Ghostbusters 2016 Did One Thing Better Than the Sequels


Summary

  • Ghostbusters
    2016 received intense online hate, not just because it was a female-led reboot but also because it was different from the original.
  • Feig’s version brought new characters with fresh traits instead of mimicking the original
    Ghostbusters
    cast, adding value to the story.
  • The 2016 film’s screenplay stands out by creating a tangible antagonist, political twists, and excellent comedic chemistry among the cast.



There is no denying that 1984’s Ghostbusters is a classic of its time and became a true pop culture movement that still endures today. Fans stand by the film with a passion that rivals that of Star Wars, Marvel, and DC. The enthusiasm is so strong that some of that love even extends to the 1989 sequel, which wasn’t as well received at the time of its release and saw diminishing returns at the box office. After that film ended its run, fans still clamored for more, and what they got in 2016 was something they chose to attack, even before seeing the finished product, with visceral disdain.


Paul Feig’s 2016 female-led reboot became the victim of intense internet trolling that went beyond being offensive, and despite receiving better reviews than Ghostbusters II when it finally hit screens, the film’s box office didn’t stand up against its huge budget. To carry on the Ghostbusters brand, it was decided this take would be ignored, and it was back to basics with Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the recently released Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Nostalgia was the name of the game with these sequels, and while that can guarantee some box office coin, it does result in films that don’t have much to offer beyond that. Feig’s Ghostbusters might be the subject of much unwarranted hate, but at least it attempted to do more than ride a wave of nostalgia.


Ghostbusters 2016 Received Plenty of Backlash


The 2016 Ghostbusters benefits a great deal from the passage of time. Before the film saw the light of day, it was hard to separate it from the intense internet whining that resulted from its mere existence. The announcement of the female-led cast, which included Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, was met with a polarizing response in 2015, which kicked off the internet backlash. This led to the film’s IMDB page and associated YouTube videos receiving low ratings before the movie was released.

In fact, by May 2016, the trailer became the most disliked trailer on the platform and the ninth most disliked YouTube video at the time, with over 1 million dislikes compared to 280,000 likes. The attack on Ghostbusters 2016 had a host of reasons behind it. From fans who felt entitled to the original and where they wanted the IP to go to straight-up misogyny, racism, and anti-feminism, there was no real way this film could win. Fans had already made their minds up, which meant it was essentially going to be dead on arrival.


Ghostbusters 2016 Is Much More Than Nostalgia and Fan Service

With a lot of the intense vitriol behind the film a thing of the past, it’s now easier to see all the things the 2016 film got right, particularly after the release of 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Compared to the latter two films, Feig’s movie is much more than nostalgia and fan service. This might make the fanbase happy, but it doesn’t do much to progress the IP, and their reliance on the past hides narrative shortcomings by making moviegoers happy with extended cameos from the stars of the original film.


Many people wrongly assumed that the hook or gimmick for the 2016 release was that it had all female leads. That was merely misogyny talking from people who were sadly uncomfortable seeing a group of women taking charge of an IP near and dear to their hearts. The truth is, there was no gimmick.

The fact that women were leading the show wasn’t what the audience should’ve been paying attention to. In the same vain that the original starred some of the best comedians of its time, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, the new take followed that same motif with McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, and Jones, who more than stood up against many funny people in the industry, male and female alike. There was a respect in the film’s casting that the trolling couldn’t see beyond.

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The screenplay, courtesy of Feig and Katie Dippold, builds on the concept created by Aykroyd and Ramis without merely making it a rehash of the original. The new characters aren’t just built as archetypes from the original, and there are no attempts to make a 2016 version of Venkman (Murray), Stantz (Aykroyd), Spengler (Ramis), or Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson). Had they been carbon copies, fans would’ve only been brandishing more pitchforks and torches as they watched the film.

The audience is given four characters with different traits from the original cast. Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert is a former professor at Columbia, McCarthy’s Dr. Abby Yates is her former partner and co-author, McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmanhan is the eccentric wildcard and brilliant inventor, while Jones’ MTA worker Patty Tolan is not the sassy black woman racist trolls attacked Jones for being in the film, but a character that actually knew the streets of New York from her reading up on the city’s history. These characters stand up in their own right, not in an attempt to be better than the ones conceived in the original movie, but as roles made to firmly carry the story they inhabit.


Perhaps the best example of character flipping that generates some of the best laughs in the film involves the role of the receptionist who “answers the call”, if you will, at their Ghostbusters’ headquarters above a Chinese restaurant. In the original movie, Annie Potts’ Janine Melintz serves this role and shines during her scenes by bringing her unique sensibilities to the part, but in Feig’s film, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, takes on the character of Kevin Beckman, a handsome and dim-witted individual that turns the secretary trope on its head.

