It’s a risk to review the first trailer of an unreleased movie, because the marketing department and the filmmakers are separate entities, and certainly have different agendas (commerce vs. art), but I thought it would be worth talking about the trailer for today’s long-awaited Ghostbusters remake, simply because fans have waited decades for footage of an official live-action Ghostbusters.
Sadly, even in the 21st-century, it’s worth mentioning that I’m not one of the so-called “fans” vehemently against director Paul Feig’s decision to cast four leading women. I’d have preferred a mixed gender film, it’s true, but online campaigns to boycott this movie simply because it favours girls over boys are ludicrous and insulting. I also like Feig’s previous film work—from the excellent Bridesmaids and amusing The Heat, to last year’s very funny Spy, but also going way back to TV’s short-lived Freaks & Geeks. I want him to succeed with this, and it’s definitely a step-up visually.
My concerns here have little to do with Feig’s “contentious” casting—although I’m disheartened to see Melissa McCarthy giving exactly the same broad performance she always gives. ‘Isn’t that true of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, by and large?’ I hear you cry. Yeah, possibly. For that reason I’ll cut McCarthy some slack here, but I was hoping Feig would write her a part that stretches her comedic chops. Maybe he did, and the trailer nevertheless chose to focus on the most ‘McCarthy-esque’ moments because she can bring the Spy crowd to this. We shall see come summer.
What’s a little less forgivable is giving Leslie Jones (the film’s only black actress) the exact same role Ernie Hudson had in the ’84 film: the less educated working class local. The trailer actually rewrites canon to say that ‘four scientists saved New York’ once, when Winston Zeddemore was never a scientist. And neither can his black female counterpart be in 2016, it seems. Oh dear.
However, my beef with this trailer is three-fold:
- I didn’t think it was very funny, unless 43-year-old Exorcist references like rotating heads still feel fresh to you. Or you like gunge.
- There’s more excitement in the anticipation of hitting play to the video than sitting through the trailer itself, although I’m sure more action-orientated promos will come.
- The effervescent tone just feels more childish than I’d expected. The ghosts looked well done, but also like something from the recent Goosebumps.
I particularly disliked the opening of the trailer, too, which recreates a scene from the original with a seemingly demure librarian ghost suddenly turning vicious—only, here, the updated spooky isn’t very scary, and the telegraphed jump-scare is ruined by a projectile vomit-slime sight gag. The rest of the ghosts we glimpse look very colourful and cartoonish—perhaps owing more to the style of the well-regarded Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. Opinions will vary of how well this style works, of course.
I can understand why the new Ghostbusters is appealing foremost to children and families, but I already miss the grittier edge of the 1984 classic. There were some seriously fucked-up scenes in Ivan Reitman’s movie—from subtle weirdness like those self-cooking eggs, to Sigourney Weaver being attacked in her armchair by gruesome arms—and I suspect nothing as intense is going to be troubling Feig’s version. Maybe that’s to be expected, because ’80s filmmaking for children always was more risqué.
To end on some positive notes, I think Kristen Wiig is great casting as the team’s leader Erin Gilbert, Kate McKinnon looks like spunky fun as gadget-maker Holtzmann, and that shot of the spring-loaded guns on a proton pack was easily the coolest moment (see .GIF below). There were also brief shots when the remixed theme tune fit nicely with the visuals, although the iconic music didn’t have the expected impact on me. And that’s a big minus, considering they have one of the best movie theme tunes ever made at their disposal.
It wasn’t unreasonable to expect the same nostalgic thrill as the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer, or that first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, was it? But the hairs on the back of my neck remained flat for Ghostbusters. Perhaps you need a human link to the previous films of a beloved franchise for any remake/sequel to elicit that response, and a quick shot of Slimer doesn’t cut it. It’ll be interesting to see how the confirmed cameos for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson go down in the actual film.
What did you think? Was your first impression good or bad? Did this trailer work for you overall? Did you laugh at anything? Are you excited to see it? Do you hope the next few trailers will be better, if they focus on the actual storyline and feature better jokes?
GHOSTBUSTERS will be scaring up audiences on 15 July 2016.