Before this last week I had never seen a Ghostbusters film in its entirety. When I was younger I would catch parts of it here and there when it was on television but I never formally sat down and watched the films, yet it always seemed like a film I thought I would enjoy. In anticipation for the new Ghostbusters reboot that came out this past weekend, I decided to sit down and actually give the original 1984 Ghostbusters a much-deserved view. After the opening of the film I felt as if my positive expectations about the film were going to be correct. However, as the film drug on, my engagement for the film begun to drop rapidly and by the end I could not say that I cared about the characters or laughed at any of the jokes, in fact I was not entertained whatsoever. As a result my anticipations for the new 2016 Ghostbusters actually rose as I figured the general public’s fear of a reboot “ruining the franchise” was fueled by nostalgia and possible contempt for a female lead blockbuster. In fact, I think because I watched the original film and did not care so much for it, it put me in the right mindset to see the modern take on the film because, the film could not possibly be more less entertaining than its original. However, even with the most open mind and the lowest of expectations for the film, Ghostbusters is simply awful in every single way imaginable. In fact after viewing the film I had to sit and critically think if there was another film I have seen that I could possibly consider worse.
Now it does not take much analytical power to determine that the film, for lack of a harsher phrase, did not hit its mark, but for the better part of this weekend I reviewed my notes on the film to hopefully deconstruct its issues and put into terms why the film fails so miserably. To be quite honest the answer is really quite simple and speaks volumes about the present day Hollywood studio system. What I have gathered from analyzing the film is that the studio did not put in the necessary resources into the preproduction aspect of the film. While this seems like a foolish surface level statement considering Sony would not just drop 145+ million dollars into a project without doing their homework, this is exactly what happened and not only will I explain why this seems to be case but how a studio could follow this ill advised path.
First off to get you on board with this idea, you have to understand how the films pre production mishandle can lead to issues within the film. Now at the end of the day the difference between a good and bad film ultimately is subjective, while I am spending my weekend writing for Celluloid Cinema as to why the film was a mistake someone else is just as easily writing a Facebook post about their great day at the theater this weekend, yet what is not subjective is that the film falls into the comedy genre, or at the very least heavily dabbles in that department. While those of you that are familiar with my film selection may say I have a natural bias towards comedy. I actually think that it is much harder to write good comedy than good drama, which in turn is why I dislike a large percentage of comedy films. The problem that Ghostbusters makes is the same a majority of bad comedies do. The writers of the film attempt to inject the film with larger than life zany moments that feel forced because they do not spend enough time making the audience believe these are the natural actions of the characters and not some forced act. When the writers do not take the time to actually ground the characters in a real setting and make their antics organic, then the films comedy losses much of its value. As mentioned earlier, making this comedy feel organic is very difficult to do and the only real way to make it work is to spend extra time on the screenplay during pre production making sure that every part of your story contributes to making the comedy feel real. In the case of Ghostbusters, the studio did not spend any time it appears in solving these issues and as a result feels like a forgettable, elongated SNL sketch. If you do not agree that the film is a comedy then let’s explore the issues with the action-adventure genre that it could also fit into.
One of the usual elements that you will find in a good action-adventure film is that in some way you can sympathize with the villain and understand his motivations while also still realizing what is at stakes for the heroes if they let the villains plans be carried out. Unfortunately, Ghostbusters is desperately lacking both. If someone were to give a brief summary of the villain in the film they would say he is someone that was bullied and wants to get revenge on the world. This sounds great and is enough to get someone interested in the character and possibly may get him or her to see the film and understand the character a little bit more. Now the issue with this in Ghostbusters is that is actually all the character is, that one sentence summary of the villain in Ghostbusters is really all that you need to understand this villain there is no further information the writers deemed important to throw in about this guy. He was bullied so he is angry. This lack of character exposition just shows that the writers had no intentions for the audience to sympathize with this character at all. One could argue that that is ok because they film is ultimately the struggle between good and evil and should not relate to the bad guy because he simply is bad. For the sake of argument, we will go with this reading of the film and instead let’s focus on what exactly is the evil in this good versus evil scenario. Unfortunately the writers also forgot to make that part clear to the audience. Instead, the audience is left to believe that the evil was some combination of everyone becoming ghosts because of other ghosts were released in order to make society like it was in 1910 before World War I ruined people. After really sitting back and trying to piece together the film, I was really left wondering if the film was revised in any way or if Sony decided to shoot the first draft of the film.
At this point, I have really only covered the story issues that the film has, and to really understand how ill put together the film is, we would also have to go over how horribly the cast meshed together, the cartoonish CGI, and rampant editing errors. But let’s just cut to the chase and talk about why Sony thought this would be an acceptable film to put out. There is no way that a film of scale and budget could be so improperly handled unless Sony was banking on the political ramifications of the film for it to be successful and to be fair it almost worked. From the initial announcement of the female lead Ghostbusters; the actual quality of the film was never what dominated the press surrounding the film. Every mention of the film in the media was in regards to the gender issues surrounded it. I believe that the executives at Sony knew this would be the case when they were deciding on moving forward with the project and realized that if they made the films marketing campaign about creating blockbuster films with female leads they would be able to manufacture support under the pretense that if you do not support this film, any chances of female lead blockbusters would die with the film. When in fact, the argument of whether or not female lead films can make money has already been decided years ago. Over the last five years films such as Frozen, Bridesmaids, Lucy, Maleficent, Hunger Games, and most recently the highest grossing film of all time The Force Awakens were all lead by female characters and became huge financial hits while also receiving critical acclaim. This shows that Sony never planned to make a good female lead Ghostbusters film, and instead their goal was to force out a quick ill made film and still be able make money on it by masking it as the key for female lead films to be made.
In any regards to what you believe Sony’s thoughts were when making the film, ultimately they failed to make even a halfway decent film. No matter how hard you try to defend some issue within the film eight other mistakes can be found in the same scene. If Sony really thought that they were putting out a winner with this film then it’s time to clean house and get some new filmmakers. As a result, Ghostbusters is receives 1 out of 5 Reels from Celluloid Cinema.
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