That’s not to say that the main joke of Kevin being a male secretary isn’t low-hanging fruit, but the film does get a certain amount of mileage from poking fun at it, while Hemsworth is allowed to shine and display a sense of comedic timing that makes one wish he was given even more opportunities to show it off. He walks off with some of the film’s best lines, and while he is playing a stereotype of the good-looking idiotic secretary, his interactions with the female cast who lead the film don’t diminish his value as a character or comedic player. He’s on equal footing with them, which might not have happened if this reboot had been done with male leads and a beautiful female star had been cast as the receptionist.


The fact that the movie isn’t just a nostalgia factory, while its best asset, proved to be some of the bone of contention for fans because of how some of the nods to the original movie were used. There are cameos from Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson, Potts, and Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett in the first two films), and even a loving recognition of the late Ramis, but they are all playing new roles, making the biggest stance that this reboot shares no continuity with the original movie. Some fans viewed this as some form of disrespect, but had this been any other project, it likely would’ve been seen as a nice little wink and nudge, having the stars of the original pop up in their own clever way.


If anything, by not trying to recapture some magic of the past, the nods to the original movie are neatly inserted and don’t allow the storytelling to slow down to focus on nostalgia. There is confidence in the film’s approach, where Feig is focused on creating a new team, dabbling in new technology while going up against new foes. With this approach, the film functions as its own thing while also paying respect to the overall foundation of the movie that inspired it. In an age where moviegoers and critics want movies to be more self-assured while creating their visions, at least Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t just a beat-for-beat remake.

Ghostbusters 2016’s Screenplay Isn’t Just a Rehash of the Original


Feig and Dippold’s screenplay also deserves much more credit than it receives. The duo accomplishes the task of refining the original concept while forging a new scenario for this current team to take on. In a different approach from the original, there is an antagonist that isn’t a mystical being that appears during the film’s epic climax. Rowan (Neil Casey) is a bit of an oddball loner inspired by the book co-authored by Erin and Abby to bring about his form of apocalypse against a society that shuns him. It gives the team a more tangible foe that presents an ongoing problem throughout the film.

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The screenplay also toys around with its take on political dissent regarding the team’s battles against the ghosts of New York. The reboot avoids recreating the Environmental Protection Agency inspector Walter Peck (William Atherton) but instead goes for a more duplicitous form of government intervention from two sides. There’s the local, represented by Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia) and his assistant Jennifer Lynch (Cecily Strong), and the federal, represented by Homeland Security Agents Hawkins and Rourke (Michael K. Williams and Matt Walsh). This by no means makes the film politically charged by speaking on issues of the time, but it also isn’t naive in its depiction of how the government could interfere in what the Ghostbusters are doing.

Another aspect in which the film shines much better than any of the films that have followed the original is that it’s simply a funny motion picture. With Feig behind the camera and being a comedic force in his own right, having helmed films such as Bridesmaids, Spy, and The Heat, he has the necessary skills to navigate the comedic forces of his hilariously gifted cast.


There is excellent comedic chemistry between the new team, even with Wiig and McCarthy toning down some of their usual comedic tendencies. McKinnon and Jones more than make up for them by playing things a bit more straight as their characters get more of the larger-than-life moments, with McKinnon proving to be the film’s comedic secret weapon in a performance that showcased she’s one of the funniest people working in this industry today.

Ghostbusters 2016 wasn’t just a case of rinse and repeat. There is no denying that fans were more than happy to see the franchise turn into a look back at the original with the release of Afterlife and Frozen Empire. However, that route also derails the franchise from achieving any sense of originality. It doesn’t propel the franchise forward and only serves to leave it in the past. It’s interesting to note that, despite the hate the 2016 film received, it’s the best-reviewed entry with critics other than the original (74 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes).


Ghostbusters II (55 percent) was largely seen as a poor rehash of its predecessor, Ghostbusters: Afterlife (64 percent), received positive notices but did get criticism for relying too much on nostalgia, while Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (43 percent) doubled down on relying on nostalgia and didn’t effectively build on the foundation of its legacy sequel. At least Ghostbusters 2016 tried to forge its own path, and maybe now that it’s well beyond the internet beating it received, it can begin to be appreciated for being more than a fun trip down memory lane. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is currently playing in theaters, while Ghostbusters 2016 is available to stream on Prime Video, AMC+, and Philo.




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