After experiencing the grueling Clash of the Titans remake in 3D and slogging through the almost ‘too dark to even tell what was going on’ Avengers: Age of Ultron in the so-called ‘immersive format’ at the Arc Light Cinema in Hollywood, which is supposed to be one of the premiere theater destinations in the country, I was ready to give up on 3D altogether, which I know many critics abandoned long ago. But whenever I’m invited to a press screening and given the option, I always choose 3D anyway. The idea of it still appeals to the kid inside me. And my belief is, while I may see the movie again, I’ll probably never re-watch it in 3D. I keep expecting to see a movie where 3D isn’t just an afterthought slapped onto any given movie to boost ticket sales. Where the director actually uses it as a tool to tell a story. Since 3D really hit its stride at the beginning of this decade, I’ve been waiting for that movie where I walk out and go, ‘Now that was a 3D movie worth paying for!’ Guess what? Ghostbusters 2016 is that movie.
I wasn’t thinking that going in. This is a Paul Feig movie, after all. And I don’t believe he’s made a 3D movie to date. I could be wrong, but nothing about Bridesmaids, The Heat or even Spy strike me as anything that needs to be seen, or transferred into the third dimension. Leading up to Ghostbusters‘ release, I haven’t heard anything at all about the movie’s use of 3D. Even when the screening invite came in, it seemed to be an afterthought. A last minute 3D screening was added. And the reps in charge of handing out the tickets didn’t try to sell it. They didn’t say, ‘Man, you better see it in 3D!’ ‘3D is the way to go!’ There was no hype on anyone’s end, and there hasn’t been. Heck, they didn’t even show the 3D version on a big screen. It was shoved into one of the small dump theaters at the ass end of the Groves’ many stadiums. And I wonder why? Because the way Paul Feig uses it here is beyond great. It quite literally made the movie for me.
It’s the kind of 3D you always wanted to see as a kid since the 1950s. It makes this new Ghostbusters feel like a true old fashioned fun house. And it quite literally brings you into the action, cliche, I know. Feig gets a lot of milage out of the ghosts and gadgets and the slime and the puke. But he also does a very simple trick that makes it even cooler. The 3D version of the movie is presented in letterbox. Odd for a movie in a theater? Sure. But what this allowed is for certain objects to break the frame and go into the black area of the letter boxing, which helps extend the 3D into view of the audience. So, yeah, stuff is ‘Coming at You’. And it literally looks like some of the ghost fights have extended into the theater. Like I said, very simple, but it works like a magic trick, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else attempt 3D in quite this manner. Perhaps I’m wrong. But no director has had this much fun using 3D in a long time, that’s for sure.
There is one scene in particular, you’ve seen it in the trailer. The Ghostbuster played by Leslie Jones is using the ‘Power of Patty’ to slap the main bad guy out of Melissa McCarthy. And her Patty necklace slips out of her blouse. It’s not something you’d really notice in a scene that has a lot going on. But the necklace appears to literally break the screen and hang out into the black area of the frame, and the illusion works so well, it literally looks like the necklace is hanging out of the screen, into the theater, about to drag on the floor. Its a very small detail and has jack all to do with anything. In fact, it’s very easy to miss. Especially if you are not sitting close, in the front row, or in an empty theater. But it’s this attention to detail that real sells the whole experience home.
And it’s obvious that Feig owned and loved his View-Master as a kid. Because there are a lot of set up shots that look like they were tailer made for that old toy. This idea works on a nostalgic level that has nothing to do with Ghostbusters as a franchise, but just plain old fashion ‘kiddy’ fun on a level I haven’t seen utilized yet this summer. And the proton packs? Good god, does he get a lot of milage showing them off, but the gimmick doesn’t get tired or feel over used. In a word. Perfect. Okay. Great! But what about the actual movie itself?
The new Ghostbusters is a mess narratively speaking, and that may be what it holds most in common with the original. The story in the 1984 classic was sort of all over the place structurally speaking, and it wasn’t your basic three act structure. Instead, it was this beast that careened wildly to and fro as it built towards it’s big climax in downtown New York. That’s what this is. And that doesn’t stop it from being anything but big summer fun on a level I’m sure most won’t complain about, but ‘Haters gonna Hate’. Sure, maybe we don’t exactly understand the 4th Cataclysm as an audience. It will surely rankle some longtime fans looking for a means to complain about this ‘remake’. And the ‘origin story’, which is pretty much the same as the original with some flourishes here there, drags on a bit too long. But there is enough goodwill here, and a lot of jokes that really work, to recommend this to anyone who has yet to write it off as junk.
