The Stranger Thing About That New Ghostbusters Movie

In the last week, we’ve had two early trailers hit for next summer’s highly anticipated movies: Wonder Woman 1984 and Ghostbusters Afterlife. These films kind of sit adjacent to issues that prove the internet has the collective intelligence of a very primitive fungus.

Ghostbusters Afterlife is the direct sequel to 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, featuring much of the surviving cast (Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigorney Weaver, and Annie Potts), plus Paul Rudd (Ant-man), along with Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and McKenna Grace (Captain Marvel) as the grandchildren of Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis).

Fans of the original 1984 film were giddy with the clear reverence that the trailer showed for its predecessors. They were also happy that the new movie clearly ignores the disastrous 2016 remake directed by Paul Feig and staring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth, which is only fair, given that the misbegotten abortion of a remake ignored the original films. However, this also seemed to outrage supporters of the 2016 film. Star Leslie Jones went on a Twitter tirade when Afterlife was first announced, calling it a “dick move” and “like something Trump would do.”

Jesus Christ, Leslie, overreach much?

I’ve got some bad news for you, Leslie, but your version lost money for the studio, its 74% on Rotten Tomatoes is weak and probably deceptively high, and it largely alienated fans of the original movie. So, no, it doesn’t count as a movie which could financially justify a sequel.

Another interesting take (and by “interesting,” I mean painfully idiotic) comes from UK journalist James McMahon:

As if making the film they should have made in the first place was a slap in the face to decades of social progress, rather than a necessary course correction. The remake/reboot failed not because misogyny won the day, but because director Paul Feig did something he doesn’t normally do: make a bad movie.

Supporters of the 2016 film are still laboring, three years later, under the delusion that their version was a timeless masterpiece that failed only because a cabal of MRA man-baby snowflakes were afraid that a female-led Ghostbusters film would somehow further shrink their micro-pee-pees. The reality is that 2016’s Ghostbusters was a textbook example of soulless corporate filmmaking, and it probably did better at the box office than it deserved to because of its high-profile franchise, director, and cast. Had Ghostbusters (2016) not been based on a beloved franchise, and not had the Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy pedigree from Bridesmaids and Spy, the movie would have vanished without a trace at the box office.

That being said, the 2016 Ghostbusters didn’t have to suck. Like I said, Paul Feig is one of our better comedy directors working today. The cast of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones are talented and had good chemistry together. Chris Hemsworth showed his comedic chops by elevating a one-note, one-joke character until he was the highlight of the film. The first 20–30 minutes of this movie had some nice character moments before the visual effects department started vomiting all over the screen. The script was badly undercooked, and they were depending on nostalgia and CGI to carry the day. Unfortunately, the movie pissed away the nostalgia factor by discarding any connection to the 1984 and 1989 movies (despite a deceptive and uniformly hated trailer that suggested the films were connected).

One uncomfortable truth that the 2016 film’s advocates probably wish we’d forget is how the movie jettisoned any claim to wokeness with its casting choices. The three white actresses play the scientists while the sole African American cast member played less of a working-class character than a noisy collection of stereotypical cliches. Leslie Jones’ character completely missed the point of Ernie Hudson’s subtle contribution to the original. Hudson never played Zeddemore as the “black guy.” He was playing the “average Joe,” punching the clock and only busting ghosts to pay the rent. His character could have been white (or Asian or Latino) without any major surgery to the script.

The 2016 Ghostbusters would have been better served if, for example, they switched actresses and had Kate McKinnon play the working class subway employee and Leslie Jones one of the scientists. Also, if we’re going for real “woke” street cred, the dynamic between Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig’s characters felt so much like a bickering divorced couple that they should have just leaned into that. Of course, all this assumes that they give the script about a dozen more trips through someone’s copy of Final Draft until they actually have a story to tell, preferably one they can tell on a much smaller budget. Spending $140 million on a glorified spoof movie masquerading as an unwanted remake was pure stupidity on Sony’s part and should be a major black mark on Amy Pascal’s track record as a studio executive.

The real reason that the 2020 Ghostbusters sequel is so eagerly anticipated while the 2016 remake flopped is 1) the first trailer for the new film was actually excellent instead of catastrophically sucking like 2016’s first trailer, and 2) it’s a sequel that respects the legacy of the beloved original instead a soulless marketing exercise that shits all over it. The box office performance of these hollow remakes of beloved franchises is sufficiently woeful that you’d think that studios would have learned their lesson by now. Unfortunately, Hollywood studio executives who aren’t named Bob Iger, Alan Horn, and Kevin Feige seem to have the learning capacity of brain-damaged goldfish.

If we needed any proof that the box office failure of 2016’s Ghostbusters had nothing to do with misogyny, we only need to look to the following year and the blockbuster success of Wonder Woman, showing that the general audience has no problem with female-led blockbusters as long as they are, you know, actually good. Even more significantly, 2019’s Captain Marvel, despite the snowflake-y umbrage taken by some knuckle-dragging troglodytes over completely innocuous comments about male journalists made by star Brie Larson, went on to score $1.3 billion worldwide, proving that the misogynistic neanderthals who supposedly tanked Ghostbusters 2016 were actually impotent to do any such thing.

Bonus Round

Of lesser importance but still annoying to yours truly were some reactions to the trailers to Ghostbusters Afterlife and Wonder Woman 1984. Some ignorant post-millennial children on the internet saw Finn Wolfhard in a movie about ghosts and made fools of themselves by asserting that the Ghostbusters sequel was just a “ripoff” of Netflix’s Stranger Things. These same cultural zygotes thought that, because Wonder Woman 1984 is set in the 1980s and has a scene in a mall, that it must also be inspired by Stranger Things. I don’t know how to break it to these literacy-challenged folks, but the 1980s was a decade that actually happened and not something that Netflix invented for a TV show. Trust me, I lived through it.

Another idiot, who has a YouTube channel called World Class Bullshitters, a name that is far less ironic than he intended, even suggested that the It movies were somehow inspired by Stranger Things as well, as if Stephen King never existed. I don’t have anything to say, other than than to marvel that someone this stupid managed to successfully set up a YouTube channel.

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