July 14, 2016
The new Ghostbusters is pretty near perfect, balancing laugh-out-loud jokes with legitimate jump scares, and boasting some of the best cast chemistry captured on film in recent memory.
The villain (Neil Casey, who’s not given much to do in an otherwise snappy script) has a habit of repeating his plan to destroy Manhattan as a sort of mantra: “Charge the line, create the vortex, break the barrier.”
It could be a metaphor for the run up to the movie’s release.
CHARGE THE LINE: The boldface names in front of and behind the Ghostbusters lens spent years earning their comedy stripes. Director Paul Feig focused his film career on directing female-driven R-rated comedies (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy). His frequent collaborators, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, have become some of the most popular and successful comedic actors working today, and relative newcomers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are Saturday Night Live breakouts and fan favorites. The individual players were primed to form a comedy supergroup, and the long-suffering Ghostbusters franchise was ripe for a reboot.
CREATE THE VORTEX: When Feig announced the cast of the new film on Twitter in 2014, confirming the rumor that not only would women, you know, be there but all of the ghosts in the film would be busted by non-men, the Boys Rule/Girls Drool side of the internet lost its collective mind. Claims that strongly suggested one’s anatomy was the primary factor in determining one’s ability to bust ghosts rose to the top of social media trending topics. Many men even went so far as to say the decision to let a woman’s delicate hands touch a proton pack had retroactively ruined their childhood. Vortex created.
BREAK THE BARRIER: Feig succeeds in bringing to life characters who are specifically female and live in created worlds where that sometimes puts a person at a disadvantage. His Ghostbusters reinforce their womanliness in subtle and overt ways: dealing with sexual attraction, professional glass ceilings, and men who assume they are the weaker sex. This gender dynamic is played for laughs most specifically in the character of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor). Putting women in male-dominated spaces (science, technology, transportation agencies) and the main male character in a traditionally female-dominated space (dumb but pretty secretary) serves to make generalizations about which gender belongs where seem silly and dated (hi, internet trolls!).
Intentional or not, Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold, not only break down the argument that “women can’t bust ghosts,” they also give the audience a fantastic quasi-superhero origin story, effectively dismantling the “women can’t be superheroes” position as well. The movie is a true reboot, placing the characters in a world where a previous incarnation of Ghostbusters does not exist. Reminiscent of what audiences have seen in recent comic to screen adaptations for Spider-Man and Iron Man, the women must find clothes that suit their new endeavors and figure out how to harness their power (which comes in the form of an arsenal of laser-shooting weapons developed by Holtzmann) before they’re ready to fight the bad guys, er… ghosts. Each woman is given her own hero moment in the final showdown that plays just as spectacularly as anything we’ve seen from those other heroes who tend to assemble.
In one of my favorite scenes in the movie, the Ghostbusters post video proof of their abilities on YouTube and decide to read some of the comments, creating a meta moment that calls back to the day the first trailer for the new film was released. The scene was tweaked after the controversy erupted online to better reflect some of the comments the filmmakers were blasted with in the real world. In what I hope is a direct quote, one comment they discover cuts right to the chase: “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt ghosts.”
Ahem. If I may paraphrase the famous words of Dr. Peter Venkman, I think it’s safe to say these bitches came, they saw, they kicked ghost-busting’s ass.
YOU SHOULD ALSO: Stick around for a fun ending credits sequence and a short post-credits scene!
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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