By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
As the July 15 date nears, I will be going into this Sony cum Paul Feig helmed reboot of Ghostbusters with very low expectations. Whatever he has envisioned, my hope is that the supernatural characters are interesting enough and the spiritual encounters are played up for terror (however cheesy their threats are) instead of laughs. I played Ghostbusters the Video Game and loved the sense of unease created in the soundscape when my avatar was in the children’s playroom located downstairs in the New York Public Library. The backstory for the Library Ghost was wonderfully expanded upon, and I want to see that in this new film.
Part of this franchise’s charm is because it is inspired by Aykroyd’s genuine interest in the paranormal. The story Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis created for the films plays with that concept. Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler treat the study of ghosts seriously, and while their actions come off as funny with what they discover, that gravitas makes up what I love from the original. To see two “scholars” attempting to validate the existence of a spirit world is very interesting to me because I am a paranormal investigator who is looking at reasons why hauntings take place. I like to be entertained by Hollywood’s interpretation of this study too. Whether it’s comedic or dramatic, I will watch them all.
In Psi Factor, another paranormal series I love, this idea is further developed as fictional accounts of “real life investigations” based on the case files from “The Office of Scientific Investigation and Research” (O.S.I.R.). Of course, I know the stories are all made-up and based on urban legends more so than the occult. Aykroyd gave a sincerity in his introductions to sell the show. When I met Aykroyd a few years ago at Liquor Planet promoting Crystal Head Vodka, I was the only one in line with his father’s book, A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters, to which he wrote an introduction to (an excellent read BTW) and the DVDs to this series to show I appreciated his work outside of the two worlds he’s more famous for — Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters.
I’m sure he noticed, and when I asked him about why the format switched to a serial drama, he said it was an executive decision and he did not like the change at all. He was angry about it. Even though he stuck to the series from beginning to end because he was getting a paycheck, he did not have any love for what the upper management wanted for a series he was promoting as “sincere looks” into the occult.
I’m sure there’s a can of worms (i.e. Wikileaks) begging to be opened about what went down to force the reboot and reenvisioning of Ghostbusters. I have read up on some of it. The rights would have reverted to the creators instead of the corporation if nothing was made within a certain amount of time and when nobody can agree on a course of action, the chiefs at Sony Entertainment had to play bad wolf.
When considering how the executives wanted Spider-Man to play out cinematically (like in how the third film directed by Sam Raimi went), nobody should be surprised about how they are treating the Ghostbusters franchise. This company really needs to learn how to let product ideas go. Even though the Walkman name had its fame and died, it keeps on resurfacing as a brand name tacked on to the newest technologies. Before it was a MiniDisc player, and now it is an MP3 player. No one is really noticing. Neither has been entirely successful and this is coming from a different division of a company enamoured with sellable product lines sporting the Sony name.
If this film is to be in sync with the times, in today’s rabid obsession with ghostly tours at famously haunted locations and paranormal television reality shows, I want to see a cameo from New York’s Ghost Doctors. If not them, then at least some reference to an obsession that plays out in both television and film is needed! (c.f. Ghost Adventures and The Conjuring)
Feig’s experience with the paranormal seems limited. He makes good comedies but the only movie he’s worked on as an actor with a supernatural bent is Zombie High. Even Sabrina does not count. A few television shows or movies are not enough to qualify him as an expert in the occult. He’s well-versed, as most writers do a significant amount of research to get the feel for a particular subject right. With Ghostbusters, I get the feeling the emphasis is on the group trying to function as a team than any dead-pan exploration (like the original) about what exists in the spirit world. At least he will have part of the formula done right. But will there be a Tobin’s Spirit Guide for this new crew to consult or is the book Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) wrote their only reference material? In some teasers, Rowan is a name revealed to be the principal antagonist. I’m wondering if he is anything like Ivo Shandor, the leader of the Cult of Gozer who sought to bring about the end of the world.
Very few cinematic mythos exist which I have come to love and want deeply explored. The ideas Aykroyd pitched for a third film sounded fantastic. Sadly, not all of the-the actors and studio heads were amiable in making the movie. Any notion for a true third movie died when Harold Ramis passed. I get the feeling a few of heads waffled like how Disney does not want to go forward in making TRON 3. DreamWorks Animation is missing an opportunity to get B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations off the ground during the hype going around for Feig’s film. I guess they are waiting to see how well Feig’s film will do. In what I’ve heard, this animated film is in essence, Ghostbusters Incorporated — an early concept suggested humans working with ghosts combat evil forces in both the Mortal and Spirit World. Interestingly, Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray are attached to provide voices in this animated spin.
With the new tv spots revealing further details about a movie that I think should be called Neo Ghostbusters instead of Ghostbusters, I am having regrets of even showing interest. The whole film reeks of studio interfering in the creative process to have spinoff material. I refer to a certain Slimer double in makeup and a blonde wig. While I have come to appreciate Extreme Ghostbusters (Sony’s idea than Reitman’s) for its darker edge, just thinking about how a studio is wrestling for control has me shuddering. Thankfully, I have The Real Ghostbusters animated series on standby to call should this reboot be the train wreck I suspect it is.