Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Thoughts on Ghostbusters III

by ScottDS

If there’s one question that seems to be on the minds of geeks everywhere, it’s “So when are we going to get another Ghostbusters?” followed by “Wait, do we really need another one?” It took five years to release a second film and we’re now 25 years later. The wheels seem to be in motion, albeit in super slow motion. But is it too late? Should sleeping terror dogs lie?

[long sigh] Okay, here it is. In the 90s, Dan Aykroyd (“the heart of the ghostbusters”) wrote a draft for a third film that involved a parallel version of Manhattan dubbed “Manhellton.” From what I recall, Hell was overcrowded and only the boys in beige could stop the incoming tide of undead. Pretty neat idea, and some of it was used in the 2009 video game. This movie would also involve a younger team of ghostbusters and names like Will Smith and Chris Farley were bandied about. The studio was interested, but Bill Murray was not. (This is going to be a running theme here!) Having expressed his disappointment at how Ghostbusters II came out, and with sequels in general, Murray said he’d only do it if he could be a ghost. To this day, the enigmatic Murray has been nothing but reticent: never saying “yes,” usually saying “no,” sometimes offering a cautious “maybe.” This hasn’t stopped Aykroyd, who’s been talking up a third film for the last decade and a half. (Not to mention Aykroyd doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to making sequels without important co-stars!)

This entire time, Ivan Reitman was still attached as producer/director. A few years ago, he was developing a script with two writers from The Office (yay!) who also wrote Year One (boo!). Meanwhile, Murray was still waffling, Aykroyd was still promising release dates, Reitman decided he wouldn’t direct it after all, and even semi-retired Rick Moranis said he’d do it if the material was good. And then Harold Ramis, who had been collaborating on and off with Aykroyd, passed away. At this point, people rightfully asked, “Is it time to shut it down?” For the studio, the answer was an emphatic “No!” As of this writing, Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, has signed on to direct and is developing a script with writer Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Recreation). It’s said to be a remake, featuring an all-female group of busters.

[longer sigh] This is… not a... hoooorrible idea... Feig loves the movies and doesn’t want to stomp all over them, which is why they’re doing it as a remake instead… but then why call it Ghostbusters? (That was a rhetorical question!) Or better yet, why couldn’t they simply have another group in another part of New York City that just happens to be all-female? Every sequel idea that’s out there seems to include the Ghostbusters as a large corporation, so it’s only logical that there would be other offices. As for the female thing, despite Feig’s comments, I think it comes across as a gimmick. It’ll inspire a thousand think pieces from the bloggers of the world and it’ll be the only thing people talk about. And it’s not as if their gender will be relevant. We’ll still get a smooth-talker, and a brain, and so on. Or maybe I’m wrong and the fact that they’re all female will be relevant to the plot, but wouldn’t that undercut the entire idea? The gender shouldn’t matter at all, hence my use of the “gimmick” label. Yes, women can be funny, and maybe if we stop asking the question, it’ll go away! And I understand the need for representation, but then why make them all female? How about a mix? And I’m sorry but there’s no story they could write that will satisfy everyone who’s angling for the all-female thing. “This movie is too feminist!” “This movie isn’t feminist enough!”

The story? I have no idea. Feig wants to make something scary but there’s definitely a template at work. Will we simply get another underdog story with a love interest and a powerful force trying to break through to our world and a climax involving a large, walking object? Given that this is a remake, it seems highly likely. And how do you redesign iconic props and vehicles? The designers of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films have done a decent job in my opinion, though more tech-oriented fans have completely excoriated them. Will the new proton pack look like something from the Apple Store, or will they continue with the homemade, jury-rigged look that made the first film so relatable? (It was a going into business story after all!)

As for actors, it’s anybody’s guess. I’ve seen a lot of names mentioned: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Emma Stone, Rebel Wilson, etc. I have no wish list but only one request: get great actors who can do comedy. Don’t get comedians who happen to be good actors. I don’t want to see Melissa McCarthy doing the uncouth slob thing again. I don’t want Tina Fey playing just another version of Liz Lemon. And I don’t want to see Aubrey Plaza do… that thing she seems to do 90% of the time. You know what? I’d love to see someone like Cate Blanchett in something like this! Or Amy Adams! That’s the other thing… will the film feature actual adults, or 20-somethings… you know, for the millennials?!

