When Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) decided to dip his toes into the Ghostbusters franchise he probably didn’t expect the disgustingly hateful wave of backlash he received from Meninist crybaby’s and Bill Murray fanboys the world over, making the 2016 reboot of the 1984 ‘classic’ (that no one really cared so passionately about until this was announced) the most disliked trailer in YouTube history and spurred a mass IMDB vote-down.
Placing women in the leading roles shouldn’t be considered a ‘brave move’, but Ghostbusters was painted as just that, a feminist film to end all prejudice, a scathing attack on nerds and dude-bros and surely the end to Feig’s career. What people forgot to address was that this was all bullshit; Ghostbusters is simply a comedy about a group of scientists fighting off ghouls in Manhattan.
Childhood friends Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) haven’t seen each other in years, until a leaked copy of their book divulging their theories on the supernatural threatens Erin’s job at Columbia University. When Erin confronts Abby about the matter she also meets Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a mad scientist type and Abby’s new partner, who is working with Abby on the pair’s old theories. Because of the scandal of the book Erin she loses her job and ends up reuniting with Abby and Holtzmann after a ghost scare is rumoured downtown, they proceed to set up their own company dealing with the removal of paranormal entities. It’s typical Scooby Doo Mystery Inc. fanfare from here on out, a few cases, a rocky relationship, a new addition to the team in the form of Patsy (Leslie Jones), a subway worker spooked by the goings on and the fun mash-up scenes where we watch Holtzmann build and test their various paranormal detecting/defeating equipment, but it’s fun and its nostalgic, cheesy and kind of adorable seeing these women famed for gross adult humour knuckle down and get on kid-humour level.
Our bad-guy takes shape in the form of Rowan, a lone creepy outsider (just like the critics of this Ghostbusters reboot, funny that) who wants to achieve ultimate power by creating a portal in the middle of Manhattan and letting ghosts and monsters rule the streets (please tell me you’re still following the live action Scooby Doo vibes!?), but the girls are hot on his tails with proton packs, guns, lasers and the iconic hearse van, kicking off some wicked action sequences paired with some early 00’s CGI monsters. Although Ghostbusters doesn’t move forward with the times in plot or special effects but that’s why it works; a homage to slime and goofy effects that riddled films in the 80s, 90s and 00s. It’s refreshing to see the return of the live-action children’s film, something silly and grand that isn’t shrouded in the Disney Pixar canon and as a standalone film Ghostbusters knows exactly what it is, remake or not. Will it stand the test of time? Probably not. But for now it’s a much needed break from endless animation.
Whether you are a lover of cartoonish special effects or not, it’s the comedic performances of the leads that drive the film. Chris Hemsworth’s off-brand turn as Kevin the receptionist is a harmonious highlight, every last second he’s on screen is milked within an inch of its life for laughs, but pays off in an innocent and mildly flirtatious manner. The decision to not push Erin’s crush on Kevin into romance territory was a fine move indeed.
However, the usually side-splittingly hilarious Wiig and McCarthy are often left in the whirlwind of big-screen newcomer and SNL wizard Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann, whose whip-fast quips, pantomime facial expressions and impromptu dances shine through and are sure to land her a place on 2016’s most popular Halloween get-ups. Her slightly maddening jibes and eccentric personality take away some of the fun from Wiig and McCarthy’s performances, but not their credibility as leading ladies. Holtzmann’s irrevocable coolness accumulates in the slickest scene of the film, a long take showing her stomping through ghouls with her Proton Pack to the Ghostbusters theme song with a precision and flair I can only pinpoint to the hallway fight scene in Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy.
She’s not the only cool cat of the bunch though, Leslie Jones still manages to shine through though with her bubbly charm and Cheshire Cat grin, though being the only woman of colour in the new line-up, it’s sad that her role was diminished to a subway worker with no scientific or supernatural background/interest, even though her passion for the team is cemented, the representation of black women in a scientific field would have been a welcome and ‘progressive’ addition to the plot. Scientific jargon is used widely by the team, obviously a lot of it made up for the purpose of the Ghostbusters work and machinery, but it was never explained what it meant during conversations as most science based films do, using a ‘less-intelligent’ member of the cast to open up that conversation, in this case Kevin, whom nothing was explained to. It was a brilliant little way to assert the girls’ knowledge and intelligence, in a world where women are too used to explaining themselves. It’s a feat to see such intelligent women on screen, unapologetic in their vast knowledge and to encourage girls to work in STEM fields, to show them that they can be fighters, but still be smart.
Ghostbusters isn’t a grand feminist statement and probably won’t change attitudes to women on screen, but it’s a perfect popcorn family film for all ages, uniting the nostalgia buried within adults and the glossy wide-eyed spectacle of the movies for kids it’s a sure fire hit for anyone wondering how to entertain their children this summer. What Feig has successfully done is put women in the centre of the picture, in a male driven genre. It doesn’t display a super progressive cast or even a very intricate plot, and that shouldn’t matter. It’s a kid’s movie, it’s exciting and fun and scary and funny and for that 10 year old girl sat in the front row, merely seeing those women up there is enough.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screenqueens. She is 20 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller a whole lot. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, The Beach and Lords of Dogtown. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff.