Ghostbusters (2016) and Ghostbusters (1984) are both owned by Columbia Pictures
The new movie has finally come out we can all confirm that the world has not plunged into forty years of darkness, but while there have yet to be any reports of rivers and seas boiling or dogs and cats living together, there’s denying that we indeed saw some mass hysteria . Hopefully all that will subside soon enough, but those people have already gotten more attention than they deserve and it’s been difficult to keep everything in perspective as some people decided that the success or failure of this movie was going to be the crescendo in some childhood ruining man hating agenda, so trying to have a measured conversation about the strengths of both this new film and the original it’s based off of has not been an easy task. Thankfully we can hopefully start taking a measured look at both films’ individual merits and how one movie might have done somethings better than the other without having the more obnoxious among us either use it as proof that we are biased or evidence that the new movie is horrible. To kick that discussion off, here’s my own examination of both films and how one stacks up to the other based on important aspects that are in both films!
Who Ya Gonna Call? (The Crew)
This new movie made two fantastic decisions right off the bat. It was a reboot instead of a sequel, and they didn’t try to make these new characters analogues for the original crew. No one in this movie is a recreation of someone from the last film which means that we don’t have to play the WHO DID IT BETTER game on individual actors (a decision also wisely made by the Evil Dead reboot), and similarly I’m so glad that this new Ghostbusters team is not the trainees, or even worse THE DAUGHTERS, of the original crew which would have completely ruined what makes these new characters so interesting. Look, I’m well aware that this is a movie starring women that FIRST had to be done by men, but the fact that it’s not the case in the movie itself is an inspiring message to young girls to be proactive and forge their own paths. A lot of people who are upset about this movie seem to think it would have been better if this was a passing of the torch story which is a concept that worked pretty well for Star Wars, but there’s no way it would have worked here. At least in that movie there’s a whole universe to explore and the new people wouldn’t necessarily be in the shadows of the original cast allows them to do their own thing; something that would be infinitely harder here if the new Ghostbusters were still using the same logos, firehouse, equipment, jumpsuits, what have you that the original cast were wearing twenty years ago and everyone in the movie knew that. It wouldn’t be able to be its own thing as it would constantly be in the shadows of the original members who are still hanging around the background and would take attention away from the brilliant actors that are the real stars here.
I Believe That We Were Destined to Get Thrown out of This Dump! (Backstory)
The original movie famously eschewed the idea of even giving us an insight into these characters outside of their work as Ghostbusters; opting to throw us right into the action just as they were about to start their business rather than fill in their backstories or go into detail as to why they’re pursuing this kind of research. This movie doesn’t start any earlier in the timeline (they get to the whole Ghostbusters thing right away) but in here they decided to give Kristin Wiig and Melisa McCarthy a bit of history that really does a great job of fleshing out their relationship. Now that’s not to say that the original lacking because they don’t have this. In fact, it’s all the more impressive that we so quickly come to care for those characters considering we know nothing about them from outset and only have their interactions and natural chemistry to understand their relationships. What’s also great is that the backstory they did give these characters doesn’t confer onto them some sort of hero or chosen one status which would have been the antithesis of the original film and probably one of the primary reasons they decided not to focus on them as characters rather than them as a part of this new business venture. The new movie doesn’t lose its every-man (or every-person I guess) premise just because there IS a story there, and I’m sure there was a similar story between Peter, Egon, and Ray, that was just never talked about.
He’s a Sailor, He’s in New York! (The Setting)
Both movies may be set in New York City, but the settings they have, the way they’re shot, and the world that the characters inhabit (along with the people that interact with them) could not be more different. The original film had a few oddball and goofy characters outside of our main heroes (Louis Tully, Walter Peck, etc) and the film was shot somewhat seriously because the movie is basically an actual sci-fi or horror film that JUST SO HAPPENED to have really great comedians in it. Take out the Ghostbusters (or just recast with dramatic actors) and you’d still have a decent ghost movie there. Put those comedic actors back in, and you have an all-time classic film. This new movie unfortunately does not have that. It’s a comedy through and through which means the ghost scenes don’t evoke any sense of fear or dread and all the side characters, bit parts, and supporting roles are comedians as well which means we always have new jokes to run through. Now I’ll argue that this new movie does this WONDERFULLY in that it’s really damn funny most of the time, but I do miss the more serious tone that the original movie had in places and hope that any future movies in this franchise will push the horror aspects a bit more.
