PUBLISHED 1 AUG 2016
THE all-female reboot of GHOSTBUSTERS was greeted with a relentless torrent of hate when it was announced last year. Since then its trailer has received more than 900,000 dislikes to become the most disliked trailer in YouTube history. Understandably, news that the much-loved eighties classic was being remade concerned devoted fans of the original. However, the majority of this negativity seemed to arise from the suggestion that reversing the gender of the main characters is an issue. It is discouraging when a progressive film that not only breaks down gender barriers but also racial ones too comes under so much fire. The resentment directed towards a female-centred blockbuster in 2016 is a worrying step in the wrong direction for the film industry.
The ghost-busting quartet is comprised of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alumni Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon so it should come as no surprise that the new GHOSTBUSTERS is relentlessly funny. These leading ladies are no strangers to comedy and neither is the director, Paul Feig. He and Melissa McCarthy are an unstoppable duo, with a track record of success with BRIDESMAIDS (2011), THE HEAT (2013) and SPY (2015) demonstrating that they are clearly capable of creating a successful comedy hit – both in terms of critical reception and commercial value. If anyone could bring the GHOSTBUSTERS into the 21st century, this would be the best team for the job.
A key strength of this film lies in the undeniable chemistry between the four ghostbusters who attempt to investigate a fright of apparitions in New York. Erin Gilbert (Wiig), wanting to leave her paranormal enthusiast past behind her, reluctantly accompanies old friend Abby Yates (McCarthy) to a haunting. The pair underplay their usual exaggerated comedic style but there is still plenty of slimy slapstick in the form of ectoprojection, which Wiig’s character encounters the most. Patty Tolan (Jones), a sassy subway worker, has sparked the most debate across social media due to her racial representation as the only non-physicist in the group. Her character has been criticised for being the least educated of the four women and little more than a stereotypical representation of black women on screen. Yet as the most relatable and down-to-earth ghostbuster, her genuine reactions to the ghosts are persistently funny and the presence of a non-white female ghostbuster should be praised for empowering young girls.
But it is Kate McKinnon as eccentric engineer Jillian Holtzmann who really captures our attention here with her peculiar performance as a character comfortable embracing her own strangeness. Resembling the mad scientist Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) from BACK TO THE FUTURE (Robert Zemeckis 1985), her outlandish facial expressions, ambiguous sexuality and refreshing weirdness make her character compulsively enjoyable and watchable.
Haunted by the original GHOSTBUSTERS (Ivan Reitman 1984), this reboot would always have a lot to prove. It needed to not only engage a new audience, but also please the existing fan base in order to live up to the reputation of its cult classic predecessor. Whilst the new film is not without its issues – the lengthy CGI sequences in the climax leave little room for emotional impact, and the constant references to the original film are unnecessary for a remake that is clearly capable of being a standalone piece - it does accomplish two very important points. Firstly, it silences the misogynist backlash towards the reboot with a scene which cleverly satires the online trolling the cast and crew received. And, secondly, a sound critical reception for the film will very likely encourage Hollywood to invest in further female blockbusters. Ironically, the shocking negative reaction to GHOSTBUSTERS proves exactly why a female version is needed.