Sunday 1 February 2015

We're Ready to Believe You

People are asking me my opinion on the new Ghostbusters. In short, I'm all for it. I've been championing a reboot of the franchise for some time now, although I had thought a TV series was the way to go, considering the perpetual stalling of the film production. Look, I realise this is probably sacrilege to fans, but the simple truth is: Ghostbusters is old. The original cast are old (or dead). Yes, there's the potential for a handover film, with the original 'busters passing the torch to a new generation, and it would be wonderful to see them back in character. But that constrains the story to fitting with the continuity of the original films. I realise there isn't a great deal of continuity to worry about, but by making the third film an actual sequel the story has to accept that ghostbusting is something that already exists.

Right, so back in 1997 when Extreme Ghostbusters came out, it was, refreshingly, a sequel to The Real Ghostbusters rather than a reboot. And this was wonderful, tying everything together and allowing the original characters to be involved (Egon and Janine as regulars, the other three boys as guests in the finale). One thing I couldn't get over though is that, at the beginning, no one believes in ghosts, they think the Ghostbusters are fakes and con men and the new recruits have to be convinced of the truth of the matter. It's not too different in Ghostbusters II, where the business went bankrupt and everyone thinks the boys are "full of crap." It's important when releasing the first Ghostbusters film almost thirty years that the concept can be reintroduced. We need to start from first principles, with new characters being convinced of the existence of ghosts and other dimensions, in order to sell the concept to kids who have never seen the original. None of that makes a great deal of sense when the original 'busters saved the world from a fifty-foot homonculus made from marshmallow.

And while I'd be as pleased as the next fan to see Aykroyd, Murray and Hudson reappear, the truth of the matter is that their original characters don't have much place in a new version. We've spent years waiting for Ghostbusters III, Ghostbusters in Hell or whatever other treatments to get the green light that we've forgotten what made the original so much fun. It was well-written, well-performed characters in a funny script packed with new ideas. And look, this isn't Star Wars; the original isn't going anywhere. All you guys saying that the new movie is "destroying your childhoods" are being idiots. If you don't like the new movie, fine. Stick your blu-ray of the original on and enjoy it. No one's stopping you.

Other objections are just as absurd. "Reboots don't work." OK, so you prefer the 1943 Batman movie over the 1989 one? Casino Royale wasn't a good Bond film? It's true, there are too many remakes around right now and too few new properties, but it's not as if a full sequel would be addressing that balance any better, and for every shitty remake there's a successful new version.

Most aggravating is the rampant misogyny that has been unleashed against the new cast. It's a simple truth that if a film or show has an all male cast no one bats an eyelid. Release something with an all female cast, and people decry it as a gimmick, or political correctness. It's also nothing like, to cite a commonly thrown about example, remaking Sex and the City with male leads. Women remain criminally underrepresented in film and comedy alike, and while things have slowly improved, there's still a long way to go. There are characters who can't withstand a gender swap, where being male or female is intrinsic to their persona. Many, however, can be changed with little difference to the story. In this case, rather than remaking the film with female version of Egon, Ray, Winston and Pete, we have a new version with what sounds like similar characters that happen to be female. Played by four women with a pedigree in comedy films and television, just like the guys in the original.

I can't wait.

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