The Ghostbusters franchise is getting something that few do: a reboot of an unsuccessful reboot.
Usually when a franchise has a dud reboot, the attitude from the suits is either that the IP is poisonous and nobody wants to see it, or that they just need to wait awhile before making another bad reboot. They most definitely don’t listen to fans, who are considered the bane of entertainment companies – creators and companies will not only give the fans stuff they hate, but will insult them for not liking it.
But after the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot embarrassingly failed to bring in audiences – partly on the back of an obnoxious “if you don’t like this, you’re sexist” campaign – something unusual happened. Sony actually listened. They announced a new sequel to the original Ghostbusters movie, directed by the son of the original movie’s director, with the three surviving Ghostbusters returning (and Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts).
What immediately made people happy was that… this is the kind of movie that fans had been screaming for for years – the classic Ghostbusters passing the torch to a new generation, and suitable respect being paid to the original.
And despite some retreading of familiar territory (demon dogs and Staypuft marshmallow men), respect and passing the torch is what the trailers are all about. We see familiar sights such as Ecto-1 and the PK-meter, and there’s a thrill to seeing them resurrected in a modern movie. There are even brief glimpses of a collection of spores, molds and fungus, showing that even throwaway gags from the original movie are being taken into consideration here.
They even found a way to make Egon Spengler central to the story, even though Harold Ramis sadly died some years ago. While Egon has passed on in the Ghostbusters universe, his work and legacy are clearly very important to the story, and his family members are central to the action. It feels like he’s still playing a part in the story.
And despite Leslie Jones’ howling about how the new Ghostbusters would all be men, it looks like it will be an even split between boys and girls. The kid most prominently displayed in the trailers is a young girl who looks like a female clone of Egon, and seems to act like one as well. This is pretty pleasant – there was a nasty undercurrent of “go feminism, down with stupid men!” to the 2016 reboot that extended to both the marketing and the script, so it’s nice to see some actual equality and the inclusion of female characters without the exclusion of males.
It even has greater racial diversity, since it looks like there will be an Asian kid in the mix as well as a black one, which also means they aren’t just making new versions of the same characters.
It also has something the 2016 version didn’t really have much of – innovation. That movie provided some proton-pack variations of weapons, but none of them felt like anything but supernatural pistols. But the trailers for this movie show the kids doing some new stuff – specifically a chase scene in the Ecto-1 where Phoebe pops out of the side on a seat, allowing her to fire a proton pack while the vehicle is moving. At the same time, there’s a trap with newly-installed remote-controlled wheels that allows it to move independently.
That’s fresh! That’s new! The 2016 movie tried to dazzle us with giant slabs of incomprehensible technobabble about the tech from the original movie, which drained all the life from the already-bad dialogue and just highlighted how inferior it was as a film. This new movie shows us the innovations being made to existing technology, and it feels natural and organic.
Then again, Ghostbusters 2016 didn’t bring a lot to the table, except a “villain is an incel” plot twist that nobody liked. It’s one of those reboots that really highlights how good the original one was. Okay, the original Ghostbusters wasn’t high art or anything, but it was tightly-plotted, clever, witty and creative. The reboot was a disaster, a mess of bad improv, a flabby incoherent script, stupid lowbrow jokes, sexism and a quartet of howling hammy harpies at its center.
Two words: Melissa McCarthy.
It also lacked scares. Though the original Ghostbusters was and is regarded as a comedy, it’s actually pretty much a horror movie with some genuinely impressive, suspenseful scenes devoid of laughs. Ghostbusters 2016 not only is not scary, but it doesn’t realize that a funny movie doesn’t have to be funny ALL THE TIME and can take itself seriously.
In short, the original was a serious movie that just happens to have a lot of comedic dialogue.
It’s hard to tell just from the trailer what the tone of the new movie will be; it seems a bit more somber, which admittedly is more a typical supernatural-movie/TV atmosphere in the 21st century. It will have some humor in it from what I’ve seen, mostly of the dry Venkman variety. I do like that it seems to be taking the whole storyline seriously as a supernatural thriller rather than just going “yuk yuk, the villain is an incel nerd troll! Let’s shoot him in the crotch! LOL! Fart jokes, dancing and screaming!”
So overall, I’d say that from what we know of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it sounds much more promising than the 2016 movie… although that admittedly wasn’t saying much, since that movie was a stillbirth of a project. At the very least, this reboot seems like it has its heart in the right place, in terms of respecting the original and the fans, and yet trying something new and different.
And I’ll be showing my support financially for Afterlife, in order to support those who treat their fans and franchises right.