There is no reason for the cast of the new Ghostbusters to be women.
How’s THAT for an inflammatory clickbait headline? Man, if only I had this arranged in a list, complete with one entry that will AMAZE you, I’d be writing BuzzFeed gold. Ahhh, good times.
No, but really, stay with me on this. And you better not be afraid of no spoilers.
Just like the original film, Ghostbusters starts with an opening scare that will eventually be the start of our heroes’ ghostbusting career. (If the noun “ghostbuster” is one word, is the verb one word too?) This very first scene tells me a lot about the tone of the movie. Right away it is densely packed with jokes. If one doesn’t hit your funny bone, there is another one right behind it that hopefully will. Luckily, most of these early jokes are at least amusing, letting me know I’m in good hands. I can also tell from the sets, cinematography, and special effects that this is going to be a bright movie which focuses on whimsy and fun more than anything. Again, it’s succeeding and I smile while our hapless victim goes into the basement.
When he screams and Ray Parker Jr.’s theme kicks in, I settle into my chair. This movie has me.
Let’s talk about the casting, shall we? The rest of the internet already has. Kristen Wiig shares the central spotlight with Melissa McCarthy. Wiig is fine, which is usually my opinion of her in everything I see. Her particular comedic style has never quite tickled me, so when she’s trying to be funny it falls flat. I actually like her better in the emotional moments. When she is overjoyed that ghosts are real or is trying to repair her friendship with McCarthy she embodies the heart of the film well.
It helps that she’s playing against Melissa McCarthy who I believe to be a talented actress. McCarthy’s most irritating comedies are usually when she’s playing a loudmouth buffoon. When a director can rein her in a little bit and she avoids typecasting by playing a more normal and confident character, she absolutely shines. Here she is likeable, delivers the comedy with perfect timing, and sells me on her childlike glee that her life’s work is proving to be correct.
While everyone gets the chance to make you laugh, much of the comedy comes from the other half of our quartet. Leslie Jones revels in being the voice of reason among the group. While the others have studied the science of ghosts for years and are fascinated by the level four spectral manifestations, Jones gets to react the way you or I would when facing a malevolent spirit. That is to say she nopes right the fuck on out of there. It’s a little one-note at times, albeit a humorous note. Luckily the script was smart enough to give her character historical knowledge of New York so she can also provide exposition. This helps make her feel like a valuable member of the team even more than Winston, the original’s fourth “non-scientist everyman” member, did.
And then we have Kate McKinnon. I wish I had bought stock in the Kinsey scale because its net value among my lady friends has skyrocketed. And I can see why. Her character is designed to be the favorite. She is offbeat, stylish, a bit wacky, and even a little (a lot) badass. There will be plenty of little girls who will want to be her for Halloween. Hell, I want to be her for Halloween. She is a fun shot of energy in the movie. I especially adore the permanent grin she has on her face; even in dangerous situations she is having fun. I’m not sure what wavelength she’s operating on, but I want to tune into it.
And last, we have Chris Hemsworth as their assistant. I’m of two minds on him. His character is basically a cartoon in a movie that, despite ectoplasmic secretions being tossed everywhere, is filled with mostly normal people. He is too stupid to live and feels out of place in this world. That said…he’s so damn funny. Some of his lines had me on the floor. By the end of the movie he’s earned himself an honorary spot on the team by being so dumb and pretty that he’s endearing. He’s like a puppy and about as smart. Even though he clashes with everyone around him, I wouldn’t want him gone.
So we have a strong central cast, all we need is a good movie to put them in. Ghostbusters is indeed pretty good! Mostly. The villain is underwritten. Sure, it’s not like Gozer, Zuul, or Vinz Clortho had much motivation beyond just being evil for evil’s sake, but our villain here in the reboot is never anywhere near as threatening as they were, even in their short screen time. There are also some slow spots when our heroes are testing out their gear, or a joke that missed is still going. Some of the cameos by original cast members feel painfully forced and awkward.
But some of the cameos I really liked! And I was happy to see them passing the proverbial torch. When the movie deals with the titular busting of ghosts, it is a great time. I for one really like the neon glow of the ghosts. It’s not too scary but still visually exciting. With jokes landing, proton packs blasting, and slime everywhere this is ultimately a really fun adventure for just about anyone. When McKinnon gets to have her moment (you know the one) I was applauding in my seat because I was enjoying myself so much.
I’ve come to accept that everything will be remade sooner or later, so I only hope that the new versions are enjoyable. If they’re not, it’s not like the originals stopped existing. Luckily, this movie takes the best elements of the original and updates them without losing sight of what made original tick; a team of funny people and a touch of spookiness.
After the movie I took note of something, and here is where we come full circle. There is no reason for the cast of the new Ghostbusters to be women. None of them are having relationship troubles with men in their lives. None of them bend way over the steaming engine of the Ecto-1 dripping with sweat. They don’t have to struggle against men who doubt their abilities just because they’re women. With how the characters are written they could have cast four guys, changed the pronouns, and the movie would be 95% the same. There is no reason for the cast of the new Ghostbusters to be women.
And that is why it’s so important that they ARE women. These women are all smart, capable, confident, empowered characters in control of their own story. They aren’t defined or motivated by a relationship to a man. They aren’t even challenged to prove that they are “just as good as men;” they simply are. They are professors. Scientists. Strong. Intelligent. Heroic. This movie shatters the Bechdel test, the Mako Mori test, and the Sexy Lamp test without even blinking. (Also, the Furiosa test, so there’s that.) I watch this movie and I see an enjoyable romp. A little girl could see this movie and realize she could be just as awesome as Dr. Jillian Holtzmann. Representation matters. John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Vin Diesel have saved the world hundreds of times by now. It could mean the world to someone to see these ladies save the day without their womanhood being used as a plot point. If someone asks “why should this character be a woman” a perfectly valid response is “why not?”
