Like most other movie folks, I saw Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot last week. I thought it was pretty funny when it was a comedy, and then the plot kicked in and I just wanted it to end. The joke writing was sharp and the cast was great, but it sort of just took the entire conceit of the franchise and built some (good) bits on top of it without ever really examining the gears. I watched the entire movie and still have some basic questions about the canon. Questions like, where do these ghosts come from, and what do they want? Are they all the spirits of dead people? If so, what’s Slimer? The ghost of a green blob? What about the dragon ghost guy, was he the spirit of a departed dragon? When did they live? Why won’t their spirits rest? Did the dragon live a really sad life and then get murdered by a deceitful dragon-spouse? And where do the ghosts go when they’re busted? Whither Slimer?
If studios absolutely must make reboots, I tend to like it better when the reboot filmmakers actually explore the mythology of the original. No one’s better at this than Lord and Miller, who made a brilliant Lego movie and two solid 21 Jump Street movies by cannibalizing the source and exploring what it means to, say, play with Lego or a make a movie out of a TV show about handsome narcs infiltrating high school. Ghostbusters has funny sketches (which Paul Feig is better at than ever, having seemingly lost that sitcommy, “joke-metronome” feel of Spy, where something funny had to happen every 27 seconds whether it was organic or not) built atop a mythology it never explores. So when the plot kicks in and the characters have to do more than just riff (they have to stop a portal thingy! or else mass hysteria!) it gets boring. Just a rote recitation of canon. Bust the ghosts, reverse the polarity, etc.
Thus, for me it was a combination of pleasant surprise and mild disappointment. I thought about putting this into a review, but everyone was so busy shouting, and chasing Leslie Jones off Twitter, that voicing yet another Ghostbusters opinion (especially a mild one) seemed pointless. As someone on Twitter put it, Leslie Jones has been working in comedy clubs for 20 years. For harassment to get to her at this point it had to be pretty f*cking bad. All this over a goddamned Ghostbusters movie? Not worth it, man. It seems like the most salient Ghostbusters opinion at this point is “shut the f*ck up.”
I’d rather save my energy to fight culture war battles that aren’t built around reboots of ghost comedies. I’m not trying to claim the moral high ground here either, I don’t know if this is the correct strategy. I go back and forth every day between “don’t feed the trolls” and “fight fire with fire.” Maybe we should try to drown out every dipsh*t’s half-formed argument about a movie he thinks he owns because he watched the cartoon — and surely this is partly studios’ fault for empowering “the fans” to play Fantasy Studio Exec with every tidbit about expanded universes every weekend — but it’s just so exhausting. It’s hard enough to try to get people to pay attention to movies we do think are artistically relevant.