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21st Century’s Worst Failures – Ghostbusters (2016)

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You know that feeling you get when you search for entertainment in a bored stupor, only to stumble across something so lacking, so soulless, that your mind just goes numb and you can’t produce a coherent thought for several hours? Congratulations, you’ve sat through Ghostbusters (2016).

This film stars Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert, a shy scientists who has supposedly slaved away at work to earn a job at Columbia University, only to trash it away to find ghosts based on an old childhood superstition; Melissa McCarthy as Abby Yates, an overly extroverted physicist who founds the team; Kate McKinnon as Holtz, equally as much a lunatic as Yates; and Leslie Jones as Madea. Oh wait, sorry, the character is actually Patty Tolan, but if Tyler Perry chose to sue the studio for copying his character, he might actually win the lawsuit. Yeah… if I can summarize each character’s backstories and motivations in literally 3 lines, then that should give you an idea of the character depth and how they interact.

So this is how the film starts out: some guy is giving a lecture at a haunted museum when a ghost attacks him. Erin is contacted to research, and then she meets up with Yates and Holtz, as they were all best buds back in school or something. They begin to discover more and more ghosts popping up, eventually recruiting Patty after she (Patty) informs the team of some ghost. They also string along Kevin the Secretary (Chris Hemsworth) Meanwhile, some psycho, Rowan North (Neil Casey), begins summoning ghosts from a parallel dimension (why, you ask? because he got bullied when he was a kid) and the government begin to cover up the truth of ghosts by framing the Ghostbusters as frauds.

The team start noticing some patterns and they conclude that the Mercado Hotel hosts a breeding ground of ghosts. They’re not wrong. So they go in, blow some stuff up, North dies, they all go home. But wait! We’re not finished just yet! North comes back as a ghost and unleashes all of the ghosts. So the Ghostbusters strap up again! Oh goody! They blow some more stuff up – all the while CGI blows up to gigantic proportions – finally take down North. Everyone gives the Ghostbusters a pat on the back and they skip on off their merry way.

This film is riddled with problems – some that are fundamental, the kind that will make or break a movie – and just little things that as they accumulate, grow increasingly frustrating and aggravating. So let us begin with the elephants in the room. The film openly and proudly bashes men; they make sure to cover every single negative stereotype of men, then portray it in the most condescending manner, so I made a mental list while I was watching the movie: a) The self-centered, red-tape spewing government agents that hinder every single step our brave female heroes take to save humanity, b) the creepy weirdos who have probably had a rough life (the aforementioned Rowan North), c) the outright morons (Kevin), and d) the young-middle aged men who “live in their mom’s basement” (quote from the film). The political agenda is just ham-fistedly shoved down our throats. Even ignoring this propaganda-inspired ‘theme’, this film – when you just look at it from the perspective of a film – is utterly lacking.

Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the Ghostbusters

Then the next problem: the plot can be summarized in these plot points: Girl meets other girls; they go off to fight ghosts; they encounter some dude who unleash ghosts; ghosts get unleash; team whips up some science-y stuff and beats up ghosts; they all cheer and whoop and run off to go mess around. That does not justify the 133 minute run time. Simply put, the film is boring. It’s slow. It’s repetitive. It’s not like the plot’s even that original, either, as it just goes to the cliche “group of heroes band together to take down evil force” type ordeal. In an industry where this is produced consistently, and taking into account that so many movies use this formula far better than Ghostbusters (2016) (see: Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, etc.), Ghostbusters does nothing nor offers nothing to change up the formula or create something unique, or even – let’s face it – even remotely entertaining.

And yet, the film is 133 minutes long, so what could the filmmakers have possible done with all this time? Oh, you think they invested time to build characters? Nope. Just endless gags and stupid jokes that either make no sense or pass right through the eyes of the viewer. I commented recently on how films have ‘ghost humour’ (namely The Last Airbender). Just ignoring the incidental pun, this movie is no exception – a good 10-20 jokes are spewed out in the first quarter of the movie. I caught on quickly that this film is geared towards kids, so I wondered if my age was hindering me from observing the ‘humour’. Thus, I (I watched this at home) dragged my little brother over, 9 years of age, to watch it. At several intervals of the movie, I would ask him just how many jokes he found funny. I did this about four or five times until he loses it and snaps at me, “Nothing’s funny! This is so annoying!” As you might expect, he stomped off a while later. Need I say more?

