Reviews are starting to pour in for the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters, and the overwhelming consensus is that it’s “Just OK”. With the average review being a 6 out of 10, this is troubling for the franchise. Sony spent $150 million on the Paul Feig-directed remake, and it’s only tracking to open at $40-50m (Secret Life of Pets is expected to remain #1 opening weekend). The studio had grand plans for a Ghostbusters cinematic universe with ideas for a different all-male team, a Slimer spin-off, and a way for it to all come together like the Avengers.
I won’t go into detail with how they planned to turn Ghostbusters into Avengers, as it has to do with spoilers for the post-credits scene in the remake, but there’s a bigger issue with the way the remake turned out. Making a “just OK” Ghostbusters movie is pissing on the franchise pedigree. Ghostbusters means a lot more than being “just OK”. This isn’t “man baby nerd nostalgia” speaking, as the studio likes to label anyone who doesn’t love the remake, there’s historical precedence that Ghostbusters was bigger than a “just OK” summer movie.
The original Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984 and it was an immediate hit. The movie was huge. It was a legitimate cultural event in the summer of 1984 when we also saw movies like Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom released. The movie opened and immediately began to shatter box office records. After five consecutive weeks at #1 it hit the $100 million box office mark. That doesn’t sound like a lot these days when movies open with that amount, but in 1984 it was huge.
It took Prince to knock Ghostbusters out of #1 with Purple Rain, but the next week the movie re-took the top spot. By the end of the year, Ghostbusters had made $229 million (again, a huge amount in 1984) and was the second-highest grossing movie of the year behind Beverly Hills Cop. Not content with that, Colombia Pictures re-released Ghostbusters into theaters the following year. The additional box office money it earned then added to its total and made it the #1 grossing comedy of the decade.
That’s a little bigger than being a “just OK” movie.
You can never capture that lightning twice, but the franchise deserved better than being the victim of Sony desperately wanting to work with a certain director and his “vision” for Ghostbusters not matching what the franchise is. And no, this has nothing to do with it being a female cast. In fact the cast the movie has would be perfect if put into a real Ghostbusters movie and not a generic Sony tentpole that can be easily mistaken for Pixels. It’s incredibly stupid that one even has to make that disclaimer.
See, the first two Ghostbusters movies weren’t trying to be comedies. They purposely filmed the first movie so it looked like a 1980’s horror film. It’s within that setting that the dry and sarcastic humor and crazy situations makes the movie a timeless classic. What they did with the remake was make a modern comedy with the Ghostbusters name, while missing that crucial element that made the original so enduring and fun.
With the current tracking for Ghostbusters (2016) and the “just OK” reviews, it does more than hurt Sony’s profits. It damages the Ghostbusters brand. If Sony doesn’t make back their money (the $150m doesn’t count the huge promotional costs for the movie), we may never in our lifetime see another Ghostbusters movie.
Instead of catering to Paul Feig’s ego, Sony should’ve done what Reitman initially wanted. Have the surviving cast members of the original Ghostbusters pass the torch to the new cast, and yes they could even use the cast they have in this current movie. That way you have a Force Awakens-style “requel” that honors the original movies while rebooting the franchise with a new cast for a new generation.
If you’re curious about the long and windy road the third Ghostbusters movie took to get to the place we’re at now, I strongly urge you to watch Midnight Edge’s excellent documentary about it. It’s about thirty minutes, and if you’re a Ghostbusters fan it’s a must-see: