I’ve been excited about Paul Feig’s all-women Ghostbusters since I first read about it. I say this as a fan of the original, which came out when I was a kid, as a fan of Feig’s since Freaks and Geeks, and as a fan of the funny ladies who make up the new team–Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock. Of course, I couldn’t just be excited as a fan; immediately a minority of butthurt fanboys felt the need to spend effort trashing a movie they hadn’t seen before it was even released (and continue to do so now that it has been). Because there aren’t worse things in the world going on.
This isn’t new. If a film with a female protagonist (or director) isn’t a blockbuster, it’s blamed on gender. “Women don’t sell tickets” (or turn out), despite this being disproved again and again. When there is an exception, it’s explained as just that: an exception. There’s a brief period where maybe studios try again, but the moment it doesn’t work out, in their minds it just goes to prove the rule. When a film with or by men bombs, it’s just that film’s problem, and many a director of a dud has been handed a new franchise or big-budget picture. No probs. It’s very frustrating as a woman moviegoer and fan, but it’s been happening all my life and will likely not stop soon.
So fuck it. I was going to see it no matter what because this director and cast’s pedigree couldn’t be ignored. When I saw the trailers, I had my doubts; the funny moments didn’t seem that funny, and the effects didn’t wow me. Going in, I assumed mediocrity at best and figured I’d at least have fun watching my new favorite, Kate McKinnon.
But the movie is funnier and more fun than the trailers indicate. Not all the jokes are underlined as such; there are many offhand lines that you might not even catch initially. The ladies have fantastic chemistry, and everyone gets at least one Big Moment. As in the original, the characters are outsiders–as scientists interested in the paranormal, living in a time that’s even more budget-conscious when it comes to universities and tenure, and as women, though that’s not emphasized (with the exception of an occasional (online) comment; they’re seen as weirdos for what they’re doing, not who they are).
The villain isn’t exactly supernatural; he’s a bullied nobody who wants the world to pay, and the film rightly has no sympathy for him. He’s triggering the release of ghosts and aiming for an apocalypse of the sort Buffy Summers deals with in season 5–bringing down the barriers between realms. The subtext is that being bullied or feeling like a loser is no excuse to be a bully yourself (or a wet rag, kind of like said butthurt fanboys). Kristen Wiig’s character, Erin, was a victim of bullying herself, for having been haunted and talking about it; no one believed her but Melissa McCarthy’s character, Abby. Erin later disowns a book she wrote with Abby in an effort to no longer be “Ghost Girl” and to earn tenure at her ivy league school. When she’s approached for help with a ghost, it brings her back to Abby, and by film’s end it’s clear the paranormal is where her heart is.
I was worried about the degree of fanservice–nods to the original, including cameos–but nothing’s too cheesy. The film does not rely on knowledge of the original, nor is it trying to be it (it’s a shame critics and whiny dudes alike can’t take that into consideration). There was one cameo I hadn’t heard about, and it was my favorite. Honestly, the fanservice in the new Star Wars was heavier and took me out of the world more. Ghostbuster is at least a comedy, which makes it less distracting.
The special effects looked much better than in the trailers, too. If I were a kid as I was for the original, I’m sure some of the ghosts would have freaked me out like they did then. Again, there are nods to familiar ghosts, but mostly new ghouls as well. I also loved all the gadgets Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann develops and that they test out and later use as a group. There’s plenty of physics and paranormal terminology spouted, too, no more or less believable than in the original.
As expected, McKinnon was an oddball-funny presence anytime she was on camera (and I’ve developed confusing fangirl feelings for her), but there are no slouches here; how could there be? I’m grateful to be around at a time when there are so many talented and hilarious women being put center stage. At moments watching this Ghostbusters, I felt jealous of the young girls who won’t have to imagine themselves in the all-male fictional worlds on screen as I had to.