My first title for this was “Deconbusting Ghoststructures,” but I’m setting my sights a bit lower than that.
New Ghostbusters and Old Ghostbusters are not the same movie. Thank goodness. I can watch both of these movies, enjoy both of them, and not have to worry that I’m stuck watching the same thing twice. There are plenty of moments that are obvious homages to the original, and they pretty obviously had to tie the new movie to the old one given the subject material and premise, but I feel like they’re different enough that the connection is almost more baggage and drag than it’s worth. The name and premise are enough to make this a target of nostalgia-hazed criticism, when it really ought to be viewed (and reviewed) as it’s own thing.
The fact is, New Ghostbusters is an enjoyable movie. It fits into the summer blockbuster mould. It made me laugh, it scared me a bit, it was fun. I have some problems with it, but on the whole I’d say it’s worth watching.
Now, with that out of the way, I’ll engage in hypocrisy and do more to compare the two.
I definitely found New Ghostbusters scarier than Old Ghostbusters. And it has a different (if sometimes similar) kind of humor. The cast is still laden with SNL talent, with all that that entails, but New Ghostbusters makes huge strides forward in the representation-of-women-department, which is refreshing and an excellent source of (sometimes grim) comedy gold. However fond I am of it, Old Ghostbusters was pretty shit when it came to that.
But, uh, that doesn’t make the position of Leslie Jones’ character Patty in New Ghostbusters less uncomfortable. As both white and male, I don’t think I’m the best person to be making this point… but Patty is pretty lonely as the least white central cast member, and gets a pretty stereotypical role. I think Leslie Jones is great, but that’s not really the point. When you set out to make a movie with the intent of addressing the imbalances of the original material, stereotyped casting for your single main black actor seems like a pretty obvious boo-boo. I know you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes, but wouldn’t you think maybe they’d made that mistake often enough before?
I think this comes back to the problems created by a scarcity of representation that I referenced in my Mad Max review. Leslie Jones’ character certainly feels real, and I don’t mean to say that she doesn’t deserve to be in the picture or that she isn’t interesting and fun. It’s a different problem: even as the scarcity of representation of women is addressed with the rest of the movie, the scarcity of representation of black characters is not. Sigh.
At least New Ghostbusters has the central black actor’s name on the name-including poster, unlike the 1984 version. Ernie Hudson doesn’t show up on there at all, not even after Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis. He’s hardly even in the trailer.
It doesn’t help that Old Ghostbusters also had some hinky shit with regards to the casting of Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore. Apparently, Winston was supposed to be a much larger character than he ended up being; he was supposed to show up at the beginning, with an in-depth character background. Ernie Hudson’s account is here.
So I guess I’m not sure whether to call this a modern repeat of older issues, or whether I should say that this movie has moved forward some (addressing scarcity of representation of women) but not as far as I’d like (not addressing scarcity of representation of black people).
I did enjoy watching the movie. I did think it was funny. I did like the various characters, and their interactions, and their humor. Plus Neil Casey was entertainingly creepy as the apocalypse-obsessed hotel worker, and looked like he was channeling Peter Lorre at times. I just wish my overall feelings about the film could be a little less complicated.