Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call Review


Before I get too far into the review for the 2016 movie, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, I wanted to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the celebration summer for my favorite movie franchise.

There has been ECTO Cooler, merchandise, TV spots, new music related to Ghostbusters, and so much more. This all has made me very happy as the brand has been sitting on a shelf in Sony’s offices for decades collecting dust.

I am not going to get too much into the controversy about Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. All history needs to know is that people were upset because this was going to be a very different movie than they wanted whether you want to say it was female Ghostbusters, not their Ghostbusters, a Paul Feig comedy movie, or whatever you want to use as an excuse.

My stance early on in production of this movie as the news began to come out was heartbreak and disappointment because I love Ghostbusters for the character personalities of the 1984 movie. Just like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Ghostbusters of Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore were built on personality archetypes. Spengler is the brains, Stantz is the heart, Venkman the mouth, and Zeddemore was “the every man” who the audience would view the entrepreneurs through.

I loved the relationships created in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II and really wanted to see where those characters went next after the 1989 sequel. I got that partially in Ghostbuster: The Video Game and am grateful for it but the ability to buy and celebrate my love for the characters is always a greedy thing but something I’d relish.

As you know, there is a new cast in this movie but more hurtfully, it does not tie into the same thread as my favorite movie personalities. This is why I was upset about the movie’s premise, hurt by the handling of it, and confused during watching it the first time.

I do not like people putting words into my mouth and I sure the hell am no misogynist.

As someone who refers to himself as a “Ghosthead” and does the whole Ghostbusters lifestyle, of course I am going to see the new movie and I did twice. Once on the night before the premiere and then a few days later on the IMAX screen. I sat with my Ghostbusters brothers and sisters and pretended for a moment that I didn't know anything about proton charging, entrapment of the beast, or brake pad costs, and just wanted someone to tell me what the hell is going on.

After the first viewing, I did a reactionary video that may see the light of day at some point once my editor finishes it but I am going to take the same format I did there; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And full disclosure that Sony did send me free items to help promote this movie which I gladly did and will continue to do because of the kids. No movie checks but I am happy to get paid in pins, shirts, and posters because the happiness is so well worth it.

The Good

The best part about this movie is that it is bringing Ghostbusters back. It’s on store shelves, marketing, television, magazines and it is bringing life back to a dead franchise.

It’s bringing awareness back to a property that a lot of people love and it is driving people to watch the original and its sequel. It is also helping Sony market a back catalog of music, television, and iconic property in various ways; so much so that I have my Ghostbusters slots on auto spin in the Spin it Rich! iPad app.

As for the movie’s content, the effects were pretty amazing and while I did not see it in 3D, everyone claims that it is truly a fun 3D movie which is a hard thing to accomplish. I enjoyed the proton streams and the way that the film angles them towards the camera in different perspectives.

The character of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) is the humor in this movie and in my two showings, his character has been the one to make the audiences roar. The midsection of this movie has a section of Kevin that keeps hitting the audience with his humor but sadly it is the only time that I felt the movie hit comedy status with a string of jokes that were honestly funny.

I did also appreciate Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan at points such as the rock concert scene when she walks into a room of mannequins and states that it is the “room of nightmares.”

The music of this movie is a high point for me as well with a blockbuster feel soundtrack of various artists in all genres of music. I have never heard of ZAYN but his song, wHo, is one that I particularly enjoy as it mixes Ghostbusters’ “Who ya gonna call?” into a smooth hit of a song.

And I am one of the very few who enjoys the Fall Out Boy ft. Missy Elliot track.
Kids may enjoy this and if they do, I am all for it.

The Bad

The character development of Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig), and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) is pretty piss poor by the actors. The only character who seems to have a personality exuding from her is Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) who will be the only one audiences remember in 3 years barring a sequel. Holtzmann comes off very much like Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma character from “Batman Forever” which is not a bad thing but when you have that much cartoon pop in one character and nothing invested in the others, it shows up in a mighty big gap.

While her zany personality driven character exudes energy, most of McKinnon’s jokes fall flat for some reason. There is an early joke in the movie about a bodily function that is delivered by Holtzmann which never took off in either of the two showings I was a part of.

The comedy in this movie feels either forced at times or lacking timing. And I am not sure if it is a writing thing or an editing thing but I am disappointed as hell.

Speaking of the writing, there were some pretty big plot holes that I unfortunately witnessed within this movie and I am usually not one to catch them in movies. The last time that I noticed glaring plot holes in a movie was Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few summers ago as that movie was re-edited to appease fans.

My issues in the writing came in two spots particularly; the rock concert crowd surfing scene and the third act rescue scene. Both these scenes are on my radar for different reasons.

