ghostbusters_4Year: 2016
Director(s): Paul Feig
Writer(s): Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
Color, 116 mins

Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat. (Source)

Amidst the overwhelming odds, the shadow of its predecessor and the hordes of bros who refuse to even give it a chance, the new Ghostbusters film is actually pretty great! The first thing I should mention, I suppose, is that I grew up watching the original religiously. I knew it back to front, it defined my childhood, and even now, it’s one of my all-time favorites. Though Paul Feig’s reboot hits a lot of the same narrative beats, it also manages to find its own voice, thanks in no small part to the film’s brilliant casting, its eye for bold visuals and a story that finds meta-subtext within its underdog origin story. Honestly, there’s no way the film could’ve been better than the original, but it doesn’t have to be – it’s a great companion piece that reminds us how fun ghost busting can be, all while introducing a younger generation to new characters that we can’t wait to see more of. 

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is awaiting tenure at Columbia University when a book she wrote (about the paranormal) is republished without her permission, threatening her reputation and everything she’s worked for. She goes to confront her co-author, a Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who has no qualms about their past and is still trying to prove the existence of the otherworldly. Before they have time to settle their dispute, Erin, Abby, and Abby’s colleague, an unhinged engineer named Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), are called to investigate a strange paranormal occurrence at a historical landmark. There, they witness indisputable proof in the form of a malevolent spirit, but realize they have a long way before anyone believes them. From there, they discover that a larger, sinister conspiracy is threatening the city. Together with a street smart, history buff named Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), the four women try to find out the truth behind NYC’s rising paranormal threat before its too late.

ghostbusters_1Whereas the original film was a look at Regan-era economics and the pitfalls of entrepreneurship, this reboot finds a more relatable anchor, that of friendship and the idea of success built on personal fulfillment, rather than reputation. Within this idea, Feig has no problem doing what he does best – creating characters we want to hang out with who are allowed to be imperfect, making mistakes but then learning from them, and more importantly, each other. As the film’s heroines work to earn the trust of an ungrateful city but are continually rebuffed and marginalized, the story finds emotion in its band of rejects who end up realizing their own self worth. Needless to say, the ideas here couldn’t be more timely, balancing supernatural absurdity with the distinct, human centerpiece of Abby and Erin’s relationship.

Visually, the film knocks it outta the park. From the high-tech gadgets, to the endless amount of ghosts on display, so much of it just pops off the screen. The first part of the story, which gets the team together, is a series of cool encounters in which they continually test and upgrade their gear. The gadgets are a neat blend of grounded, DIY science and eccentricity, mirroring the team’s no-nonsense approach to their work, while drawing out their wild peculiarities. The same care has gone into the ghosts as well, most of which wouldn’t be out of place in a Guillermo del Toro film. The ghouls here benefit from diverse designs which are arguably scary and at times poignant, despite the film’s lighter tone. The vivid, fluorescent color which accompanies each floating spectre also compliments Robert Yeoman’s moody photography, giving the film its style and preventing it from becoming redundant. In fact, the film hardly repeats itself in terms of creatures and extended action scenes, with each encounter getting bigger before ratcheting up to an unexpectedly massive showdown that gives each woman a chance to shine amidst grand spectacle.

ghostbusters_3With a story centered on character, its the ensemble has no problem investing us in the film’s personal themes. Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is a fitting way to introduce is to this new world. She’s running away from a hurtful past and a skeptic. Her natural charm gives the film some of its most emotional moments, delicately balancing overt hysterics with sincerity. As Abby Yates, Melissa McCarthy is a middle ground between the film’s absurdity and realism, relating a character who is passionate in what she believes, helping to sell the film’s conviction. Leslie Jones as the non-scientific character, Patty Tolan, isn’t quite the stereotype many thought, acting as the film’s history buff and actually filling in the team with tons of knowledge of the city. She helps to ground the film by representing its logic and an outside perspective. The real scene stealer by a large margin, however, is Kate McKinnon as engineer Jillian Holtzmann. Her character is probably the group’s most mischievous, but also brainy character, displaying a sheen of mystery and ferocity. As the film’s wildcard, she makes us believe that absolutely anything is possible, continually testing her limits and delivering a character that never truly winks, but embraces her own insanity. As their male counterpart, Chris Hemsworth’s dim-witted Kevin is a riot. Every scene he’s in is pure gold, thanks to his pitch perfect comedic timing and a seemingly endless reservoir of idiotic dialogue. 

Films are always a product of their time, and like the original, this one finds a way to mirror the societal stigma behind its heroines within a fresh, blockbuster rollercoaster. The film’s women are its biggest asset, exploring new avenues without having to recreate a former cast member’s performance, and allowing for a more singular set of problems. How the film is a sharp contrast to all the testosterone-driven films out there is also a needed respite, finding humor within a needed perspective and blending cartoonish quirks with equal sincerity. Though the film definitely does rely a little too much on its predecessor, and doesn’t have the same narrative finesse (or an interesting villain), the themes and modern spin make it as relevant as ever. Ultimately, for this lifelong Ghostbusters fan, it was a dream to see a new team up on screen again, and with the groundwork laid strong, my only hope is that we get to see these women continue to take the franchise to new heights.

SG