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So I'm going to see Ghostbusters this weekend. And honestly? While I was somewhere between "Meh" and "Please don't suck" when I first heard of this reboot, the more I hear about it, the more excited I get. I hope I'm not getting my hopes up too much. There are way too many people out there who made up their minds as to whether an all-female Ghostbusters reboot even warranted existing before a single promotional photo hit the 'net. I'm glad my little blog here isn't widespread enough to garner attention beyond the people whose tastes are somewhat similar to mine anyway. Because that's kinda why I write these things: to share my opinion on the thing, and give you an idea of whether it's worth your time as well.

In order to do that, I'm doing a mini-retrospective on the 1984 movie, and then coming back with a review of the new one on Sunday.


"Aim for the flat-top!"




I just recently rewatched the original two Ghostbusters movies. You might as well know I'm one of those weird kids who actually liked the second one, and I consider the franchise an intrinsic part of my childhood. I drank the Ecto Cooler just like everyone else. It was probably too "mature" for me, but that didn't matter, because this was before the PG-13 rating was a thing. We children of the '80s were culturally less sheltered than we became later. A lot of crap got past the censors for a long time. There's a lot of swearing, smoking, and heavy innuendo in both movies, even though they're not gruesome or scary enough to count as horror, or even horror-comedy.

It's not high art. It's not excessively clever or subtle. But like most nerd classics from the '80s, it is endlessly quotable. Just a few gems I have used in my daily life multiple times:

"Listen! Do you smell something?"

"Back off, man. I'm a scientist." (Substitute "librarian" or "baker" or other profession of your choice.)

"Dogs and cats living together--mass hysteria!"

"This reminds me of that time you tried to drill a hole through your head." Bonus points if the other party responds with, "That would've worked if you hadn't stopped me."

And of course, "Don't cross the streams."

I'll take this opportunity to point out that the "They're more like guidelines than rules" running gag in Pirates of the Caribbean is swiped from this movie, too.

It is a lot of fun. But it's not perfect. One thing I noticed on this rewatch is the type of character that wound up in the hero/protagonist slot, which wasn't unusual for the time period. It's blindingly obvious to me now in a way it wasn't when I was a kid how much of a skeevy jerk Bill Murray's character, Venkman, is. Check out his introductory scene:



This is a guy who uses his position to humiliate those he perceives as beneath him, and manipulate conventionally attractive women into going out with him. The blonde in the experiment doesn't seem to object, but Sigourney Weaver sure does, and he doggedly pursues her despite that. Also, why exactly did he have Thorazine on him when he was going to Dana's apartment for their date? It turns out to be useful since Dana is possessed at the time, but what was he planning on doing with it? Go ahead and pretend he found it in her medicine cabinet if it makes you feel less creepy, but eugh. He kind of reminds me of Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day: arrogant, self-centered, greedy, condescending, but quick-witted enough that he can make you laugh despite that. The big difference is Venkman never reaches that place of generosity, compassion and selflessness that makes Phil Connors a well-rounded character with an actual arc. He's a selfish, snarky asshole in the beginning, and he stays a selfish, snarky asshole through to the sequel.

He's also not a science nerd on the same level as Egon (Harold Ramis) and Ray (Dan Akroyd). This was an era in which scientific, intellectual academics could be useful to the plot, and decent characters in their own rights, but not heroes. Egon and Ray are portrayed as bumbling, awkward loners who take the brunt of Venkman's one-liners, even though they do most of the actual work in their Ghostbusting venture. They run all the numbers, they build and maintain all the equipment, they get the car and the old firehouse to use as their base of operations, they research the apartment building where all the supernatural activity is concentrated--they make the whole thing work. Ray's my favorite Ghostbuster because he gets all the techno-babble lines, and because he runs an occult book shop in the second movie. He and Egon are the glue that hold the operation together. One of the things I'm excited about in the reboot is that the science geek characters seem to be representing our main point of view. The nerds can be heroes now, gender drama aside, and that's pretty awesome.

Let's talk about Winston for a second, Ernie Hudson's character. He comes into the movie as little more than another pair of hands to help out, and is immediately dropped into the everything-is-about-to-explode plot. He's sort of an everyman type character, more normal and relatable than the science geeks or the "game show host," which makes it his job to explain things to the Mayor later on. This is his role in the sequel as well, by the way. He gets some okay lines--"That's a big Twinkie" and "When someone asks you if you're a god, YOU SAY YES" are personal favorites--but he's not really in it that much. He's an uncomplicated good guy, he helps defeat the Big Bad in both movies, and there's not much else to say about him. Honestly, if you want to see Ernie Hudson as a kind, hardworking everyman trying to fight evil in the big city, you're better off rewatching The Crow.

Here's the thing: Ghostbusters isn't as much of a geek landmark as you might think. It was a vehicle for a slew of already known, successful comedians at the height of their popularity which happens to have a high-concept (but not really) paranormal plot. It was never as narrow in demographic scope as, say, Evil Dead II or Lost Boys or Fright Night. Now those were classic '80s horror-comedies that have since been remade and/or got sequels nobody wanted. We survived those, we can survive this too. Even if the reboot does suck.

I'll be back on Sunday to tell you whether it was worth my time.

Cross-posted on [livejournal.com profile] rhoda_rants.

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