My other thoughts are just nitpicking. The previous films are great-looking films, lensed by award-winning cinematographers. Will the new film have a distinctive look, or will it look like every other sterile, overly-bright comedy out there today? And the music… who will be the lucky musician to contribute an original theme song? (Anybody but Kanye!) Bear McCreary has my vote to do the music score. He was a protégé of the late Elmer Bernstein, who scored the first film (and almost every other classic 80s comedy) and his geek credentials are second to none. And in an effort to up the ante and compete with the superhero films, will the ending involve the leveling of the city in an orgy of CGI? Or just one building? (If there was any film where the makers could indulge in old-school techniques like cloud tank photography, this would be it!)

If I were president of Hollywood, I’d use a story I read about five years ago on an architecture blog. The writer came up with an idea involving NYNEX, the old New England telephone company (the “X” even stood for the unknown future, or the “uneXpected”). What if the ancient cables and trunk lines were actually the embedded nervous system of a fallen angel? The film would end with a climactic confrontation at the old AT&T Long Lines Building, a Brutalist-style structure at 33 Thomas Street. Pretty cool! But I’m not the president of Hollywood, just a geek.

I write this not to bitch, but to ponder. There are only a handful of franchises that I’m passionate about and this is one of them. And yeah, if they screw it up, we’ll still have the untouched originals (not even Star Wars fans can say that!). I remain cautiously neutral. What say you?


AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for the article, Scott!

As a big fan of I and II, I'm actually glad there was never a III. I suspect a III would be just bad enough to taint the first two.

In any event, I will comment more later.

shawn said...

Meh, I feeling pretty ambivalent about this one. While filmakers today are often technically brilliant (great cinematography, editing, good performances from their actors) many of them can't tell an interesting or coherent story. This is one that I will have to hear some good reviews before I spend some money.

Koshcat said...

A reboot or remake would be awful. It would be better as a new beginning. Want a girl fine but make her a relative of one of the originals; bill Murray's daughter. Have a tie in but make it your own. And for god sake have a decent story with nonlame dialogue.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Truth be told, despite trying to remain neutral (optimistic was, well... too optimistic a word!), at this point I'd prefer they drop the project entirely. I don't think it would be so bad as to taint the originals, but it would be an unfortunate footnote. (Like Blues Brothers 2000.)

ScottDS said...

shawn -

The first film sets the bar pretty high when it comes to storytelling - it's a perfectly structured screenplay. I fear a new film would be too reliant on improv. Not that the original actors didn't come up with stuff on set, but in a lot of comedies today, I can tell when the actors are trying to one up each other with jokes and the filmmakers (namely Apatow) don't know when to cut.

And yeah, most movies are just fine in the editing and camerawork departments but surely, I can't be the only person who's noticed they all look alike! Watch this video for more.

ScottDS said...

Kosh -

If they're doing a remake, then I doubt we'll get any connection to the originals. The one thing they could do is, assuming they have a male character somewhere... they can make him Oscar, Dana's now grown-up son that we saw as an infant in the second film. That could be a realistic way to connect the films.

And yes, non-lame dialogue is important. I assume Dan Aykroyd would help contribute his usual brand of techno-babble.

Anonymous said...

I say leave it alone. Please.

But there is money to be made so I won't get my wish. The idea of having female Ghostbusters is just a gimmick plain and simple and you should not make movies based on nostalgia and a gimmick. It will not end well and I've already been disappointed enough by bad sequels/prequels.

They also don't need Bill Murray to star in it to make a sequel, in fact I'd think it would be better to not have him, they wouldn't need to deal with the baggage. If they made the movie within 10 years of the last one then yes he would be needed, but more then enough time has passed to do it without him. What is more important then Murray is that the have a great script with great actors/director etc attached to it.

And I don't get Melissa McCarthy, to me she is the female Will Ferrell. When you first see them on film you love them, they are different then the norm. But pretty soon after you just get sick of them as they play the same character time and time again, there is no growth and as they get more popular they get more control of their characters and they get even worse.

I really like the rebooted Star Trek movies, I liked them as kids but I loved Star Wars a lot more so I didn't feel betrayed with the changes done as others were.


ScottDS said...

Scott -

Nostalgia and gimmicks are all that's left... didn't you get the memo?!?! :-)

Re: McCarthy - I agree with you. To be fair, I haven't seen her sitcom but of the movies I've seen, she seems to play the same note in each one and it gets old. What offended me about Bridesmaids was the critical reaction. She wasn't nearly as funny as some people thought and a lot of the reviews reeked of, "Hey, look at the fat lady!"