In the rescue scene, I noticed an issue with the length of the cable that Erin uses to jump into the portal to save Abby. As she jumps into the portal, the opening is a little larger than a manhole cover as the world rebuilds around it. She falls about 300-500 feet to save Abby from Rowan’s hand and when the two characters meet up, they slow down and float. I can buy this since it’s a portal, sure… Then the cable jerks and the characters start to be pulled backwards out of the other dimension at a very fast pace. The movie cuts to Patty and Jillian pulling on the cable through the Mercado Hotel doors. There is about 20 feet of slack behind them to indicate no winch is being used and as the portal closes, Abby and Erin pop out with white hair.

I can forgive a lot of things such as the float and slow down of time. However, to believe that two characters can pull two other characters out of a closing portal which seals pretty quickly on about 300 feet of cable in a matter of seconds was really hard to believe.

The special effects team lost their timing on this scene and it showed up enough to jar me which is unfortunate.

The Ugly

In the rock concert scene, the infamous marketing line by Patty Tolan was “I am not sure if it’s a race thing or a lady thing but I am mad as hell.” This line is said after she jumps backwards into a concert crowd and is not caught by the audience which causes her to land flat on her back.

The issue that I have with this scene is not even the writers’ using the race and gender card, it comes with lack of integrity within the writing. Prior to Tolan’s jump, Abby Yates turns towards the crowd and does a jump where the crowd catches her and moves her. She has NO ISSUE with her jump. This character is a female which eliminates the gender portion of her statement so logically it would be a race thing. However, the character KNOWING that her FEMALE counterpart just succeeded at her attempt to crowd surf.

It’s a dumb joke that makes no sense in context but was only put there to acknowledge the few fans that truly hated the action of making an all female team. This was one of the few times that this broke the fourth wall to comment on this political backlash from some fans and immortalized it in the film.

It was a petty act by the film makers and something that took integrity away from a character that I really wanted to like. The words put in her mouth by the script writers took away her ability to be a smart, powerful woman who could be a role model to young women. That is the whole pedestal that Sony wanted this movie to be on and now after seeing the movie, I understand that they made the women characters very weak and not good role models for someone like my daughter. I am kind of angry and disheartened by that because this is something that was made such a big deal about in the press circuit coming from the public relations of Sony and their own reasoning for making an all female team.

One of my friends said it best during the second showing, “If you want to make a strong female team of role models for young girls, make a strong world they live in and let them thrive.”

This movie universe has a lot of dumb moments and that is the glaring mistake of it. Kevin is a dumb secretary which is actually funny. The mayor is a dumb politician who has a snarky handler who needs to tell him simple things in simple ways. The mayor’s snarky handler does not respect these women scientists. The federal agents in this movie down talk these women and in the end of the movie get stuck in a Saturday Night Fever disco pose. The dean at the college is a disrespectful slob of a male in a Hawaiian shirt. The delivery boy Benny can’t understand how to put wontons in a bucket.

It's just a weird, unintelligent world in which the female ‘busters don’t thrive in because they are created in such a way that makes them dumber than the average person.

That’s my problem with this movie. It’s disrespectful of its self in a parody kind of way where the dialogue is not realistic but rather a long form of a running joke. (Case in point; the opening scene with Erin Gilbert talking to Ed Mulgrave about her book where she tries to play it off that she is not the author but he mentions the picture of her. It just keeps going on like a joke in the Scary Movie franchise. And I am talking like Scary Movie 4…)

In my video reaction, I also bring up the fact that they break the rules of the “catch and trap” method that Ghostbusters is built upon. This movie sets up the premise of the ghost trap for a cameo plot point but that’s about it. In the third act, the team starts to kill ghosts with not a trap in sight.

I was really mad about this rule breaking as a huge fan of Ghostbusters and during my second showing, one of my friends pointed out to me that they establish why this happens in the book tie-in by Andrew Schaffer called “Ghosts from our Past.”

While it makes sense to me, I feel like I shouldn’t need a book to explain a major rule break in a franchise and while I own the book personally, most the audience who sees this won’t. Anyone with an inkling of Ghostbusters might raise an eyebrow just as I did which hurts this movie as it was claimed that the production crew had “such love and respect for the brand.”

Final Verdict

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is not my Ghostbusters.

It is a parody, joke forced driven movie that has bland characters set in a world that is unintelligent and tries to redefine the rules set forth by a beloved movie prior. It feels almost like a copyright infringement project to anyone who goes into this movie with the idea that it is Ghostbusters.

If you can wipe out the ideas and memories of the originals from your head for two hours, it becomes a summer popcorn movie with great special effects and a few laughs along the way.

I hope that this movie does do well so we can get a proper addition to the Ghostbusters franchise somehow, some way. I have enjoyed my summer because of the vacuum pull of marketing that this movie created in its wake.

If Sony realizes one thing from all of this, it’s not about misogyny; it’s that the love for the Ghostbusters brand is still very much alive but this was a misstep.

I am not afraid of no ghost and Sony shouldn’t be afraid to put honest work into this property going forward.

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