Man, that was fun! I'd hate to have been so biased against it that I'd be incapable of enjoying it. And I really do think that's the problem with most people slamming it now: You may think you went in unbiased and willing to see it for what it is, but did you really leave your expectation that it'd suck at the door? (Apologies to everybody who sincerely expected it to be great but didn't like it. I'm sure there must be some of you, too.) Me, I've gone on record before saying that I was excited to see it, and I wasn't disappointed.
1984 Wasn't That Good a Year Anyway
But, full disclaimer: While I enjoyed the original movie (GB84 - doesn't that sound a little too much like Thatcherism?) like everybody else back in 1984, I think I only watched it that one time, unlike, say, Blues Brothers and Back to the Future, both of which I just kept going back to the theater for over and over during the rest of the Eighties. So when I finally rewatched GB84 after 30 years, I found it slow, cheap and antiquated, like most old movies after a while. (Blues Brothers, too. I haven't dared rewatch BTTF yet.*) Some of that is forgiveable: Like in Blues Brothers, the cheapness actually adds to the humor, and at the heart of it, it's a fine story about underdogs and quite funny, too. But it does show its age.
So I was rather 'meh' about it when the new one was first announced. Not because of the women (about time!), not because it's yet another reboot - it's just that I wasn't too excited about this reboot. Until I watched that trailer. Yes, the one everybody hated. I don't know what everybody saw - I saw fun, respect for the original designs and humor, and though not all of the jokes were for me, I had a couple of laughs. Most of all: it tapped into my fond memories of the 1984 movie in ways that the 1984 movie just can't anymore.
There are lots of ways the movie might not work for you - the overall aesthetic is more colorful than it used to be; the effects might not be to your taste; the jokes might not land for you (and they sure didn't all land for me), you might expect more horror (although that scene with the mirrors was genuinely creepy), the call-backs to GB84 might be too many and too blunt (okay, the graffiti scene was a bit long) or you might just not like the actors. All valid. All subjective, though. You might also be against the objectification of Chris Hemsworth (and yes, I read that a lot!) in which case, congrats! You now know how most women must feel during most movies. Seriously, that one is not valid.
I wasn't sold entirely myself originally because the one Feig/McCarthy movie I'd seen before (Spy) didn't quite land for me - and normally, I'd have waited for the DVD release of this one rather than going to the theater on day one. Seriously, if it hadn't been for the controversy and the hype around that... Still, I'm glad I went. I'm also glad a lot of would-be haters didn't, at least not yesterday.
Two Negatives Are Sometimes Worth the Risk
But... did they have to reboot Ghostbusters? Did they have to gender-swap everything? Couldn't they just have developed an all-new all-female property? I blogged about that yesterday in German, and I'm not doing it again because this post is already quite long. But the short answer to all of these questions is no. More to the point, in the right order: No, but that's how Hollywood works; No, but there's no reason not to; and No, because that's not how Hollywood works.
Hollywood as a system is almost pathologically risk-averse; the money people will always choose an established property over a new one. That's why we get all these sequels, prequels and reboots. It's also why we keep getting the same white guys in leading roles: because that's another safe bet for investors. It's only when the property seems otherwise secure that they'll even consider giving major amounts of money to a movie that takes one of these risks. An established property but with women or a new property but please let's rely on guys, shall we? Even established heroines don't always seem to be worth the risk yet or we'd have our Black Widow movie by now.
This is changing. But slowly.
On the other hand, Hollywood wants to be modern. Particularly the creatives in Hollywood probably aren't as risk-averse as their money lenders and would rather be on top of changes in society. The audiences, certain recent shitstorms aside, are largely up for it, too. So introducing female characters into formerly all-male properties becomes a real opportunity: You can reassure the investors that there's enough recognizability and it will even appeal to a young audience. And if you're really lucky, you get a lot of controversy and free promotion out of it. You don't even have to lie about these things: The younger audiences will like it. Because they're not attached to the old cast and because they've learned to expect more representation. And let's face it - you can't tell stories like it's 1984 anymore. Any new version of an old property, if it wants to be relevant today, will have to up its diversity. Back when Harold Ramis was still working on an actual Ghostbusters 3, he was more than willing to pass the torch to a modern team. And, from how his daughter tells it, that's not because he had to. He wanted it.
So director Paul Feig topped the expectation and went all the way, creating a nice vehicle to poke fun at old-time sexism with in the process. If Ghostbusters needed to be this vehicle is up for debate, but I'll take it. In the long run, these diversed-up reboots will probably help speed up the process of making Hollywood more open to new properties, too. I call that a win for everybody. It's also debatable if Ghostbusters really had to be rebooted at all, but so what? If you don't like it, don't watch it.
32 years from now, this version will probably seem at least as antiquated as the original movie feels to me. Even more, it will feel like a very blunt weapon in the fight against sexism, much like, say, 1975's Stepford Wives does now. It'll probably never be a classic. It doesn't really try to be anything more than a contemporary comedy, and in my book, it does that job pretty well without losing respect for the other contemporary comedy it was built on.
Now I'm looking forward to the all-female Ocean's Eight I keep hearing about. And maybe soon, at least sooner than we otherwise would, we'll get some cool all-new female-led stuff.
*) Have now. I'm glad to report the timing and storytelling live up nicely to today's standards. The gender politics and morality, of course, remain firmly set in the Fifties. Including what we see from 1985.