The way the pieces come together is sort of a jumble, and it leaves this misty memory of an experience that can quite literally be compared to a zippy roller coaster. Perhaps Bill Murray has already said it best. It does rumble forth, unsure of itself at first. But once the set up is out of the way, the girls have a good time, and we’re right there with them. The four main cast members (played by Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig) all get a few moments to truly shine, and they work well as an ensemble. There is a combustable energy to the group, even if Wiig looks tired and angry about being here part of the time. It actually works in selling her somewhat grumpy character home. If any dude watching this still has a problem with ‘all-girl’ Ghostbusters by the end of the movie, it’s only because they’re not serviced by their schlubby avatar getting to contend with the supernatural in exciting action-packed ways. Instead, they have to give that over to some ladies who have just as much fun with it. And there’s that word again. The new Ghostbusters is a lot of fun. At the end of the day. That should just be my review.
Basically, I can’t describe this as anything but that. It’s a good time. And nothing to get really upset about. It certainly does not shit all over the franchise. The original gang did that to themselves with the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2. And Dan Aykroyd did not lie, really. This is definitely better than that creaky, weak follow-up to the first film. Some may call Rowan’s (the main bad guy) final form a Stay Puft rip-off. But watching him reenact his biggest Godzilla fantasies and urges, all I could think was how much cooler it was than watching the Statue of Liberty walk out of the ocean. Ghostbusters 2 was a let down when I saw it in 1989. Ever since then, I’ve watched it maybe once every three or four years, hoping it’s gotten better with time, or that I like it more in old age. Well, it hasn’t. And if, at any point in the future, someone asks me what would I rather watch, Ghostbusters 2 or the New Ghostbusters, I’m going to go with this 2016 version every time.
That said, deconstructing what Paul Feig has done will prove to be the film’s undoing, because gosh does it have a lot of problems when you lean back and really think about it. Though, the way it is set up to zing along like Slimer driving the Ecto-1, most of those problems don’t immediately hit you in the face while you are watching the movie. It’s only until afterwards, when you sit down to write about, or discuss the movie with your friends, that you go, ‘Wait a minute…This didn’t bother me while I was watching the movie…But now that I think about it…This really doesn’t make no sense. At all.’ This is the type of movie that ‘Everything Wrong With’ and ‘Honest Trailers’ will have a field day with when the smoke settles and everyone has a clearer picture of what just happened.
The new Ghostbusters is enjoyable in the moment, but it’s far from a classic movie. And it’s missing…Something. Some will say a story. But more so, it’s that sprinkle of magic that makes you want to revisit a movie over and over again. That’s missing here. And it really is just like every other Paul Feig movie. It’s undeniably his. A movie, if watched once, you’re fine with. Your glad you paid your money. You get some great one liners, none of which have been given away in the awful trailers. It doesn’t feel like a cheat or a rip-off. But there is nothing here really that makes you want to go back and re-watch it anytime soon, unless you are going back to get another scoop of that delicious 3D.
The third act in the movie is a ghostly good time that pays off like Ghostbusters porn for anyone who’s fantasied about what these weapons can truly do, and what expanding this world might look like. It already sounds like several critics are walking out of the movie hailing Chris Hemsworth as the second coming of a comedy God. But I think that’s because he’s not a comedian by trade. And he’s playing his dumb guy schtick straight, as an actor. And good god, it’s fucking weird. It’s a weird performance. I literally can’t decided if his ‘Mike Hat’ joke is funny or not. And I think many people will feel the same. Overall, the movie gets a big ‘Whoop-doo!’ Especially if you’re seeing it in a 3D theater. This is one movie were the overpriced ticket is worth it.
If you already plan to hate the movie, you may be pleasantly surprised. In fact, I think, with so many expecting it to be awful, it will actually do better and surprise quite a lot of people. (Though, please don’t go see it just for the cameos. They are all kind of shoehorned in and don’t really work. Except that we kind of get the sense that, perhaps, the original Ghostbusters did exist at one point in time in this universe and were swept under the rug by the government leaving Ray Stantz a broken hearted bitter taxi driver. Because if Aykroyd, in his literally one minute of screen time, isn’t playing Ray, I don’t know what the heck he is doing. I bet Sony will reveal this as true in the sequel.)