Luke Owen on the Ghostbusters reboot…
Here’s a fairly unpopular opinion: I quite like reboots and remakes. Just as theatre directors have put their own stamp on the works of William Shakespeare, reboots and remakes allow directors to put their own spin on existing material and come at it from a new perspective. Two of my favourite films of all-time are remakes in John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I absolutely loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes and felt it was not only light-years ahead of Tim Burton’s remake, but that it was the best Apes movie since Escape From the Planet of the Apes (though I do have a soft spot for Conquest of the Planet of the Apes). Reboots and remakes can be a good thing if you have a creative director who feels that they have a unique take, and are not just guns for hire in the cynical cash-grab Hollywood system.
Sadly, the Ghostbusters reboot/remake is in the cash-grab category.
Before we dive into why Ghostbusters is the worst of Hollywood reboots, let’s look at a little history.
Released in 1984, Ghostbusters was a comedy smash-hit that tore up the box office and became the most successful comedy ever made. So successful and popular was the film that it spawned an animated spin-off in 1987 titled The Real Ghostbusters, which became the number one cartoon in the ratings against stiff competition like Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Ghostbusters franchise was now everywhere. T-shirts, hats, toys, posters, bedspreads, drinks, tins of spaghetti: all of it wore the Ghostbusters iconography. The cartoon was so popular in fact that Sony and Columbia, the studios behind the 1984 movie, demanded Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd write a sequel so they could cash in on the franchise’s success. Ghostbusters II was released in 1989, five years after the original, and was not as well-received as its predecessor. The cast and crew themselves have spoken since about how it was a studio-made movie, and not a worthy sequel to the original.
In the early 1990s, Dan Aykroyd announced that he was working on a script for a third Ghostbusters movie, titled Ghostbusters III: Hellbent. The script saw Ray, Egon and Winston (Peter had left to be with Dana Barrett) struggling to keep the business afloat, and going into a hellish version of earth (called Manhellton) where they would battle the Devil. According to Aykroyd, the studio was very interested in making the movie but the cast were not. It was later revealed that Bill Murray, who played Peter Venkman in both films, was not a fan of any of the drafts provided for a new Ghostbusters film even though he barely featured in them. In the early 2000s, Aykroyd and Ramis began working on a new angle where the Ghostbusters, now old and broken down, hire a new team of recruits to take over the business. In 2010 following Bill Murray saying he would only be in Ghostbusters III if he was killed off in the first reel, Aykroyd and Ramis announced they were working with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg of The Office to draft up another new version of Ghostbusters III with a planned shooting year of 2012. However as 2012 rolled around, Aykroyd announced he was unsure if Ghostbusters III would ever get made, saying he would only make a film that didn’t exploit the franchise. Ghostbusters III did materialise, somewhat in 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which reunited Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson and borrowed elements from Aykroyds Hellbent script.
In 2014, Harold Ramis sadly passed away and all plans for a third Ghostbusters movie suddenly changed. Ivan Reitman announced he was no longer directing, and Sony brought in Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie) and Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) to possibly take over, but they all passed. Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) was the latest man to come in to pitch his take on Ghostbusters III, and it was soon announced that he was instead rebooting the franchise with an all-female cast.
“I had been contacted several times about doing a sequel for Ghostbusters and I just kept turning it down because I didn’t know how to do it,” Feig told Allocine in 2015. “The scripts had been written, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I wasn’t excited about it. So finally, one day I was like, it’s a great franchise and it’s a great idea, if I was going to do it, how would I do it? And then I thought, if I could put four women in the lead roles, that’s exciting to me. That I know how to do, and I know how to make that funny.” He added: “I thought I’d rather do it as a reboot, so I wasn’t tied to the old movies. The old movies are so good, I didn’t want to mess with them. I also want to see the beginnings of this group. I want to see people seeing ghosts for the first time, and how they are going to fight them for the first time, how they develop their technology.”
If we break down what Feig said there, he essentially admitted that he had no clue as a creative filmmaker on how to make a sequel to Ghostbusters, and so suggested they reboot instead. Read it again: he actually admitted to the press that he wasn’t creative enough for Ghostbusters III so a reboot was the only answer.
Paul Feig remaking Ghostbusters is not the same as David Cronenberg remaking The Fly or John Carpenter remaking The Thing From Another World. They were directors who saw something in the source material they could improve upon and add their own unique flavour too. Paul Feig is a man who was asked if he wanted to direct a movie, couldn’t think of an original idea, suggested they hit reset button instead and Sony jumped at the chance. This is what’s wrong with the cynical cash-grab Hollywood system.