Mild spoilers ahead
I just want to first preface this by saying that I hate everything surrounding this movie. I hate the internet cry-babies who don’t want women in their Ghostbusters, I hate the people who prejudged the films on trailers which, by the way, are unrepresentative and I therefore also hate (most of the jokes in the trailer aren’t even in the film, or severely taken out of context). The marketing for this film had been awful, the backlash and subsequent anti-backlash has been awful, and it’s a shame because underneath it all is a pretty decent summer blockbuster.
The original 1984 Ghostbusters is my favourite film (judge away), so while I was initially opposed to a remake, I was still excited to see a new team back on the big screen. For the most part, it works, primarily down to a fantastic cast of new Ghostbusters, enough jokes and moments that land and a sense of downright fun that gives it a unique flavour apart from the funny, but never overly joyous 1984 version. The cast is the main selling point here; Kate McKinnon is the obvious stand-out, a character the likes of which the GB ‘universe’ had never seen, but Leslie Jones’ Patty gets her fair share of funny lines and Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig provide the film’s emotional core. While Wiig and McCarthy get a pretty predictable arc, and McKinnon gets a defined role as the team’s kick-ass engineer, Jones feels a bit like the odd one out, her biggest skill being her knowledge of New York history, but apart from a few odd tidbits, she never gets a satisfactory conclusion to her character’s skill set; a fight scene near the end of the film that inexplicably takes place in old New York seems like it should have some connection to her character, but never does (perhaps this was cut from the finished film). Apart from that, however, the team manages to capture the chemistry of the original team, while not being comprised of character re-hashes. The best new addition, however, is probably Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin, who is so over the top stupid nearly every word out of his mouth is comic gold. The brilliance that is the cast being able to click cannot be overstated; I was grinning almost every time they were just hanging around together, and that’s a harder feat to pull off than one might think.
The problems with the film only really start to emerge in the third act. Here, the film seems to misunderstand what Ghostbusters is really about, and that is only to its detriment. I am talking, of course, about the drawn out fight scene between the Ghostbusters and the historical ghosts controlled by Rowan, the film’s antagonist. The original Ghostbusters was never an action film, and that’s because it wasn’t about action heroes, but about scientists. Unlike the new team, their proton beams only trapped ghosts, unlike the variety of weapons that, clearly designed for sale as toys, now seem to somehow kill/disable the ghosts. Ghostbusters was never really about that, and while a new spin on the franchise is fine, the fact that the action scene is so boring speaks clearly to the fact that this wasn’t the right direction to take it. In fact, the third act seems to mostly abandon comedy completely. Aside from a few jokes, it takes itself much too seriously (a dance number in the credits should really have been in the main film); the point of the giant Stay Puft was that it was funny; even if Bill Murray hadn’t said ‘he’s a sailor, he’s in New York; we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble’, the pure visual comedy of the giant grinning marshmallow man stomping around New York is still funny. An evil version of the Ghostbusters logo is clever, but not funny.
The new Ghostbusters isn’t great. Bits has been noticeably cut (like, why was Kirsten Wiig separated from the other Ghostbusters?), some jokes don’t land, the villain is not funny both dead and alive, and the third act is kind of a mess. But the new Ghostbusters have enough chemistry and the film has enough of a sense of fun that everything kind of works. And hey, it’s still better than Ghostbusters 2.