When New York City sees an influx of paranormal activity a small group of maverick scientists unite and build the technology to monitor, contain and get to the bottom of the strange events.
Remaking a classic is always going to be controversial and by their very nature are going to be held to close scrutiny with regards to their beloved forbearers, simultaneously being blessed and cursed, to be boosted by name recognition but assumed to be unoriginal and lesser in some way.
Ghostbusters has seen near non-stop coverage during its production and in the run up to its release, almost entirely for the wrong reasons. First absorbing the rancour of hardcore Ghostbusters fans and remake haters alike, then when it was announced the team would be entirely female, those peculiar anti-female types also got onboard, making the film a cornerstone of the current feminism ‘discussion’, a weight unfairly bogging down and adding stigma to what should be a fun film about catching ghosts, with many a horrid thing and generalisation being said and thrown around on both sides.
For the sexism/feminism thing I can’t comment, but being a person who counts some remakes as bona fide cinematic masterpieces (John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Fly, Dawn of the Dead, A Fistful of Dollars, The Magnificent Seven and so on) and also being a huge Ghostbusters fan, I can only comment on the film as a contemporary comedy and its standing in comparison to that original classic.
Getting my general impression out of the way and keeping all comparisons aside for a moment, I found this remake to be occasionally laugh out loud funny and charming enough to be smile inducing and enjoyable throughout, but as with most modern comedies it’s a touch too long, the CG is sometimes a little iffy, and the bigger the film gets the more it looses focus, the first half being much funnier and personable than the second, rendering the final product somewhat throwaway.
Putting it side by side with the original I found them to be near incomparable, not because of the high pedestal on which the original is placed but because, to a trained eye, the films are entirely different beasts, despite being essentially the same setup and inhabiting the supernatural-comedy sub-genre.
Where the original Ghostbusters placed its characters and fantastical situations onto a very realistic canvas, the reactions to said events providing the dry and relatively restrained humour, and shooting in predominantly real locations giving the film the vastness of New York City itself, the remake places itself firmly in a comedicly oriented reality, full of larger than life caricatures, boundless inventions and with gag-a-minute dialogue, all filmed on easily controlled sets which in turn rob the film of scale and the story of any true sense of threat, this final trait exacerbated by the miraculous and unexplained disappearance of the entire citizenry of New York during the climactic sequences.
The heavier leaning to a reliance on comedy situations means that it losses the inventiveness and economy of storytelling of the original, so while it’s actually a marginally longer film there is very noticeably much less story and nuance. In a sense, this broader sensibility along with the cartoony creature design makes it more comparable with the 90s animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, than the movie.
In an effort to legitimise itself to pre-existing fans it, predictably, cameos some original cast members, which, though working quite successfully to some, actually acted more of a distraction to me personally.
So, is Ghostbusters as good as the original? Obviously I tend not to think so, it’s smaller, has less going on, less nuanced characters and has far less at stake, but it’s a pretty decent comedy with likable characters that patter with good chemistry; entertaining throwaway fun. Does that make it a pointless remake? Perhaps the same team could have come up with a better film with an original concept, but the name recognition alone demands increased coverage, and with the potential for ongoing sequels, business-wise it’s far from pointless. It will most certainly bring new fans to the re-appropriated franchise, and as long as the films stay fun, good luck to them, and if that offends your considered sensibilities, well, you can always break out the old DVDs, happy in the knowledge that this new film impacts the old ones not at all.