Re: Murray, I would argue that they do need him, but maybe not as a star. Most people would probably be satisfied with a cameo appearance, especially if the plot centered on passing the baton to a bunch of new ghostbusters. But if this is indeed a blank slate remake, then his presence is no longer required.

Anonymous said...

I missed that memo, thanks for the heads up.

I've got no issue with Murray being in a remake or sequel, but if him not wanting to be in a 'potentially' good remake/sequel (as low as those odds seem) then I say leave him out. Maybe his not wanting to do another sequel has already saved us from a crappy GhostBusters 3.


AndrewPrice said...

On the names being tossed about in the article, if I supported the project (and I don't really), I would hate to see the likes of Will Ferrell or Wiig or McCarthy cast in the film. I just don't think any of those people is funny. They are all from the "beat it to death" school of comedy where they think it's funny to just grind a joke into the ground, looking stupid the whole time. IF you were going to make a third Ghostbusters film, you really would need to begin by understanding that the story itself is not a comedy... it's a serious film with comedic overtones. Planning on filling the film with gross-out humor and lousy comedians doing their schtik just won't work. Pick real actors and let them try to learn to do the humor rather than comedians who won't act.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I have come to really dislike McCarthy. She does the "crude fat girl with an unhappy childhood" cliche over and over and I'm sick of it.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I completely agree when it comes to tone. It's a thin line to walk and I'm not even sure how to articulate it, but I suppose the difference is this:

In Ghostbusters, Venkman thinks he's above it all, makes sarcastic comments, and doesn't believe the science... until he finds the motivation (Dana). And while he's still a wise-ass, he becomes a true believer.

In many modern comedies, the characters are too busy referencing pop culture (which is something the originals rarely do), or trying to one up each other with jokes. And whatever sincerity that might exist is usually buried in snark.

And while the originals were PG, the new one will most likely be PG-13. Nothing wrong with that, especially since if the first film were released now, it might get a PG-13. But they should go for all audiences, not just teens and 20-somethings.

ScottDS said...

Scott -

Maybe it has. And no doubt some fans would refuse to see the movie without Murray, saying "I told ya so!"

Loyal Goatherd said...

No dog in this fight! GB was a passable adventure / farce. I enjoyed it. I did not understand the hoopla surrounding it. I still don't. GB2 proved the sequel rule once again.

I don't think they will be able to recapture the feel with any attempt. New York (pre-Giuliani) seemed to have that anything can happen vibe and the city and state would try to rein it in. The common man against the system, the underdog story drove the plot down predictable lines. it made for a satisfactory movie going experience. The special effects, cutting edge for the time, did not overpower the plot, as most movies of today. I don't see that happening again in the era of CGI. Rebooting this will fail.

ScottDS said...

Loyal -

There seems to be more hoopla surround it now than when it was released 30 years ago!

Yeah, they were certainly limited by the FX technology of the time and more often than not, those limitations helped. My fear is that the new film isn't bad... just generic.

wulfscott said...

ScottDS -
I think you're whistling past the graveyard here. There's not a ghost of a chance that they'll catch the spirit of the original, and the specter of a bad remake will haunt us for a long time.
But seriously, I don't think this one will be good. As Andrew mentioned here, and in his review, GB was a horror story AND a comedy. Its too delicate a balance for most directors today.

Kit said...


Seeing Amy Adams in a Ghostbusters uniform would produce enough happiness in me to last a year. :)

Really, she was the best part of the dreadful Night at the Museum sequel. Actually, she was the only good part of it. Mainly because she seemed to be enjoying it and not going through the motions. "I get to wear a flight-suit and talk like the lead female in a 1930s comedy? Sounds great!"


She was also the best part of Man of Steel.

ScottDS said...

Kit -

She's one of those actresses who makes everything better and I look forward to seeing her in Tim Burton's Big Eyes. A friend of mine has a thing for her... I can't say that I do, but it's not hard to see why someone else would!

Ugh... Man of Steel. She and Henry Cavill didn't have nearly enough scenes together.

ScottDS said...

wulf -

Very well-written first paragraph! :-) I'm no fortune-teller but I can see the critical reaction being something like, "Not a disaster, but no replacement for the original. The filmmakers have made something completely non-offensive but in another 30 years, it'll only be a footnote."

