Ghostbusters (2016) Spoiler-free Review

You'll never be able to ask someone "Who you gonna call?" with a straight face ever again.
You’ll never be able to ask someone “Who you gonna call?” with a straight face ever again.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: the trailer for this film is appalling. It does an even worse job of making you want to see the film than the Star Trek Beyond trailer; which made a very good sci-fi movie look like one of the worst testosterone-fuelled cartoons I’ve ever seen. I therefore went into the new Ghostbusters expecting to be disappointed.

I wasn’t disappointed, I loved it – and so did literally everyone else in the theatre with me. Well, except that couple who had brought along a young kid to see it. They left after the opening scene because the kid was literally terrified. The rest of us laughed throughout the film and enjoyed every minute of it.

There’s a lot to like here, too. The spirit of the original film is alive and well. In many ways it had a lot to make up for. As with Star Wars, there has been a lot of bad stuff done with the Ghostbusters franchise since the first film was released. They’ve had games that sucked the life out of the franchise (even the newest one, the one many people call Ghostbusters 3 in all but name, has actors phoning in their performances). They’ve had a sequel that was a by-the-numbers rehash of the original. They had Extreme Ghostbusters (the only good episodes are the ones where the original crew come back for a 2-parter). The original’s spin-off cartoon started out pretty good but went downhill quickly, becoming a Slimer-focussed show for the under-5s. So this new film, if it was ever going to have a chance of success, had to be something special.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews (mostly from supposed fans of the Ghostbusters franchise) absolutely slate the new film. A lot of them are on YouTube and a lot of them are hosted by angry thirty-something men who have looked for every single thing they can attack. I disagree with all of those reviews. They feel like the opinions of people who went into the film looking for reasons to hate it, and then grabbed onto anything they could to justify that opinion.

I went into this expecting to be disappointed with it. Not to hate it, just to feel like it was a huge missed opportunity. I expected to come out feeling like I did when I first saw Star Wars Episode 1. I didn’t. I came out of this film feeling like I did when I saw The Force Awakens. I felt like I’d just seem an apology for decades of missed opportunities.

Let’s list some of the things that the film got right (but let’s do it in a way that won’t spoil things):

  1. The cameos are great, and they actually work (which I was surprised at, because I thought this would be the part that sucked the most). Billy Murray’s cameo is handled the worst, but at least it’s fairly short. Dan Aykroyd’s is by far the best (and got a cheer from the cinema).
  2. Harold Ramis gets a special cameo/reference and it’s lovely.
  3. Slimer is both hilarious and brilliantly used. I loved Slimer as a kid and this rekindled that love because he’s handled so, so well.
  4. There’s a very good use of an iconic character (I won’t mention which one, to avoid spoilers) and, again, it got a big cheer.
  5. The jokes are funny. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve not laughed so much in a cinema for a long time – even when I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy I didn’t laugh as much as I did watching this film.
  6. The Ghostbusters characters aren’t just gender-flipped versions of the originals, they are solid characters in their own right; with a mixture of personality traits from the originals to make them new and interesting.
  7. Holzmann is wonderful, she easily steals the show.
  8. Patty Tolan isn’t just a loud black woman, she’s an important and knowledgeable character in her own right. In fact, she’s more important to the plot than Winston ever was (which is a huge improvement because Ernie Hudson was wasted in that role).
  9. The villain is a credible threat, and actually quite an interesting character in and of himself.
  10. The special effects are good (despite what the internet hate mob have been saying, although by this point that could be a tag line for pretty much everything about this film).
  11. The plot is new and fresh, it’s not just a re-hash of the original; although there are plenty of references to the previous two films. Look at it the way you look at The Force Awakens: there are a lot of call-backs, but it’s its own story.
  12. Some of the plot problems from the original film are addressed in this one; specifically the illegality of the siren on Ecto-1 and the focus of the media on the Ghostbusters’ success rather than the sudden revelation that ghosts are real. It’s great to see those problems finally being addressed.

Okay, now that we’ve covered everything that’s good about the film. Let’s list the bad things, because there were a few. The film isn’t perfect, after all.

  1. That trailer. That bloody trailer. It did so much damage.
  2. The final enemy is a call-back to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon but it doesn’t do the walk. Why? Why didn’t it do the walk? You had one job, guys! One job! I was so annoyed.
  3. The Ghostbusters’ equipment is based too heavily on Extreme Ghostbusters and, of all things, Danny Phantom rather than the original Ghostbusters’ equipment. I get the need to update things but that stuff is iconic.
  4. The Twinkie reference was too hidden.
  5. Kevin is so much of an idiot that at times it stops being funny and just becomes irritating. I get that he’s the comic relief but there are limits. There’s stupid and then there’s can’t-be-let-out-alone – and then there’s Kevin. Tone him down for the sequel, please.
  6. The siren on Ecto-1 is wrong. Very wrong.
  7. I could have done without the toilet humour, personally (although the rest of the cinema loved it so oh well).

So there you have it. There’s a lot to like about this film. It is clearly written, acted and produced by people who love Ghostbusters and that shines through in every shot. It’s a lot of fun, and I’d recommend everyone go and see it. Leave any prejudices at the door and give it a chance, you may (like I did) find you actually quite enjoy it.