That is why this movie is important.
(Yes, I had to look up Vinz Clortho’s name. You didn’t know the name of the Keymaster either.)
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Carol – Cate Blanchett has way more confidence hitting on women than I ever had. Set in 1950s New York, Rooney Mara plays a young woman letting life lead her around when she becomes smitten with Cate Blanchett. Their flirtations and passion are a delight to see, and the messiness of starting new relationships while old ones are not yet quite ended plays out with heartbreaking verisimilitude. Add in prejudices against homosexuality and you have a well-acted drama that has you hoping for the best and fearing the worst. Responsible for the “Harold, they’re lesbians!“ meme.
Inkheart – Brendan Fraser has the ability to bring characters in and out of books simply by reading aloud. When his wife becomes trapped inside the book Inkheart and its villain and others come out into the real world, Fraser and his daughter go on an adventure to set things right. This family adventure has a surprisingly strong cast with Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, and yes, I even think Brendan Fraser makes a good second-string leading man. The beginning and end of this movie are filled with fun visuals and family-friendly action, but the middle is a real slog. Once the first act sets up the world and conflict, the second act had me just waiting until we’d get to the final confrontation. The good elements here end up being less than the sum of their parts.
The Bourne Legacy – What do you do when you’ve run out of books to adapt and both your star and director are done with the franchise? Bring in Hawkeye and start making stuff up! Jeremy Renner plays another super agent in another CIA program and is also going rogue. He may as well be named Mason Tourne. Shameless writing aside, I actually quite enjoyed this entry in the series. It may even be my favorite. The beginning in Alaska feels fresh and Renner is more personable than Damon’s stoicism. Spy action on par with the rest of the series and a good ticking clock to work against, and you have a solid spy flick.
Point Break (2015) – Criminals making daring escapes are Robin Hooding around the globe and only extreme sports enthusiast/FBI agent Johnny Utah can go undercover to find them. Turns out these guys are actually eco-terrorists of sorts, trying to highlight they ways in which humanity is abusing the planet by performing the “Ozaki Eight” series of trials against nature that is said to lead to enlightenment. Riiiiight. Everything about this movie is nonsense but the stunts and exotic locations are impressive. Just watch those parts. A few kudos for still saying “I am an FBI agent” as well as firing into the air while yelling.
London Has Fallen – Only Gerard Butler can save President Aaron Eckhart for a second time when terrorists attack London. Little more than a string leading us from action set piece to set piece, this plot has some pretty awful leaps in logic. The CGI is unconvincing and dated already. And yet, I kinda had fun watching this? The hero is a brutal “take no prisoners” type that I don’t see as much anymore, the action is big and dumb, and stuff blows up real good. This almost feels like a ’90s action movie made today. It’s nothing special but is kind of a fun watch.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – I enjoy what-if, alternate-universe stories. Some people find them to be cheap devices, but in moderation I enjoy the chance to see characters turned on their heads and allowing the writers and actors to shake things up. When the Flash changes the timeline, he creates an alternate, brutally dark reality. Like, “children getting murdered” dark. Batman is a killer, and a war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman is killing millions of innocents caught in the crossfire. The anime influences on this DC animated movie’s style didn’t always sit right with me; just wasn’t to my taste. The action is fun though, and the violence, while a little overindulgent at times, helps keeps the stakes raised. As far as side stories about the darkest timeline go I really enjoyed this one.
The Darkness – When Kevin Bacon’s son brings back some ritualistic stones from a camping trip in the Grand Canyon, the family’s home is terrorized by five animal demon spirits. With a weak theme about atoning for your wrongdoing, this hack horror movie is two parts Poltergeist and one part Paranormal Activity, yet it does nothing as well as those films. Keep as many degrees of separation as you can between you and this lazy cliché.
The Bling Ring – A group of young rich yuppies steal from famous richer yuppies. Based on a true story, this movie burglary and obsession with celebrity is about as shallow as its characters. Good cinematography gives the illusion of depth that just isn’t there. This movie was based on a Vanity Fair article about the incidents. A magazine article is about as much real content there is to be had.
The Raid – This Indonesian martial arts action flick chronicles the bloody and violent ascent of a SWAT team up an apartment building which is filled with criminals and thugs in an attempt to bring in a crime lord. The action is fast and furious with inventive use of the environment coupled with gunplay and expert choreography. The plot is so scant and the action so relentless that one can eventually start to tune out, but every fight is worth seeing. If you want high-octane kung-fu look no further. (Apologies for use of the word kung-fu in such a general sense.)
The Raid 2 – The first had hardly any story and this one has all the story. Our hero is sent deep undercover to destroy the crime families from within. Too many plot lines interweave, some of them barely even concerning the hero, creating a disjointed feeling. Cut 45 minutes out of this bloated crime drama and focus on the action which is, again, top-notch across the board.
The Good Dinosaur – Pixar brings us the tale of a friendly dinosaur who must conquer his own fears, and his primitive dog-like human friend looking for a family to belong to. This family animation is beat for beat a by-the-numbers Pixar film. Once the novelty of a talking animal befriending a human who acts like an animal wears off, none of the characters are memorable and some parts involving the eating of other creatures might be too scary for the target audience. Pixar phoned this one in.