As is so often the case, all of your hate, all of your vitriol, all of your scream-until-red-in-the-face nonsense was warrantless. You can cease with the furtive handwringing and you can take arguments about the supposed sanctity of the Murray/Ramis/Aykroyd/Hudson original and shove it back in the dark recesses of your psyche. You’ll need it no longer. Ghostbusters, praise the gods, is awesome. In fact, it’s the best movie of the summer so far.
Your gasps of surprise and cries of, “Impossible!” are almost audible to me as I write this. Ghostbusters was the most hated movie ever months before it was released; its trailer holds the distinction of being the most downvoted video in YouTube’s history; it was supposed to be a dumpster fire of such epic proportions that its existence was an affront to all we hold dear as a culture. Even the most drastic display of hyperbolic bombast ceases to hold water in the wake of Paul Feig’s all-female remake. Not only does it not ruin the original, in many ways it even improves upon it.
As counterintuitive as that might feel—after all, the original is held in high regard even now, over three decades since its debut—it’s the god’s honest truth. Ghostbusters works not merely as a reboot or reimagining, it works in its own right. In fact, at times its reverence to its forebear plays against it, even as it works tirelessly to ensure that it remains its own thing, entirely separate from the original universe.
That fact will no doubt remain a problem for some. There will be a certain percentage of the population so entrenched in their preconceptions that nothing I can say will ever convince them that Ghostbusters is a film of any worth. Its existence outside the world of the original film will be an insurmountable obstacle for many moviegoers, but in the end that’s their loss. In the absence of a proper sequel to the original two movies, this is as fine a substitute as we could have hoped for, and the result is a movie that offers the best of what Ghostbusters ever had to offer.
Like the original film, Ghostbusters brings four archety—er, characters—together to bust ghosts in the name of science. There’s the wacky true believer in Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), her skeptical former partner Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), the technical wunderkind Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), and the streetwise everyperson Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Faced with a series of hauntings across New York City, the four stumble upon an insidious plot to hasten the apocalypse by destroying the barriers between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Now, it’s up to them to stop the plans and save the world using the power of science.
It would be easy to create direct analogues between these characters and the original team; in fact, they’re meant to, up to a point. However, the similarities between the old and the new are at best superficial, designed to ease us into the transition. Once in place, the ladies of Ghostbusters become their own women, reliant on only themselves, and quickly becoming characters that stand on their own legs without the support of our previous notions.
The divide between the old and the new is the inertia that keeps the movie chugging along. There’s a familiar childlike glee that comes from seeing the remnants of ectoplasmic residue, from hearing the distinctive sounds of proton packs warming up, from watching the streams shoot out at the phantasmagoric specters that float and haunt the streets of the big city. It’s everything you ever loved about Ghostbusters, presented in a new way.
There are hints of an almost postmodern awareness of itself littered throughout the script; while never quite reaching the point of meta, the screenplay by Kate Dippold and Feig offers more than its share of subtle nods and winks towards both its progenitor and the controversy surrounding itself. It’s difficult not to giggle at scenes decrying internet comment sections or at the visual and verbal callbacks to the original movie. When the script isn’t trying to ease you into the transition, it still manages to be a smart and hilarious work that’s full of dry wit and, most importantly, charm.
It’s all elevated by the chemistry between its cast, who themselves know they’ve got big jumpsuits to fill. Fill them they do, however, and the result is magical. The ladies of Ghostbusters do a fantastic job at creating new characters from the familiar archetypes, and never stand in the shadows of the original team so much as they extend their reach. McKinnon, in particular, is the standout as Holtzman. She’s got an irreverent, almost punk rock vibe that consistently provides the funniest, most charming moments of the film.
But like the original, Ghostbusters is nothing if not a team effort. No one star emerges amidst the ghostly chaos, save for the team itself. Each member of the new Ghostbusters team is an indispensable, load bearing part of a greater whole, and the actresses work together to finesse the alternating tensions between horror and comedy. Even Chris Hemsworth proves invaluable in his role as Kevin, the hapless secretary hired more for his looks than his abilities.
Prerelease haters can take some measure of comfort in the knowledge that things get a bit weird as the film draws towards its conclusion. As climax trucks onward, the film tends to toe the line between the acceptable and the ridiculous, though blessedly things never get too off the rails. Some may have a hard time accepting some of the sillier moments from the third act, but at no point do the movie’s bad qualities ever come close to outweighing the good.
No, even in its worst moments Ghostbusters is, if nothing else, better than Ghostbusters 2. When at its best Ghostbusters often surpasses the original. Is that bold and hyperbolic? Perhaps. But it also happens to be true. It also happens to be the finest female-led comedy of at least a decade and one of the funniest comedies period of the last few years. There’s plenty to love about Ghostbusters if you let yourself. At the very least, even if your takeaway is, “Meh, that was okay I guess,” it’s still hard to deny that it’s the most “Ghostbusters-y” movie you’ve seen in a quarter century, which in itself is a win.
Feig and company have created something truly special with their supposedly ill-advised reboot. Ghostbusters represents exactly what reboots and remakes should strive for in their conceptions. It stays true to the heart of the original while presenting the familiar in new, bold ways. Maybe it’s not the Ghostbusters you wanted, but that never stops them from delivering delight after delight in this amazing summer popcorn movie.
Ghostbusters is now playing in theaters everywhere.