I don’t remember how old I was the first time I saw Ghostbusters, but I grew up with it. We had the first movie on VHS and there was a point in time where I was addicted to it, no matter how much parts of it scared the hell out of me.
Seriously, go back and watch that movie and tell me there aren’t some extremely creepy horror elements in it, and I’m not just talking about the terror dogs that possessed Dana and Louis. Gozer, the building, Elmer Bernstein’s hauntingly nerve-wracking score infused with moments of pure whimsy, and even the expositional scenes where Ray and Egon break down exactly what is happening as the end of the world comes about. Frankly, if it wasn’t for Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman always cracking jokes and being a wiseass, Ghostbusters would be just shy of a supernatural horror film.
There was a magic to it, though. It’s one of those “lightning in a bottle” movies from the 80’s that just stood the test of time and served to become a cult classic to so many people, myself included. It was my introduction to the “Not Ready for Primetime Players” from Saturday Night Live and their collaborations with the SCTV crew, in this case Rick Moranis in particular. It’s quotable, it’s fun, it’s action-packed, it’s scary at times, and Ray Parker’s theme song will never leave my brain for the rest of my days.
We saw the sequel at the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In movie in Detroit. I loved that one too. Still do to this day. In fact, it’s one of my top underrated sequels of all-time. No, it doesn’t capture the same energy, intensity and comedy as the first one did, but it’s a more than worthy sequel that picks up where the first movie left off in a solid way. The idea that after saving New York from supernatural conquest would five years later lead to lawsuits, restraining orders and everyone grasping for “real jobs” to have was a natural idea, allowing the heroes to spring back into action when the next threat, Vigo the Carpathian, rose up to threaten the world on New Year’s Eve.
Yes, we had the soundtrack too because the family was huge Bobby Brown fans at the time. “On Our Own” didn’t just get overplayed on the radio, it got overplayed in my house. A lot. That one, for better or worse, will never leave my brain either.
So, everyone largely considers the first two Ghostbusters movies to be either very good, or at least the first one is good and the second one is decent. I’ve never heard people say that the second movie is bad or unenjoyable, despite it being underrated. No, that vitriol and negativity is almost exclusively reserved for the third Ghostbusters movie in existence, the one made by Paul Feig that features an all-female main cast.
There are so many reasons that the Feig Ghostbusters film, starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones was essentially dead on arrival as far as the audience was concerned, but in my opinion none of the reasons had anything to do with the movie’s subjective quality. I saw it at the theater and have willingly watched it multiple times. I even own a digital copy of it……because I LIKE it, quite a bit.
The reasons I like it are similar to the reasons so many others don’t, which is because of how different it is from the other movies. More than a reboot of the franchise, it’s an “elseworlds” tale that pretty much takes place in another universe, which is how you can explain the easter eggs and callbacks to the original movies and cartoon without being a direct descendant in the same world of them. The movie is a “what if it went like this” kind of story and I dug the idea of telling it with a modern humor spin to try and draw in the younger audience that appreciates current comedic timing. It wasn’t supposed to feel like the previous “prime timeline” movies and it didn’t, not just because of the cast but because of how they treated the concept.
A LOT of people hated it with a passion, but it wasn’t all misogyny and bigotry like Feig and the cast have suggested. Oh, there was plenty of that aimed at it because of the all-female cast, and the anti-diversity, anti-equality hounds all came out to play when it released, but it wasn’t the only reason people didn’t like it or even go to the theater to see it(my opening weekend IMAX theater that seats 300 had maybe 10 people including me in it).
No, a lot of people weren’t interested in a Ghostbusters movie that wasn’t a continuation of some sort from the originals. That didn’t necessarily mean putting proton packs on Aykroyd, Murray and Ernie Hudson as geriatrics and sending them into the fray in Egon’s memory, but it did mean something akin to Ghostbusters: The Next Generation, if you will. A passing of the torch of the business to a new crowd that was dealing with a present-day world in which the Gozer and Vigo incidents totally happened, and how they had shaped their reality as result of them. They weren’t interested in a reboot, they wanted a true continuation.
So now, with Jason Reitman’s announcement that he will be taking the reins of the franchise from his father Ivan, who directed the first two movies, and making a third movie that is a direct sequel to the first two, there’s excitement in the air again for the Ghostbusters franchise, especially with that awesome, extremely early first teaser that also released for it as well. The narrative that’s already started is, “they learned their lesson from the last one and are now doing it the right way,” without acknowledging how subjective “the right way” is when it comes to fan expectations for a movie in a franchise.
If the teaser is any indication, combined with Reitman’s comments about how he’s treating the movie, the next Ghostbusters film is certain to be the one that brings back all the fans of the first two movies and will likely pass the torch successfully to the new ones of the current generation that might be hoping to see the start of a new franchise for them to enjoy for years to come. It will be fanservice of the highest order, don’t kid yourselves and they’ll do everything short of bring Rick Moranis out of retirement (I’m sure they’ve already tried to contact him) to make us all happy, and we will largely appreciate the effort when the movie drops in Summer 2020.
For what it’s worth though, in my mind, there’s never been a bad Ghostbusters movie because they’ve all been funny, maintained the spirit of the concept itself, and took advantage of the freedom to tell the stories they wanted to tell, whether the general audience watched it or not.