Rumours have circulated around a possible Ghostbusters sequel for what feels like ages at this point. First, Bill Murray didn’t want to do it, then he said he would. Dan Aykroyd appeared super keen on the project but seemed to lose interest when his writing partner and co-star Harold Ramis passed away early last year. Even the director of the 1984 film and its sequel, Ivan Reitman, decided to “pass the torch” to a new director following Ramis’ death.
It would appear the torch has been officially passed. This Wednesday, director Paul Feig posted to his Twitter feed saying “It’s official. I’m making a new Ghostbusters and writing it with @katiedippold & yes, it will star hilarious women. That’s who I’m gonna call.” Katie Dippold teamed with Feig to write last year’s female buddy cop film, The Heat, starring the foul mouthed and ostentatious/potential future Ghostbuster Melissa McCarthy.
Feig likes to cast and direct women. The hugely popular Bridesmaids featured an all-female cast, and the aforementioned The Heat was also centered around main characters who were women. With that in mind, Feig’s desire to reboot Ghostbusters with four women doesn’t come across a shock. But damn if it doesn’t come off as gimmicky. Feig addressed this during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying: “Some people accused it of kind of being a gimmick and it’s like, it would be a gimmick if I wasn’t somebody whose brain doesn’t automatically go to like, I want to just do more stuff with women. I just find funny women so great. For me it’s just more of a no-brainer.”
Before you applaud him for standing up for feminism and bucking the trend, let’s take a minute, as fans of the franchise, and analyze that last bit. “…it would be a gimmick if I wasn’t somebody whose brain doesn’t automatically go to like, I want to just do more stuff with women.” It would appear that his immediate goal for rebooting the franchise is first and foremost to star an all-female cast, and figure everything else out later.
So yes, Mr. Feig, that is pretty much the definition of a gimmick.
The major issue here isn’t a misogynistic outcry of “OH MY GOD, YOU CAN’T MAKE THE GHOSTBUSTERS WOMEN, THAT’S SO WRONG”, it’s building an entire movie around this idea and trying to make everything else fit into this mould rather than writing a fantastic and funny supernatural comedy and then looking into who should play whom.
At least Mr. Feig can rest safely knowing that should his movie suck, there will be legions of vocal Tumblr users that will applaud him merely for taking such a huge step in the fight for gender equality; a good chunk of which probably won’t even go see the movie.
That isn’t to say this idea has no potential for success. Feig comes across as passionate about the franchise and clearly has high hopes in bringing Ghostbusters to a new generation saying: “Everything’s got to live on its own merits. It would be terrible if we just go, oh we’re just doing an update where we use the same dynamic and scripts. If we just flop four women into the exact same personalities and roles as original, then that’s lazy filmmaking on my behalf, and who wants to see that?
However, we’ve seen this type of thinking before. Internet pariah and poster boy for shitty reboots, Michael Bay, tried this with Transformers, and while any six-year-old will gush about his favourite scene, older fans who grew up with the Autobots felt differently. The incredibly shallow, poorly scripted Transformers and its three equally unwarranted sequels felt like a spit in the face to 80s kids who remember the shock and heartbreak of Optimus Prime dying in the original feature film. The messy and convoluted redesigns looked more like alien insects than robots, and aside from featuring the fantastic Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus, there was little depth or personality to any of the other characters.
The Transformers aren’t the only victims to fall to the axe of the Hollywood reboot. This summer, we got out first live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in over 20 years, but things took a turn for the terrible when fans discovered the new iteration would be attempt to mimic the dark and gritty Nolan-esque style modern filmgoers have come to expect. This could have worked, as the original Mirage Comics series was a lot meaner and more violent than the goofy cartoon that followed. Unfortunately, other factors were at play that continued trends found in the Transformers reboots: The redesigns were hideous, the Turtles were bulky, muscle bound Hulk-lites, and the movie focused more on the terribly miscast Meghan Fox’s April O’Neil than the titular turtles.
All these issues aside, there remains one question that rises above the tiny details like casting and plot.
Do we NEED a reboot?
Well, no, not really. If you had asked this 15 years ago I would have jumped at the idea. Call it getting older and more bitter, but after seeing two of my top three childhood franchises robbed of their magic and personality in order to sell more toys to a new generation (I am well aware that is also what the 80s cartoons were designed to do) , I’m not stoked on this news. The term reboot used to conjure up warm feelings of nostalgia; when I hear it now it is with dread and trepidation. Especially when the person in charge of doing it begins his mission with the mandate of “Wouldn’t it be awesome to just totally ignore the original movies and make it hip by focusing on the genders of the characters instead of everything else?”
Just let it be. We had something special in the original. Dan Aykroyd was passionate about the supernatural world, Bill Murray was in his prime, and New York in the 80s had this special grime to it that was the perfect setting for the world they were creating. This new version doesn’t need to be made, nobody is asking for it and Feig is trying to fill some pretty big shoes. The movie could turn out great, and I’d be more than happy to eat my words, but the whole idea feels cheap right from the start, and that doesn’t bode well for winning the hearts and minds of people who grew up with this universe and the quirky characters found within.