Ghostbusters: A Post-mortem Roundtable

Ghostbusters arrived in theaters to excited audiences and critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes holds it at a steady 74% Fresh, far from the dumpster fire many nay-sayers had predicted. Be that as it may, the box office receipts have been lower than hoped; the sequel is supposedly being shelved in favor of an animated series, a move that could be the result of an unfair media narrative. The debate rages on, but with the premiere a month past and the dust mostly settled, the team here at Critical Writ HQ has been mulling over one of our most highly-anticipated films of the summer.


Adrian: Before we move on to our critical examinations, let’s get fan squee out of the way. What was your favorite part? Who was your favorite ghostbuster? I think Holtzmann is nearly everyone’s favorite, but I got super excited just seeing their new Ghostbusting tech. I loved the original Ghostbusters, but I don’t remember ever being so excited to wield a proton pack until I saw the new movie.

Dominik: Well, I’m not going to differ much from the general public—I very much got Holtzmanned. Other than the obvious, I loved the tech, I loved the growing friendship between the four women, I loved how Patty was an important part of the team (unlike poor Ernie Hudson’s character, which suffered immensely in the script re-writes for the original film). Oh, and Sigourney Weaver’s cameo. If there’s a sequel, she needs to be in it. And, finally, I loved how Patty and Holtzmann bounced off each other, chemistry-wise.

Zachary: I can’t name my favorite part, all of it was so great! If I had to pick, then I suppose I would say some moments that stand out. Firstly, Kristen Wiig as Erin. She was a standout on Saturday Night Live, and it’s the same here. As for a scene? The first moment that comes to mind would be the ghost battle near the end, purely for the creativity.

Tova: I’ll echo the love for the ghost battle. All of it was pretty great, but the moment Holtzmann picks up her new weapons and goes 100% badass is my absolute favorite. It’s not the gun licking sexiness that gets me (though I loved that too), but the liberating feeling of seeing a woman kick ass in such a joyful way on the big screen. I had actual tears in my eyes, which I didn’t get from any of the more emotional scenes of the movie. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but it almost felt therapeutic. Like I’ve been poisoned by years of seeing women victimized, objectified and silenced in pop culture, and this is the antidote. (See? Not dramatic at all!)

Lacey: I loved Patty. She was by far my favorite part of this movie and Leslie Jones is my new favorite comedian. I'd even go so far as to call her a genius. There wasn't a moment in this movie where I thought she wasn't funny and I can't wait to see what she decides to do going forward.

Ivonne: As much as I enjoyed Holtzmann, I have to agree with Lacey that Patty was my favorite. As a Liberal Arts major, I feel like pointing out how great it was to see a woman who is not only funny, but also intelligent and important to the team despite not being a scientist. Humanities people can be wickedly intelligent too, and Patty's historical knowledge was awesome. If anything, I wanted more of that! Favorite part? I don’t know, there were so many! I kind of really liked the gorgeously rendered lady ghost in the mansion at the beginning. The end battle with Holtzmann kicking ass and taking names was amazing, though.


Adrian: Another piece of business, how does this film compare to other Paul Feig comedies and the original Ghostbusters film? I didn’t find it as funny as Feig’s other movies (like Bridesmaids or The Heat) but far funnier than the original, which was more about the spooky action and adventure.

Zachary: I wouldn’t say that it was as funny as Spy, mostly because it didn’t have a James Bond parody spouting completely outrageous stories. On the other hand, it was funnier than The Heat by a large margin. It definitely kept me laughing throughout the movie, but I could tell that if Paul was allowed to, he might have made it an R-rated film, similar to his other comedies. In terms of the first Ghostbusters film, I didn’t really like it. Maybe it was the mood that I was in, maybe it was the weather, but for whatever reason, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I ended up giving it a C-, compared to this movie’s A.

Dominik: If I’m being honest, I don’t have much experience of Paul Feig's movies other than Spy. As for how it comparesI’d say Spy is a little funnier (Jason Statham is an underutilized source of comedy), but with Ghostbusters I was enjoying myself relatively earlier than with Spy.

As for the original Ghostbusters—I never was much of a fan. I didn’t grow up with the movie, and when I actually saw it, I’d say there were bits I liked and bits I didn’t like—the latter primarily centered on Venkman, the movie’s de facto main character. I liked the new movie much more, especially since all four characters were on more of an equal footing, and they became more of a group of friends than the original’s “two nerd buddies, the asshole that really doesn’t need to be there, and the severely underutilized Black guy they hired."

Tova: Hang on, aren’t men supposed to love the original and hate the new movie? I’m in Opposite Land!

I think the 1984 Ghostbusters had a weirder feel to it—Bill Murray’s character is odd and often nonsensical or off-beat, and though I don’t find him very sympathetic, I appreciate this quality. Weird shit happens in Feig’s movie as well, and the characters are far from regular Janes, but it feels more familiar, the comedy is a little more obvious (but not less clever!) and the characters make more sense. That last thing makes it easier to love the 2016 Ghostbusters team, and as a result, the movie. But if I was grading solely based on overall quality, the original might win.

The only other Feig movie I’ve seen is Bridesmaids, which is better than Ghostbusters, but also contains a drawn-out poop joke. Bonus points for lack of poop jokes.

Lacey: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think it's fair to compare Ghostbusters to any other Paul Feig film. He hasn't done a sequel or a reboot before and this movie came with a lot of baggage. Not only were they introducing a whole new generation to the beloved Ghostbusters but to the dismay of fanboys everywhere, now there were female Ghostbusters. I'm no stranger to Internet haters, but this movie was like a shiny beacon for misogynist Internet trolls. I’d venture a guess that social context dictated a lot of decisions behind the scenes, and Feig might not have had the creative control he had with previous projects.

