Film Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

"I guess he's going to Queens - he's going to be the third scariest thing on that train."



I'm not certain why but the reboot of Ghostbusters is a bit of a target for people who like using terms like "feminist SJW". So I'll air my own prejudices - I'm probably what most people who hate "social justice warriors" would consider a "social justice warrior".

With that out of the way, how was the film? I'll put it in the category of a lot of fun but not a masterpiece. It has some tough competition - the 1984 Ghostbusters is a comic masterpiece and it is difficult to conceive of a picture standing up to it. Overall, the original clearly remains superior but I don't feel the new film has anything to be ashamed of.

The basic plot is similar to that of the original - straight-laced physic professor Erin Gilbert is up for tenure when a ghost book she cowrote years ago with her childhood friend, Abby Yates, gets published. This does not help her tenure quest. The fact that her obstacle is played by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones' Tywin Lannister) helps immensely. 

Erin winds up getting into the ghost hunting business with Abby and her partner (in the research sense, though there is a bit of sexual tension there too) Jillian Holtzmann. These scientist/engineer folks are joined by NYC Transit Worker Patty Tolan. They also hire a dumb-as-rocks secretary, Kevin, played by the "unbelievably gorgeous eye candy" Chris Hemsworth (paraphrasing my wife who I'm starting to suspect has ulterior motives for wanting to see the Avengers and Thor movies). For those paying attention, the genders of all the main characters from the original film have been flipped - though the races remain intact, four white characters and one black one. 

I suppose the plot at this point is pretty obvious - there is an outbreak of ghosts in New York City and our Ghostbusters are putting a stop to it. Since it is a comedy, I guess the important thing is how well the humor works.

My wife and I were laughing quite a bit. Probably the highlight of the movie for me was Kate McKinnon's performance as Holtzmann. She was very much the Egon of the group with a very effective physical humor - dancing while shooting fire (and a fire extinguisher), awkwardly violating personal spaces, etc. She also had a killer delivery at the right times. It was also enjoyable to see most of the stars from the original film show up - especially Bill Murry as a professional skeptic. I was a little disappointed that the film was not simply a continuation of the original films, but I can understand the filmmakers wanting a clean slate. Thankfully, they took advantage of that with a setting that has no real belief in the supernatural. 

What of the "social justice warrior" aspects of the film? Clearly the gender swapping was a deliberate choice. I think it worked well - there were definitely certain moments that played differently given the Ghostbusters were all ladies. But it's not as if every scene was all "we are women, hear us roar!" There really wasn't much in the way of sexual relationships in this film - clearly Erin was lusting after Kevin, but it wasn't particularly important to the story as was the Peter Venkman-Dana Barrett relationship of the first film. If women in these roles help get my daughters into some geeky humor, so much the better. 

Maybe I'll look through my old West End Games' Ghostbusters stuff a bit more... 


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