‘Ghostbusters’ back and still ain’t afraid of no critics

When even Donald Trump is giving out about the new ‘Ghostbusters’ film, it’s best to remember just how cartoonish and pulpy it was back in the ’80s, writes Ed Power

 

There are many curious aspects to the backlash against the new, all-female Ghostbusters, which opens in cinemas today.

The most striking, however, is the idea the original 1984 comedy-horror should be retrospectively regarded as a masterpiece. Ghostbusters was the best kind of B-movie: Cartoonish and pulpy, chiefly memorable for its zany theme tune and for giving us one of Bill Murray’s definitive performances.

But to hail it as a classic of early ’80s cinema is to miss the point of this irreverent mash-up of Saturday Night Live dead-pan and HP Lovecraft. All Ghostbusters ever wanted to be was a romp.

Yet there are, it would appear, legions of fanboys opposed to even the idea of rebooting Ghostbusters, the new version of which stars Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy with Thor’s Chris Hemsworth as their ditzy secretary.

For a sense of just how much anger is sloshing around the internet, visit YouTube, where trailers for the remake have cumulatively received in excess of 2m “dislikes” (and only several hundred thousand green thumbs).

“I’d rather watch a two-hour video of a constipated god,” fumed one commentator. “Is this supposed to be a parody of the original?” went another.

Even Donald Trump felt obliged to weigh in, citing an all-female Ghostbusters up as another example of a world where ordinary folks had nothing left to believe in. “And now they’re remaking Ghostbusters with all women,” he said last year. “What’s going on?”

‘Ghostbusters’ back and still ain’t afraid of no critics

Far from courting hardcore devotees, the producers of Ghostbusters 2.0 have pushed back hard. They have, in particular, been frank about identifying the driving force behind the backlash as fanboy sexism.

”I have been hit with some of the worst misogynistic stuff,” director Paul Feig told the New York Times. “I used to [hear] that people had haters and I was, like, ‘How does that happen?’”

Feig, the director of Bridesmaids and Knocked Up, is under few illusions about the strengths and weaknesses of the original Ghostbusters. It was a fun movie, but not a sacred text to be approached on bended knee. “I understand, if somebody was remaking The Godfather, I would be like, ‘Wait a minute’. But when everybody’s like, ‘It’s a cash grab?’ Everything ever made in Hollywood since the beginning of time is a cash grab.

“That’s why the original Ghostbusters existed. It wasn’t an altruistic thing. Studios make movies to make money, and filmmakers try to make something that will entertain an audience while trying to make money for the studio.”

On the other hand, it is undeniable that early trailers for the new Ghostbusters fell flat, with their broad jokes and often underwhelming special effects. Just as worryingly, Feig appeared determined to emphasis comedy over horror, where the original, if crammed with chuckles, was serious about its genre elements.

That film drew on writer and star Dan Aykroyd’s genuine interest in the paranormal. He had conceived of Ghostbusters — originally called Ghosts Smashers — as an epic intergalactic affair, with the heroes travelling through time and space.

‘Ghostbusters’ back and still ain’t afraid of no critics

This delicate balancing of the eerie and the wise-cracking would prove to be Ghostbusters secret sauce — the climactic sequence in which an intergalactic god was summoned from the beyond, somehow splicing Lovecraft and Woody Allen (the Ghostbusters actually faced-off against Lovecraft’s great villain, Cthulhu, in the follow-up cartoon). You wonder if Paul Feig is as well versed in early 20th century slipstream writing.

But while it is possible the new film will fall down as a hammy horror, the outrage still feels overdone. Ackroyd has given the film his blessing and will appear in cameo along with Bill Murray (because the new Ghostbusters is a reboot rather than a sequel they won’t play their original characters). Moreover, those angry that a cherished movie from their childhood is about to retroactively spoiled probably needs to reconsider their priorities.

“Normal, healthy people don’t stand outside, saying, ‘You’re ruining my childhood!’ “Melissa McCarthy said last week. “There’s one nut on every corner in every city that does it. But so what? The other 300,000 people in a town aren’t doing that.”

Ghostbusters is in cinemas from today

 


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