The Ghostbusters reboot has received a lot of hate over the course of its pre-showing promotion. Complaints ranged from petty and absurd (some would even say sexist or mysoginistic) to “Yeah, they’ve got a point” valid. But guess which end of the spectrum was amplified through the portals of the internet hate machine. It also didn’t help that Columbia Pictures released the least helpful trailer in all of humankind.
However, it’s safe to say the the final result spoke for itself. Despite all the online vitriol from nitpicky fanboys, Ghostbusters did what it was set out to do.
The story was not that much different from the 1984 movie: it’s about a group of scientists who are studying the paranormal, but have always been shunned by their colleagues and society in general; labelled as loons for even thinking that ghosts exist.
Of course, we all know that this will all lead to a climactic redemption wherein they have the opportunity to say “we told you so” but they choose not too and just continue on with their work.
We’ve seen this message conveyed a thousand times in other stories, a ragtag group becoming heroes at the end: Seven Samurai, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and countless others. But what sets Ghostbusters apart was its relentless pursuit of humor throughout the entire story.
The movie was pretty much a comedy clinic that showed so many forms of humor in its scenes: dialogue that ranges from irreverent, to witty, to non-sequitur; sight and sound gags that involve easter eggs and cameos; slapstick hijinks that went as far as ill-timed backhanding, slipping on a banana peel (or in this case ectoplasm), and groin shots; and everything else that they could fit in the proverbial containment unit. If there’s fun to be had in a scene, they’d do it. And with a cast of comedy veterans like Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones (each of whom have their own comedic styles) there’s plenty of laughs to go around for everyone.
The movie’s sense of humor meant that it also had a penchant to pull the rug out from under the audience. It was aware when certain tropes were present and would often flip the script to give the audience something unexpected. Best example of this is when the Ghostbusters finally caught a ghost in broad view of the public after being shamed and ridiculed. One would expect a montage of ghost-trapping heroics to follow, but something else completely takes over.
The visual styling of Ghostbusters was also top-notch, appropriate, and grounded. Sure they went all out with the CG on the spectres and proton streams (it’s pretty much the Hollywood blockbuster standard anyway), but it’s hard to not appreciate the subltle details as well. The design of the equipment was not out of place in the modern day New York setting; it looks very industrial with unpolished scrapmetal, plumbing implements, and rubber tubing. It really showed how the under-funded Ghostbusters were making do with what they can salvage to keep up their operations. Their uniforms look unkempt and ill-fitting to convey the same. Through these little details alone, they were portrayed as underdogs, misfits, and, to a certain extent, unclean, which helps the audience root for them as they struggled.
The theme of being a social pariah was constant throughout the entire movie, especially among its characters. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) was a brilliant engineer but felt that she never had family until she joined the team; Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) was a subway employee who was stuck in her thankless job and was just looking to be able to express and utilize her passion and knowledge of New York City; Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) was a scientist who was only looking for acceptance in the scientific community for her research in the paranormal; and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) was pretty much like Abby but gave up on her passion to pursue a more “normal” career due to social pressure. In one exposition scene, Gilbert told the story of how she saw a ghost when she was eight years old. She told everyone in the neighborhood but nobody believed her, and she was branded “Ghost Girl”. While she had Abby who believed her, societal pressure still forced her to comply and focus more on physics rather than her passion for paranormal research. But, of course, we all know that she eventually threw that out the window and did what she had to do.
In way, the story of these women, these “Ghost Girls”, are parallel to what the movie went through. Not many believed that it would work. Many even said that it shouldn’t have existed; that it was unnecessary; a mere novelty; a rule 63 fanfic. But, at the end of the day, we’re glad that it existed and it gave us something: It introduced the franchise to a newer audience in a funny, entertaining, and memorable way, and gave reverent nods and shout-outs to the original films; enough to give older fans goosebumps.
P.S. Please stay until after the credits for more goosepimply goodness.