Kit said...

Scott, Wulf,

I think one reason is that we are all sick of remakes. Produce something original for crying out loud!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good post, Scott!
I have doubts that GB3 will be as good as the first two, but I hope I'm wrong.

As for an all female cast it makes no difference to me as long as it's entertaining.
Besides, where's the love for the under-represented Little People? We need more Little People in films, IMO.
Talk about a rarely tapped talent pool.

ScottDS said...

Ben -

Thanks! And hey, as far as little people go, if they cast Peter Dinklage, I'm in!

Rustbelt said...

I have no hope for this project. The first was lightning in a bottle: right idea man (Akyroyd), right writer (Ramis), right director (Reitman), and the right cast.

The real problem with this project, IMO, is that there will be no restraint. According to the director's commentary on my DVD copy, Aykroyd's original 40-page script contained around 40 monsters. He (in the Stantz role) and Jon Belushi (in the Venkman role), were employed in one of several ghostbusting outfits around NYC, ehich is now infested with ghosts. They report to their boss, Ivo Shander, whose office is dark, dank, and decorated with skulls and other bones. Did I mention that Ecto-1 was originally black with purple stripes?
While writing the script, Reitman and Ramis made several changes. First, the monsters were drastically cut back for budget and story purposes. (Only Stay-Puft survived.) The story started at a university to give the characters credibility as scientists who had to set out on their own. (This required making them the only ghostbusting outfit and not having NYC run by ghosts, so they'd also have to fight a skeptical government.) Shandor became the unseen adversary and cause of the GB's problems. And Ecto-1 was repainted white because the original paint scheme didn't film well at night.
But notice how much was pulled out. The focus shifted to the characters: Egon (the brains), Ray (the heart), Peter (the mouth), and Winston (the muscle). As wulfscott noted, the story is essentially a horror movie (often described as a H.P. Lovecraft-style story of evil hiding in plain sight; with malevolent spirits ready to break in from another world, while all humanity can realistically do is bide time until the inevitable destruction takes place). The comedy could be described as the lead trying to stay sane as they battle these terrible forces. (Insanity, or the fear of it, btw, is another common Lovecraftian theme.)

The people behind GBIII will likely not get any of this. They'll write a story that is all comedy or action with only horror elements- and it will show, painfully. And because it's an all-female cast, you'd better bring your beer and play a drinking game every a feminazi remark, scene, or joke is made. You'll probably need to get drunk to get through this. In fact, I bet that within the first 10, there will be at least one scene where a degenerate man makes a remakr or pass to one of the leads. This will be followed by the lead going all Jet Li, giving the guy a martial arts slam, and uttering a variation of, "I'm no girl, you neanderthal." More such material will follow. Why am I so confident of this? Because Hollywood are still stuck in 90's 'Xena- Warrior Princess" mindset and this is the only way they know how (or care) to write women.
Let the social commentary grown-fest begin.

You know, I'm perfectly fine with the 2009 video game (which had nearly the entire original cast, sans Moranis and Weaver, reprising their roles), as the third film. It's well-written, builds on the story that was set up in the first film (GB2 gets only a few mentions, as it's implied that Vigo wasn't very powerful after all), and is just so darn well-animated. At the time, Aykroyd actually called it the third movie and still says it's canon.

BTW, personal observation here: I can't for the life of me see the original film working with Belushi as Venkman. To build on Scott's comment, he was more of a comedian who was a good actor. He couldn't do drama like Murray. And while the puppy dog-eye trick might have worked on Carrie Fisher in "Blues Brothers," there was no way Jon Belushi was going to win over Sigourney Weaver. You couldn't make that romance believable in a million years.

ScottDS said...

Rustbelt -

Lightning in a bottle, indeed! Maybe it's the rose-colored glasses but so many movies back then come across today as minor miracles. Back to the Future is another one: in a parallel universe, it's Eric Stoltz as Marty and the time machine is a refrigerator!

To be fair, just because the cast is all female doesn't mean we'll get the requisite "feminist" moments - better to not acknowledge it at all, but then again, why do it if you won't acknowledge it? (To say nothing of the inevitable Internet shitstorm.)

Yeah, Aykroyd's original idea was much more grandiose - I'd still love to read his original phone book-size script for The Blues Brothers! - and Ramis helped downsize it to a shootable movie. A black car wouldn't photograph well at night, hence the white hearse.

Post a Comment