Yesterday, it was reported that Sony would be making a new all-guys Ghostbusters to be directed by Joe & Anthony Russo, written by Drew Pearce, and produced by and starring Channing Tatum. If this news caught you a bit off guard, that’s to be expected. After all, it comes hot on the heels of Sony’s formal announcement a few weeks ago that Paul Feig would be directing an all-ladies Ghostbusters starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.
The Internet lit up with the news, as it typically does in its increasingly annoying fashion. Snark and agenda-pushing are the name of the game on Twitter, and both were in high supply yesterday.
Now, if you ask me (which you didn’t, but since you’re reading this, here we go), I’ve come to expect this from Hollywood, especially when it comes to Ghostbusters. Sony and Dan Aykroyd have been trying to get another movie off the ground for what’s felt like an eternity. Whether it be a sequel, reboot, remake, or prequel, no idea has been left unexplored in an effort to reinvigorate the proverbial cash cow. And, when Marvel struck oil with its “Cinematic Universe,” Sony’s desire for a cinematic universe of its own featuring the Ghostbusters was strong and not terribly subtle.
Ivan Reitman, director of the original and its sequel, even issued a statement yesterday, calling Ghostbusters “branded entertainment.” Twitter folks had a lot of fun with that one, deservedly so, but like it or not, that’s what sells tickets these days.
I guess the first question has to be: does Ghostbusters deserve its own cinematic universe? Many have recently commented that Ghostbusters is a fine film in its own right, but heavily overrated, and certainly not worthy of all this fuss. I somewhat agree. Ghostbusters has never been my favorite movie or anything, but it has (or had) a novel concept at the time, and offered a clever mix of horror and comedy. The nostalgia factor is high for me, having watched it so many times as a kid, so maybe I’ll never be able to not have warm, fuzzy feelings about it. Plus, Bill Murray is comic wildfire in the film, operating at the peak of his powers.
But, it’s not like the basic structure and set-up of Ghostbusters couldn’t work with a new cast of young, funny folks. Add in today’s comedic sensibilities and the greatly improved visual effects, and I can totally see a new Ghostbusters movie working. I’m on board.
I’m not as sure about Sony’s need to break the movie down along gender lines. Seems to me that a mixed cast of guys and gals would do the trick. It almost feels as if they’re hedging their bets on the female Ghostbusters flick, to which they’ve already committed. If that doesn’t work or doesn’t pave the way for more branded entertainment, Sony wants another shot. If both work, awesome! Then at some point the girls and guys can share the screen in an Avengers-style mash-up of Ghostbusters. I get what Sony is doing.
Many don’t. Or they just don’t like what Sony is doing. It undercuts Feig’s film. It steals the thunder. It stupidly assumes that guys won’t see an all-female Ghostbusters. All are valid arguments, but the annoying part to me is that the people making them really don’t give a shit about Ghostbusters and won’t even go see either movie in theaters. They just like the idea of a studio movie with four female leads. So do I. But, unlike most, I’ll be there in the theater on opening day for both Ghostbusters flicks.
Look, it’s easy to have an opinion on something like this. It requires almost no knowledge about how films are made, or how studios operate. And, it certainly doesn’t require any discussion on a movie’s actual merits. The argument just boils down to girls vs. guys, which certainly can engender passionate response, but seems awfully simplistic.
Gender issues aside, there’s really nothing wrong with two different Ghostbusters films. If you’re a fan of the Ghostbusters “brand” (as I am) this is clearly a win-win. More Ghostbusters is better than, say, more Unfinished Business. If you’re a fan of Feig’s cast and want to see that film succeed, now you have a chance to do so. Put your money where your mouth is. It’s not like everyone won’t be analyzing the box office returns of both films, and discussing who won the battle of the sexes.
At the end of the day, it’s all about quality. Or at least to me it is. I guess that explains why I wasn’t offended by the news of a dude-centric Ghostbusters so soon after the female one. I’m actually more excited by the filmmaking team behind the guy version.
The Russo Brothers proved themselves as feature directors with last year’s Captain America: Winter Soldier, an awesome comic book flick that adults were able to take (semi) seriously thanks to the gritty action and an undercurrent of 70’s-style paranoia. That, coupled with the cred they earned directing some of the best episodes of Community and Arrested Development, gives me great hope. Channing Tatum has really come on strong as of late, and as he proved in both Jump Street films, he can be really funny. I mean, you’ve seen the Magic Mike XXL trailer, right? Comic gold, Jerry.
Back in December, the leaked Sony e-mails hinted that this version might happen. Channing wants to partner with Chris Pratt. I don’t know if they’ll get Pratt since he’s in pretty high demand right now, but that combo is pretty enticing. Add in Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. (New Girl buddies for life!), and we’re set.
I don’t share the same optimism for Feig’s version. I get why you hire Feig. He’s hot right now. Makes perfect sense on paper. Feig co-created Freaks and Geeks, and for that, I will always be grateful. But, I have not been impressed with his work behind the camera. The less said about Unaccompanied Minors the better, and Bridesmaids and The Heat were just okay. I know a lot of people loved Bridesmaids, but, talk about Ghostbusters being overrated, I think Bridesmaids is way overrated. Feig’s movies are poorly paced, with long gaps between the funny moments, and no real style of which to speak. His new flick, Spy, doesn’t seem that inspired either based on the trailers.
Wiig is brilliant, and I have no doubt she’ll be great in the movie. McCarthy is the hottest comedic actress going right now, and is sure to get butts in seats. But, as good as she is, she hasn’t been able to save Identity Thief or Tammy, two big clunkers that made more money than they should have. McKinnon is untested on the big screen, but has impressed in small doses on SNL (even though she has the tendency to overact). Jones is a wild card. She nailed her first Weekend Update bit, but since then, she’s been flailing on SNL and calling into question whether she can even act at all.
Plus, rumor has it, from people who have read it, that the lady Ghostbusters script is horrible, awful, and other nasty adjectives. Twitter folks shrug that off by arguing: with this director and that cast, they can overcome any bad script. False. Wrong. I say this not to rain on any parades, but to simply point out that Feig’s movie may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Hopefully, both movies are great. That’s what it should be about. Quality. The cast’s gender has nothing to do with that. Gender equality on screen is a fantastic thing, and we should push for more of it. But, we should not lose sight of what really matters in the end. I’m excited by Sony’s announcement. Based on the filmmaking team they’ve assembled, the new guy-centric Ghostbusters could be just as good, if not better. Why deprive ourselves of that possibility?
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