I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost! (Ghost Effects)
As stated, the ghosts in this movie really aren’t scary in the least, but the effects here are very well realized as they use an effective mix of CG and live action to make the ghosts appear ethereal and human whenever they show up. For the most part though, that’s what you’re getting in terms of ghosts. One REALLY solid effect used for like fifty different ghosts. The ones that aren’t humanoid look fine as CG creations, such as the demon ghost and the parade floats, and while I didn’t like his role in the movie Slimer looks just fine. That said, there is NO ONE in this movie that looks as scary or badass as Zuul, Clortho, or Gozer, with the only ghost of any menace being the giant logo monster at the end, and even he doesn’t have all that much going for him.
Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good! (Action Scenes)
The busting scenes in the new movie are well executed, have a solid mix of practical effects and CG, and alternate between being really funny and super badass. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really specify and lay out the rules for the audience the same way the original did, so whether or not they can crossing the streams doesn’t come up, and there’s some confusion as to whether they can busts ghosts without a trap and are only trapping them so they can be studied later. Still, the attention to detail on the weaponry here and the variety of ghost busting gadgets that Holtzmann whips up for them is exactly the kind of expansion of the concept that we should be getting from a reboot like this.
Gozer the Gozerian… Good Evening. (The Villain)
Now this is one where there’s gonna be no question about which one did it better. The new Ghostbusters movie has a weak villain and doesn’t stand up at all to how awesome the Gozer was in the original and it even falls short of Vigo the Carpathian from the sequel. Neil Casey as Rowan is fascinating when he first shows up on screen because you don’t know what his deal is but what they tease you with is mind blowing. When I first saw him, I thought there was going to be a Ghost Cult or something, like if the Gozerians were still around for the first movie. Even when it’s revealed that he’s a lone wolf, there’s still an interesting character mine there as he’s a not so subtle (yet no less biting) caricature of the Angry Young ManTM who blames the world for not accepting him and will hurt as many people as possible in his righteous quest for justice. You know; the same assholes who are personally offended that the new movie has women in it? Unfortunately he never manages to reach Kylo Ren levels of engrossing angst (that guy is a REALLY compelling asshole) and it just falls apart by the end of the second act. Now I like the idea of a human working to bring the ghosts through and the way Rowan is characterized here is brilliant, but he really needed someone else who was pulling the strings and manipulating him, like a Lord Snoke or even a Vigo the Carpathian. Fortunately there’s a post credits stinger in this that not only confirms that they want to make a sequel, but may also fix this problem for the next movie. Maybe not in the way I would have preferred them to do it (I won’t spoil the stinger here) but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be an improvement on what happened here.
We came! We Saw! We Kicked Its Ass! (Conclusion!)
I wasn’t there when the original Ghostbusters came out, so I don’t know how important of a movie it was outside of being one of the absolute best high concept comedies of all time. That original movie still holds up to this day for the most part (Peter Venkman is a bit of a sleaze) and in many respects still manages to outdo a lot of sci-fi and horror films that have come out since. This new one makes a valient effort, and for what it’s worth it feels different enough from the original film that it can be judged on its own merits rather than as a direct remake of the source material. Everything from the casting, staging, tone, and pacing are all unlike what we got in the original film and on its own merits it’s a damn fine film and is no doubt the start of a great new franchise. Comparing it to the original though, there are places where this new one falls short, and not in insignificant ways (they REALLY needed to work on that villain). There’s room in this world for both movies no matter what some jerks out there would have you believe, and is probably the best Ghostbusters movie we could have hoped for right now for this generation. I’m really hoping the sequel will address some of the issues that are in this movie, but even with those problems it’s still one of the best comedies all year and I have no qualms about this being put alongside the original.
Thank you all for reading this side by side comparison of these two really great movies and if you haven’t already, you can check out my review of the new movie HERE! On top of that, if you liked this piece and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below! I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite! In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed! Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage! You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?