Thursday, July 21, 2016
The 100th Review: Ghostbusters (2016)
What else could it have been?
On October 4th, 2013, I decided to start The Critical Order on a whim as a fan of films and video games who wanted to let everyone know how much I love entertainment. Now, we're here at the 100th movie review. It almost seems kind of perfect that it's Ghostbusters because this movie is essentially a culmination of everything that I've been talking about for the past three years. About the nature of Hollywood, reboots, comedy, and the differences between good movies and bad movies.
Before I even address the movie itself, it would be unwise to talk about the movie without mentioning the lead up to Ghostbusters and the controversy surrounding it. Because Ghostbusters is a movie that cannot escape its own publicity. The trailers, the social media storm, the responses from Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, and the subpar Fallout Boy song have given this movie one hell of a negative impression. All of the buildup has been centered around one single opinion that has been deployed again and again to end any and all discussion on the movie, for better or worse; if you do not like Ghostbusters, you are sexist/misogynistic/anti-feminist.
Most of the hate surrounding Ghostbusters can be attributed to a lot of factors, but the hatred towards this movie because it stars all female Ghostbusters had been talked about to death, usually by manchildren who are saying that women "ruined a classic movie franchise". They have also said that women can't be Ghostbusters and that this movie should be hated because feminism! This has been said by a very loud minority, but it's been said so often that it can't be ignored. Hell, the movie outright addresses the fan hatred by insulting them right back to their faces. Are fans justified for thinking that this movie looked like a pile of crap by its trailers? Yes, but the reason isn't because of the Ghostbusters' gender.
The movie had a negative reaction because, well, the trailers just didn't look that good. The jokes were lukewarm at best, consisted of mostly yelling and eye rolling quips, and had downright poor special effects for a major motion picture in 2016. That's why people did not care for the movie, but because the internet is the internet, the ugliest and dumbest criticism became the most defining criticism, so many people took to their keyboards to defend the movie before it even released, saying that it was going to be good and to not judge a book by its cover. There were of course rational human beings that said to give the movie a chance and wait until it released, but a just as vocal minority about the movie came out and defended every trailer as being great and that the sexist pigs were absolutely wrong about judging a movie before it released... even though that's what these defenders were doing. Hell, even when the movie released, people were standing on the rooftops, sneering down at the commoners declaring that they always knew that the movie would be good and that they knew better than everyone else.
Everyone is wrong and everyone is stupid is what I'm trying to get at.
If we're being perfectly honest with ourselves here, out of all of the film franchises that Hollywood could have remade, Ghostbusters was probably one of the least offensive choices. Mostly because if you look at the series very closely, you'll see that it really wasn't that big of a franchise. It had two movies, one great and one okay, two cartoons, a few video games, and a drink/toy line. Even then, the franchise has laid dormant for over 20 years, so if a franchise was going to be revived to be the summer blockbuster of 2016, Ghostbusters made sense. Take a beloved dormant franchise, bring it back to life, and reap the rewards. It makes sense on paper, but people definitely began to blow it out of proportions very quickly.
So, with the movie out to okay ticket sales, hated by sexist men, beloved by arrogant snobs well before it came out (let's just face it, if you ever said the phrase "I knew it would be good all along" when talking about it, you're being kind of a douche), and with a parade of advertisements and trailers, how is the movie at the end of the day? Is it this legendary bomb that makes the world shake in awe? Is it actually a good successor to the original movie?
Short answer, yeah... yeah it's pretty bad. Not a massive disaster as we've been led up to believe, but it's by no stretch of the word good.
Ghostbusters has a lot of truly bad moments in it, but it also had the potential to actually be something moderately interesting. All of the pieces were there, but the movie just decided to ignore all of these options and took the lazy way out. Ghostbusters is lazy, plain and simple. The writing it lazy, the actors feel like they're asleep, and the special effects are half assed to the point where the 30+ year old movie looks and sounds a lot better than this multi million dollar film. And no, it's not bad because the cast is all women.
The fact that I have to say that is sad enough, but the fact that I'm still going to be called sexist or a chauvinist is even worse...
You know, let's stop for a minute and just kill this whole thread before it gets out of control and say this right now. To all of my female readers out here, please answer me honestly; did you enjoy this movie? No seriously, I don't care if you liked it or disliked it, I just genuinely want to to know if you enjoyed it. The feeling that I've gotten from several of my friends is that they have to like and support this movie or else Hollywood won't support female led action movies again. Hollywood will take the message that the movie failed because it was led by a female cast, and an all female cast won't star in a major Hollywood summer blockbuster again. It's a sad opinion to say the least, but it's true. If the movie fails, people will assume it's because of feminism. That in itself is stupid, but the fact is that if you're just telling yourself you liked it even if you didn't really like it all that much, I can tell you that there are a handful of great female led action movie that you can support instead. Lucy, Pacific Rim, and of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens are all female led action movies that are great. So you don't have to love Ghostbusters because you're afraid that that's all you'll be getting. If you still loved the movie,more power to you and I'm glad that you enjoy the film! But please, keep reading on to see why I don't like this. I swear I won't bring up any gender roles or whatever sensitive issues that Tumblr will yell at me for.
