Film Review: Ghostbusters (2016)
The 2016 Ghostbusters film ended up being a hurricane of controversy – depending on where you were on the internet, if you liked the film you were a horrible SJW out to shove your political correct values down everyone’s throat. However, once the film came out, the ultimate verdict on the film pretty much ran the gamut – that you either loved it, hated it, or thought it was decent, but not worth seeing in theaters, with perhaps the character of Hoffman being an even more divisive character.
Well, I’ve now seen the film, and my reaction to the film is strongly in the middle. It’s a much more over-the-top film than the original, in part because visual effects technology has progressed so much since the release of the first film, and the release of this film.
This doesn’t work 100% in the film’s favor. The film’s strongest moments tend toward the film’s more subtle moments. For example, instead of the Ghostbusters facing the EPA and Walter Peck, they instead face the mayor’s office seeking to keep the supernatural under-wraps, and these scenes generally work well. It’s still satirizing the government, but instead of the more unfortunate implications of having the obstructive force be the EPA (an agency that has become overly derided over the past few years), instead the film satirizes the idea that it’s more politically expedient to paper over a problem rather than fixing it.
Additionally, a lot of the best bits in the original Ghostbusters were lines that were improv (and in one case, the resolution to the film’s conflict was invented through improv by Harold Ramis). Here, the heavy use of effects throughout all of the film takes away some of that sense of spontaneity. To be clear – I’m not the kind of person who complains about CGI in film. Indeed, I’m the kind of person who will turn off an audio commentary on a movie if the people doing the commentary start ranting about how terrible computer effects or practical effects are. However, the nature of visual effects means that you have to plan the shots that contain those effects out more.
The film’s other divisive choice is having a human antagonist in the film. The character, on the one hand, almost feels like a reaction to the critics of the film’s casting. I doubt that was the case – while the character is a total edgelord who has a lot of the negative traits that some of the haters hold, the sheer volume of the backlash didn’t come to the fore until late enough in the process that I don’t think that the writers would have built off of that. I feel like instead it’s born out of the same mindset that the Nerd Trio from Buffy the Vampire Slayer were based off of – a particular kind of entitled mindset who seeks to play Misery Poker to show how their hardships are totally bigger than everyone elses, no really, they mean it, a mindset that is totally worth mocking.
As far as Hoffman goes, she worked well enough as a character for me, and on the one hand while she fit in with the more overtly wacky tone of the film, her character didn’t work for me because of the excessive wackiness. Cartoonishly wacky characters don’t work for me in live action. In animation, the work itself has become stylistic enough that the exaggerated behavior doesn’t bump me out of the work. With live-action, because it is real people acting on screen, when behavior becomes so much more exaggerated and more of an act, it can bump me out of the film. While this works for me sometimes, and with some genres of films, oddly enough this works for me less with comedy than in more serious fare.
The call-outs to the other Ghostbusters films mostly worked – particularly with Bill Murray as an obnoxious skeptic with a stick up his ass – a concept that is basically Murray playing to type. By comparison, Dan Ackroyd’s cameo was more jarring. Murray’s character was set up well prior to his appearance, while Ackroyd, as a cab driver who is remarkably literate in the technical terminology of Ghostbusting, comes out of nowhere and has little impact on the plot – and I’m a little bummed that
Still, I am glad that I finally got around to seeing the film, and should a sequel come out, I will see it then.