up sequels!!

— Anthony Justus.

More about the science behind “Ghostbusters”: http://nationalengineeringforum.com/ghosts-get-real-qa-with-ghostbusters-technical-advisor-james-maxwell/#.V6ZYTjsrKhd

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About Anthony Justus

Paranormal investigator, writer, seeker of knowledge and truth in all its forms, dark and light. Nothing is what it seems; there is nothing so strange as truth and truth is elusive as the shadow cast in the deepest night.
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