And so, in case you forgot that life after 2016 has been about the worst people winning, we got some other news recently:
We’re getting a new Ghostbusters movie.
No, not another Ghostbusters movie based on the 2016 characters. The one with Melissa McCarthy and them, that was pretty good despite the world’s most butthurt men trying to drag it down. The one they actually set up a sequel for at the end.
We’re getting another Ghostbusters based on those 1980s guys. And this new movie will be directed by Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan.
I don’t want this. At all!
I done already told y’all that I don’t want Dan Aykroyd to get any more money. He has spent decades performing hucksterism so shameless – whether it be vodka, paranormal junk, or more Ghostbusters – that it nearly sours all the work of his that I love.
And I sure do love Aykroyd. Not just Trading Places, Elwood Blues, Beldar Conehead and the Bass-O-Matic pitchman. Give me Doctor Detroit and Nothing But Trouble! Yeah. I’m that nerd.
Nor do I care that Jason Reitman is directing it. He has spent nearly 15 years now giving us interesting, offbeat work, from Thank You For Smoking and Juno to Young Adult, Casual and Tully. He’s given us different things. He’s done work focused on women.
And now he’s gonna spend his time and effort on creating what sounds like a fanboy wet dream for a franchise that, frankly, never really was. Nor, dare I say, was it truly meant to be.
Ghostbusters began as a weird action-comedy for Dan Aykroyd and his SNL/Second City comedy pals based on the wacky genre stuff he loved, that was reworked into a really-that-good film. It happened to come out at a time when other genre nerds (George Lucas, Steven Spielberg) were transforming Hollywood blockbusters into their fantasy and pulp-hero images, and children became the most receptive audience.
Watch the original Ghostbusters, and it’s clear it was made for adults. (Blowjob ghost dream, anyone?) But who loved Ghostbusters more than anyone? Yup, it’s ‘80s kids like me!
As our Reaganite, toy commercial-as-cartoon 1980s took root alongside this culture shift, the ECTO-1 gang only strengthened its hold over kids’ imaginations and pop culture memories thanks to the successful cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. That show added backstories and lore and rosters of new characters that, even though it was only based on the movie, felt like they were part of the movie. (The episodes featuring the Boogeyman, and how they tied into Egon’s fears of/interest in fighting the paranormal, were quite affecting.)
I long ago said we don’t need a Ghostbusters 3. We’ve had other action-horror-comedies that, in terms of content, mined that vein. I think Welcome To The End did it best, but stuff such as the Men In Black and Hellboy series tapped into that energy.
More importantly, Ghostbusters worked because of the idiosyncrasies of Aykroyd, particularly, and how they were married to the educated-white-guy comic sensibilities of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman. Murray and Ramis, by 2000, seemed to be long past returning to that work – Ramis had Groundhog Day and Analyze This, and Murray had Lost In Translation – while Ernie Hudson had carved out a nice acting career beyond the jumpsuit.
Then Ramis died in 2014. But Aykroyd continued reminiscing in his beer like a former high school quarterback, crowing about the four touchdowns he threw in a single game.
For me, the magic was gone. The Ghostbusters, as we knew them, had given up the ghost.
However, I won’t lie. Gathering a bunch of funny people, strapping proton packs on them, and watching horror-comedy hijinks ensue is a good formula. It is good enough to be repeated and reconceptualized. It doesn’t have to be Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston specifically. The 2016 film, in its best moments, demonstrated that to be true.
(In short, I think that movie works up till the big CGI action spectacle at the end that’s incongruous with the rest of the movie. But that’s a whole separate meditation on modern movie-making and the setpieces needing to be designed, pre-vized, rendered and shot before the rest of the movie even takes shape.)
So it’s disheartening to see some teaser trailer for a movie nobody’s really worked on yet, that appears to be trying to bring back that same old magic. Guys, even the original folks couldn’t strike twice when they made Ghostbusters II. That one, unlike the first, really was made for kids. The bad guy’s thing is that he’s really mean and slimes people? They make the Statue of Liberty walk?!?
And even though all of Manhattan saw actual ghosts, including a King Kong-sized marshmallow man, and saw these dudes save New York, just five years later and they’re bums because “that’s New York”?!? I enjoyed this movie as a kid, and still do now, but it’s not even close to the first one.
But my chief objection to this new Ghostbusters movie so far is that it just feels lazy. Is there a true demand for this? I don’t need stuff coming back from my childhood unless you’re gonna make it really dope or reinvent it into something special.
(The Bumblebee movie and the She-Ra reboot on Netflix accomplish this, and guess what? Those projects had women at the helm, and it made a fresh difference. Change the players, especially those long excluded, and you change the game.)
Yes, it will be good business for Sony Pictures. They seem ready to ride the multiverse, do-as-many-versions-as-people-will-pay-to-see train they’ve now built with Spider-Man stuff. They pulled that off because the movies ranged from crowd-pleasing but OK or bad (Homecoming and Venom, respectively) to all-out great (Into the Spider-Verse).
But I mean lazy creatively. Rather than Ghostbusters fan service, I’d rather see something that hits some of those Ghostbusters spots while giving us something we haven’t seen before.
Why would I want Ghostbusters 3 when I could get a film version of Bitter Root?
Bitter Root, a new Image Comics series from David F. Walker and Sanford Greene, follows a black family in 1920s Harlem that catches monsters. A particular kind of monster, the Jinoo, is a soul undone and transformed by hate. Through paranormal alchemy and steampunkish weaponry, the Sangerye family specializes in curing these Jinoo and returning them to society.
The Jinoo serve as a metaphor for racism and white supremacy, how the hatred turns people into monsters. Furthermore, the comic shows how too often it is made incumbent upon black people to redeem those white monsters.
I already was into checking this comic book out for the basic premise, but you’ve also got family members fighting and joking on each other, and opportunities to learn about the Harlem Renaissance.
Plus, how many comic books have a young Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis in its pages?
Bitter Root does.
Option that for a movie, Hollywood.