A few weeks ago, amidst scrutiny, criticism, excitement, and in some cases, actual fear, the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters movie came out. And the world still spins. I am also going to assume childhoods remain intact, but if yours was in fact ruined, please accept my sincere apologies. So, was it the best movie I have seen this year? Nah. Will it stand the test of time in the way the original does? Who knows. But did I have fun watching it in the movie theater? You betcha.
I processed this as neither a sequel nor even a reboot. Frankly, I’m tired of the reboot term. I don’t even know what it means anymore, and the implication that it overwrites the original source material is a big reason that we get into so much of the angst about ruined childhoods and into internet flame wars. I saw this as more AU story with callbacks to the source material, and that’s how I liked imagining it.
While I wish there was a bit more character development (and I almost always wish that), I felt like generally, the lazy go-to tropes that are used to establish women characters were avoided. I say “generally” because I got a little twitchy at the ladies dance scene that happens, but frankly, lady impromptu dance parties are not made up. Plus in this one stuff gets lit on fire so it felt a little less Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (disclosure: I have not seen that movie and never will, but it feels like the kind of movie that would have a scene like that, and if I’m wrong feel free to tell me off).
The Ghostbusters themselves seem to follow a more amped-up characterization of the source material. A dreamer, a realist, and a “local expert.” Though for sure Patty’s historical expertise could have been explored much more. And then there is Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who besides being the fashion icon we deserve (this move is second to Fury Road in goggles-chic), is hilariously weird. Like a real lady. Yes, ladies are hilariously weird. I am, lots of other ladies I know are. It’s nice to see a lady being portrayed as weird without her being the subject of a Pygmalion-like plot to change her. She’s just weird, and sort of sexually aggressive towards science, and smart, and all that has value, rather than it being the plot point to change her or make her attractive to a guy looking to get his quirk on. Brava.
Watch the original through today’s socio-political lens and there are problems But frankly, it holds such a special place in so many hearts, my own included, that we are willing to overlook some of the issues by simply saying “it was the 80’s.” So if anything, this new telling is held to much higher and harsher standard. Lots of talk about if it’s feminist and blah blah blah. I’m not sure I feel the need to measure every women lead movie by a feminism standard. Sometimes we just want to be entertained, in fact, that’s what runs the entertainment industry. So political statement or not, the better the lady-centric or created movie, or book, the more attention women get. So on that note, I would love to see more women creators involved in any future Ghostbusters movies.
So ultimately was this a good movie? Sure, I would say good, not great. There were some very genuine laughs. Many of them coming from Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the “himbo” secretary. Tight clothes, eye candy, there for comedic relief at his expense….Does that make it feminist? I’m not sure, but it does reverse typical gender roles in a hilarious way. Will I watch it again when it comes out on DVD/streaming? Yes. Will I buy it? Not sure. For all the fun, the narrative is a little garbled, it’s a weird combo of assuming you know the background, but also not using it to ground the story. However it still assumed you knew the source material enough to get the jokes, callbacks, and the hint to a sequel in the after credit scene. Here’s hoping the next movie can stand on its own feet with a stronger narrative while creating some lore of its own.