Our movie is about a former ghost hunter, Erin, played by Kristen Wiig, forming a ghost hunting business with her former best friend Abby, played by Melissa McCarthy, and two new ghost hunting recruits, Holtzman, played by Kate McKinnon, and a former NYC subway worker Patty, played by Leslie Jones. The four ladies explore the city hunting ghosts and finding strange devices planted by a man named Rowan, who wants to bring about the end of the world via ghosts and becoming pretty much a God int he process because he was bullied as a kid.
Now, stop me if you've heard this before, but I don't like Melissa McCarthy's style of comedy. I don't find her or her acting funny, and it usually comes off to me as being incredibly one note. She's eccentric when everyone else is normal, and her humor is derived from her outgoing personality. See Indentity Theif, Tammy, Spy, and The Boss. All of these films feel like she's going through the exact same motions, and Ghostbusters is the exact same. She's loud, rude, and half of her jokes just fall flat on their face or get repeated so many times that they have all of the humor sucked out of them. Plus she feels the need to do very forced improv humor which drags on for much longer than it ever needed to be. Most of the time is spent with her or Kristen Wiig, who is so forgettable that she's hardly even worth mentioning here, and Kate McKinnon is simply alright at best.
Surprisingly enough, Leslie Jones is actually fairly good in the movie. Yeah she has a few groaners, but most of her facial reactions and remarks are pretty solid as a whole. She's probably the funniest thing about this movie outside of the excellent cameos from the original 1984 cast. All of them were pretty funny, espeically Bill Murray's extended cameo and subsequent exit from the movie. It just showed that there was potential in this film with some decent decisions. So... what went wrong?
Well, it's hard to say actually. You'd be right if you said that it was because the story was clunky and made massive leaps in logic and intelligence. The villain just so happened to gain the power of a God when he died and nearly destroyed all of NYC, but had nothing happened to him in the movie to justify that huge leap in power. You'd be right if you said that all of the special effects looked lazy and made every ghost look like they were covered in the fog from Silent Hill, and you'd be right if you said that the movie had a much bigger focus on fart jokes, poop jokes, and nut jokes. But really, the script is where this movie truly failed.
A lot of things can be blamed on actors and an actor's line readings, but an actor's performance stems from a script and the base material. You could have a fantastic director and Shakespearean actors perform an emo kid's slam poetry he made when he was high, but even great actor's can't elevate garbage into art. Ghostbusters is pretty similar. I like Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig is alright, but they're taken down a ton by a script that gives them the basic tropes and have very little character development for the whole movie. In this entire movie, Leslie Jones stays the exact same, Melissa McCarthy stays the exact same, Kristen Wiig makes a bit of progress from worrying about her job to worrying about her friends, and Kate McKinnon has one terrible speech at the end that is her whole character arc for a two hour movie. Progress?
And yet, I felt sad after leaving this movie. Not because the movie had any genuinely sad moments in them, I mean this is a movie that ended by shooting a giant ghost in the nuts after all, but because this movie is the perfect representation of Hollywood today. Let's make a quick buck off of an old franchise, exploit an established fan base, and move onto another property. This is an industry that has the gall to remake Ben-Hur and The Magnificent Seven in this year alone, and that should piss people off more than it should. Classic movies are seen as disposable and no one is appreciating the history of the industry.
This past Sunday, Rory Bruer said in an interview that the success of Ghostbusters assured him that he "expect[s] Ghostbusters to become an important brand and franchise." And that right there is the problem. The original Ghostbusters is already an important brand and franchise to some. Even if you don't think that the series is a typical franchise, there is no denying that the original Ghostbusters is extremely important to film history and culture in the same way that Back to the Future is. This comment pretty much says that all of that, for good and for ill, was irrelevant and will NOW become useful to Sony. Before it wasn't important. Why were these fans getting into an uproar about an unimportant brand when this new brand is important!
And you know what, Ghostbusters is a perfect movie for our time. It's not a complete disaster, but there are enough things wrong with it for me to just shake my head at this entire project. Guys, I'm tired of reviewing movies like this. Cynical movies made only for profit without any heart, love or passion. I want to see something with care and drive behind it, that has something to say, or tell a good story, or visually stun me, or even all three of these things. It's totally possible. Fury Road did it. Guardians of the Galaxy did it. Snowpiercer did it. Gravity did it. So why can't Ghostbusters?
Ghostbusters could have been something interesting and fun to watch. Instead, we have a movie that stirred up nothing but ill will and brought out the ugliness in everyone involved. So in that case, yes. Ghostbusters is an important brand and franchise. It's a perfect example of the state of the industry, in all of its glory. Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank everyone who has ever read any of my reviews or posts. Maybe you've been here for years, or maybe you read one or two reviews while surfing the web, but still, thank you all very much for supporting me and being here for me through all of the highs and the lows. If you want, please consider donating to my Patreon, which can be found here. I'm going to take a little break now to catch my breath and watch a few movies that I want to watch for myself, but I'll be back by the end of the month, maybe early August in time for Suicide Squad. Until then, thank you all for 100 movie reviews, and here's to another 100 more.