Ivonne: I was a fan of The Heat and Spy, and I think maybe overall they were better films. But there was something really magical about Ghostbusters. Maybe it was watching ladies kick ass without the male gaze, or just that they were really good comedians. I enjoyed this one more, if that makes sense. As far as the old Ghostbusters goes, while I was born at the right time, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as a lot of people did, I guess. As a kid, I was always puzzled by how much of a jerk Venkman seemed to be; as an adult, he bothers me a lot more. I don’t hate the old Ghostbusters, it has its entertainment value but I just don’t have the nostalgia goggles that a lot of people of my generation seem to be wearing.


Adrian: Any disappointments or critiques? I’m disappointed the new movie isn’t tied to the original. I’m in love with a version I dreamed up where the original Ghostbusters have been dismissed and consigned to oblivion, with the team having moved on to other lives—except for Ray, old and forgotten in the abandoned firehouse, when a couple weirdos named Holtzmann and Yates wander in with new ideas and tech, and the mantle is passed on.

Regarding the new movie, I find the characters lacking. Erin and Abby felt rather similar to previous roles from Wiig and McCarthy (to be fair, the same could be said about Bill Murray’s classic Venkman). They didn’t resonate with me, but maybe this movie isn’t made for me, which is fine! Holtzmann’s quirky character stood apart from rest of the team, who seemed less inspired. Cicely Strong has that shine, making me wish she’d been cast as a ghostbuster. Patty had lots of jokes and gags, but I would have liked to see her bond more with Holtzmann as Erin and Abby have with each other.

Zachary: I’ll start with the nitpick. Am I the only one who doesn't like "jump scares"? In general, they feel unnecessary and annoying. Not to mention that I always end up falling for them in some way. I didn't like the jump scares in the film. I'm actually happy that one of the trailers ended up showing the first one with the ghostly lady spewing slime because I was able to cover my eyes in time. Next, I found myself completely lost by the technobabble. In small doses, it wasn't so bad. At the middle point, I started to get lost and annoyed. It took me out of the film.

Dominik: I’m not a fan of jump scares, but they can serve their purpose, if used smartly in building the story’s tension. I think I rather expected the jump-scares in this movie to be where they ended up, so I’d put this as a bit of a disappointment.

My biggest nitpick were the cameos—there were way too many of them for my taste, and only Sigourney Weaver's was really enjoyable. Well, hers and Harold Ramis’s bust.

Other than that, I’d say the bits with Kevin unnecessarily dragged. I get that his purpose is to be a gender-switched version of the “dumb blonde” trope of a useless female character who is only nominally part of the team and whose main purpose is to look pretty. But I think those parts of the movie had the weakest jokes most of the time, to the point even other characters’ lines suffered. Though they did pay off a little with the Holtzmann line aimed at the villain towards the end.

Tova: Like Dominik, I found some of the Kevin-related comedy lacking. The fact that the only character who is sexualized in the film is a man is great, and adding stupidity and general lack of competence to that makes it a more clear-cut reversal of the mentioned blonde trope—but I think jokes about stupidity are more effective when the jokes themselves are clever, and with Kevin it seems like the writers took the easy way too often.

My biggest problem with the character, however, is when he isn’t actually Kevin—when Rowan takes over his body. Rowan has very accurately been described as a villain you’re likely to find on Reddit, "toxicity of nerd culture personified." He’s awkward, but not in an endearing way, and his hatred pervades his whole aura. But the moment Rowan replaces his awkward exterior with Kevin’s conventionally attractive one, he becomeskind of charming? Still a villain, still an asshole, but with charisma. I’m not sure how to interpret this, except that good-looking guys who are evil are still a little likeable. The scenes were entertaining, and Hemsworth sold them well, but in the context of the story they made me uncomfortable.

Lacey: I think that I was most disappointed with the story over all. I realize this was a reboot but I really wanted it to stand apart from the 1984 Ghostbusters and I felt like there was a lot of unnecessary pandering. I am wondering how much of this pandering was an attempt to smooth things over with the disgruntled fanbase. I felt like an all-female Ghostbusters was a huge step in the right direction and then they squandered an opportunity to truly make this movie into a new era for Ghostbusters. That being said, I want to make it clear that these women did a fantastic job—I just think that the overall story failed them.

Ivonne: For my money, the biggest problem with this movie is that it was way too concerned about paying homage to the old movie. I really wanted it to be its own separate entity. Now that they’ve gotten the homage out of the way, maybe if they do a sequel they can go full-out on originality. Like some of the other folks here, I felt that Kevin fell a little flat at times. I mean, I enjoyed him and I enjoyed the fact that Chris Hemsworth was clearly having a ball, but some of the jokes around him were low-hanging fruit. The writers could have done better.


Adrian: I want to close by saying I liked the new Ghostbusters. It was funny and the effects had a great look. I wish Sony would produce a sequel, because there’s so much more they can do with the franchise and these new characters. I have high hopes for the animated series. What’s your final word?

Zachary: I absolutely loved Ghostbusters—despite a few issues—and I would definitely see it again. It is definitely a movie tailor-made for comedy fans, with great comedians starring, funny jokes, and an overall enjoyable tone.

Dominik: I loved the movie, I can’t wait to see it again, and I hope to see the characters in another movie (seriously, Sony, you really should have advertised it better).

Tova: I’m going to end with a wish/demand: I want a live-action movie sequel where Holtzmann gets a girlfriend, or five. Feig can use direct quotes from the studio people who told him to keep Holtzman’s sexuality implicit in the movie, to write the lines for some ridiculous homophobe character who immediately gets shut down. It will be great.

Lacey: I really did like this movie and I think we need more like it. Can you name another female-centric action/comedy? Hopefully this is the first of many.

Ivonne: We absolutely need a sequel, haters notwithstanding!