The beginning of Ghostbusters is a normal, everyday guy being terrorised by an unseen force. It is a well-crafted scene, with some humour and plenty of creepy moments, balancing the scares and the funny in equal measure. It also ends with the man staring at a ghost (off-screen) and that famous drum-roll leading into that famous theme and also giving instant goosebumps. This is the moment that you realise you are watching a brand-new Ghostbusters movie, regardless of who is wearing the jumpsuits.
This is the best way to watch the new, Paul Feig directed Ghostbusters. It is a chance to see four very funny people, use proton packs, a cool converted hearse and their inexperienced, geeky charm to save New York. The only difference is that this is an updated version of the classic movies, not a remake or a sequel. This is an update.
An update that works perfectly. The core of the movie was always going to be who played the Ghostbusters and luckily, the casting of the central four was inspired. Feig has managed to cast four very different, very funny ladies who have their own distinct style and own distinct characters – different from their male counterparts too.
Kristen Wiig is the focal point of the film and manages to hold the movie ably, being likable and approachable. Melissa McCarthy dials down the crazy to play a level-headed and spirited member of the team while Leslie Jones delivers the non-science cluelessness that any audience member can relate to. It is Kate McKinnon who steals the movie though, as the weapon making, slightly crazy but always on-form Holtzmann.
The next ingredient to make this movie work is the ghosts and in a time when CGI is at it’s pinnacle, this was never going to be a problem. Luckily, Feig didn’t go too far in the modern direction and the ghosts still resemble those of the original movies, even down to a certain green fan favourite, but the update does make them look cool and means the scenes involving the spirits can be more ambitious.
This leads to the next update on the original, the weapons. Holtzmann creates some great gear for the characters. Of course the original packs are there but one particular finale set-piece, involving hoardes of ghosts attacking the heroes, demonstrates how much of an update this movie is, as well as a film of it’s own.
The great success of the 2016 movie is that it carves out it’s own identity. It doesn’t feel like a remake, stealing scene for scene of the original. The dynamic between the characters is different, the plot is an original one, with unique twists and turns, and the although there are unavoidable recognisable features, the film manages to steer it’s own course.
That doesn’t mean it forgets it’s roots though. There are plenty of necessary call-backs to the previous films but nothing too ridiculous. The cameos of the original stars are all very well-orchestrated and the appearance of other elements work without being too reliant on their versions from the fan-favourite classics.
It also echoes it’s predecessor by balancing the funny with the scary. Ghostbusters will never be a movie which you’ll watch through your fingers (although there are at least two “cattle-prod” scares you won’t expect) but it should be dramatic in places. It is a comedy at heart though and luckily the four comediennes at it’s core deliver this part well too.
Like any comedy, the laughs don’t always land. It has a high joke rate and some fall flat or become tired quick. One example is Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin who is humourously stupid in the beginning and too dumb for words towards the end. It is a thin joke played out quick. There are also moments where you can see the improvisation losing it’s way. This can be done well but with a movie as structured as Ghostbusters should be, some scenes can feel like they’re directionless and random.
These are small complaints for a film which is very fun. Not many movies are delivering what Ghostbusters brings, entertainment, action, comedy and a feel-good film. It doesn’t sully the reputation of the 1980s classics but in fact extends it further, delivering a movie which couldn’t have been made in the 1980s but has certainly been inspired by them.
Overall, Ghostbusters is a worthy update of the classic movies. It has great characters, with Holtzmann being a stand-out, great effects and a story which carves it’s own path. It doesn’t forget it’s roots but acknowledges them in respectful ways, offering enough to please the old fans but create new Ghostbusters for a brand-new generation.
Rating – 4.5
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