And if we just stop listing the major problems with this movie, it’s quite clear just how may amateur mistakes are made here in this film.

The script has the most shameless product placement I’ve ever seen. And I’m not exaggerating the last bit. The screenwriters just dump camera shots and poorly-written lines onto the screen until it just piles up like a landfill. Here are a few hair-rippingly frustrating examples: Kevin (researching logos for the team and shows the 7-Eleven logo), “What, 7-1-1?” Abby, “Uh… that’s 7-Eleven.” Patty, “There’s a perfectly nice bathroom at the upstairs Starbucks.” Ed, “It’s on Amazon. Both hard copy and e-book.” And let us just skip the multiple shots of Pringles cans.

The CGI is stupid. If I want grotesque animations and overly vibrant colours, complete with explosion and flying gunk everywhere, I’ll kindly watch Michael Bay, thank you. And of course, if I have to compare your film to Michael Bay… yeah.

The camerawork and lighting is stagnant. The cinematography bears absolutely nothing special. If it weren’t for the aforementioned overly vibrant colours, this film would be the cinematic equivalent of God’s Not Dead (2014). The camera is just as still. There’s no great colour contrast nor are there any impressive shots that make you think, “How’d they pull that off?” You’d think that with a budget of 144 million US dollars, the filmmakers might be able to create some impressively-shot sequences, but no such luck. In comparison, the budget of John Wick: Chapter 2 is less than one-third of Ghostbusters (144 million to 40 million US dollars), and in the climactic finale, Wick, in pursuit of the baddie, goes into a room with all the walls as mirrors. The filmmakers must have put in countless hours to edit out and hide the cameramen’s reflections. And as a result of that labour, the finale is a gorgeous and jaw-dropping spectacle. Oh, and speaking of climactic final battles…

The final fight is boring filler. This is the mind-numbing part I mentioned earlier. The film just trudges on in the most frustratingly relentless pace. Here’s some advice to the filmmakers: If you make the finale 40 minutes long, make sure it’s entertaining. And as you might have guessed, there is nothing riveting at watching these actresses flail around with some giant metal contraptions the filmmakers want us to believe as “protonic guns” or whatever nonsensical jargon they’ve conjured. Oh, and speaking of stupid jargon…

Stupid JargonI started catching some of the nonsense that spewed out of the actresses mouths a little while later, but since I was watching at home, I decided to search up some of the terms. An example is “Paramolecular”, which is not even a real word. Again, this really can’t be surprising due to the lack of care in the script. The screenwriters must have been to busy trying to shoe-horn in stupid corporate brands into the script.

Now, there are some lights in the darkness. It’s quite clear that Chris Hemsworth is fully aware of the moronic stupidity he must express. He’s laughing on the inside, you’re laughing on the inside, and as a result, he can churn up some decent humour. Neil Casey as Rowan North isn’t a bad casting choice either. Casey must have realized just how terribly written his character is, so it’s quite clear just how stupid he actually thinks his role in this movie is. As a result, his over-the-top performance is – at least compared to the leads, who have no sense of self-awareness – somewhat entertaining.

It’s almost amusing, how ironic the whole situation is; in a film that bashes men to pieces, it’s the male leads that actually prove to be the most entertaining. Of course, I’m not saying that females cannot be funny or likable and star in a leading role (I’m a huge fan of the Pitch Perfect movies, the Hunger Games movies, and thoroughly enjoyed Kill Bill Volume 2), but to make any role – no matter what gender – a success, you need good writing, good acting, and good direction.

It’s never good to mix political movements into films, but Ghostbusters is just another level of shameless. Even glossing over the obvious political propaganda, this film still succeeds in being unfunny, dull, and exasperatingly idiotic – all the while being polarizing and insulting. I hope that this can serve as an example to filmmakers to not mix politics with film, but seeing as the new all-female Lord of the Flies is coming out… forgive me for my lack of optimism in the direction of film.

Patrick Yu
My name is Patrick and I have always been a huge fan of movies. Inspired by my parents and friends alike, I have taken up the hobby of reviewing movies, sharing my thoughts on it. Later, I began reviewing TV shows, as i also had thoughts about those as well. I am quite passionate about writing and journalism as well.