Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ghostbusters Gets Girl Empowered

On a rare kid-free evening, I decided to hit the movie theater.  I have no problem going by myself to enjoy a little “me” time.  The only question of the night (besides “would you like butter on your popcorn?”) was choosing between Ghostbusters and Bad Moms.  Since I had a free movie ticket and Bad Moms did not accept passes, I chose Ghostbusters.  Admittedly, I was curious about the movie.  I heard mixed reviews about it so had no idea what to expect.
I grew up on the Ghostbusters movie and cartoon.  I remember quoting Bill Murray often (“...dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!”), and I don’t think that movie would have been as successful without Bill Murray’s oft ad-libbed lines.   Thus, this new crew had a lot of live up to.
The movie opened with a tour guide leading a group through an old mansion.  The humor is very subtle in the beginning and could easily fly by if you were not paying attention (ie, still on your phone).  The spookiness begins almost immediately with an old house, a creepy former resident, and a mysterious hidden device working together to reel the audience into the plot. 
Of the four leads, we’re first introduced to Kristin Wiig’s character as she prepares to give a college lecture.  Through her, we are introduced to two other characters.  Meanwhile, ghostly encounters are on the rise throughout New York, and we soon meet our fourth team member. 

I was thoroughly entertained by this movie.  It was funny, it was well cast, it had special effects that worked with the technology used, and it had some kick butt moments.  But one of my favorite aspects was the fact that a group of four women were the main characters in an action film. 
Growing up, I saw groupings/teams of men who saved the day with maybe a “girl” or two as a sidekick: the A-Team, the original Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Star Trek (original and somewhat TNG), Battlestar Galactica, Indiana Jones, Knight Rider, He-Man, X-Men, Smurfs, GI Joe...  *sigh*
Very few movies, TV shows, or cartoons had more than one female (or any) helping to overcome the odds.  Typically females were blonde bombshells who screamed and needed to be rescued (i.e., the super annoying Vicky Vale in Batman). 

Patty Tolan: [seeing a room filled with mannequins] Okay, room full of nightmares.

Sure, Star Wars had Princess Leia, but because of the time period it was made, Leia didn’t do nearly as much as Han and Luke.  The (now non-cannon) books helped bridge this gap for her character, but Return of the Jedi was all I had for Princess Leia truly taking an active role in defeating the enemy.  To see her expertly shoot a gun and ride a speeder bike and choke a crime lord to death - that was a culmination of bad ass-ness for girls growing up in the 80s. 
But, of course, all the marketing for Return of the Jedi included Leia in her slave costume.  She couldn’t kick butt unless skin was revealed.  Even with Avengers movies, Black Widow seems to always forget to zip her black skin-tight suit up over the chest region. 
What do we have now-a-days?  It’s only slightly better.  This includes the Harry Potter books, the Percy Jackson series, the Transformer movies (thanks for all the female butt shots in those movies Mr. Bay because, you know, girls never played with transformers, right???  Oh, no wait, they did.), Star Trek (get rid of the 1960’s-era skirts! You re-made Kirk’s jacket!), Guardians of the Galaxy, Mission Impossible, Lord of the Rings (I acknowledge that Peter Jackson did what he could with the source material), Avengers and their related solo spin offs, etc.  Again, we have disproportionate teams, and all the teams are led by men.  I love some of these franchises, but they have left me disappointed now and again.
Back to Ghostbusters.  These women are not always pretty, and they do not mind getting messy.  They dress in jumpsuits and casual clothes.  They’re intelligent.  They dive headlong into their work and are not waylaid by danger (or threats from the mayor).  And check out the movie posters!  Is anyone turned around showing off their butt or zipping down their suits?  NO!  Because women are more than just the display of their parts!  Sorry, that got a little crude there… I’m just really excited about women as scientists.  Talk about new ground being broken!

Was this movie epic?  Not quite.  There were some scenes that attempted to force the humor onto the audience (Melissa McCarthy flying around with the proton beam waiting for it to lose power or scenes with the mayor’s assistant who was not believable).  Some of the cameos were also uncomfortably forced into the movie.  Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray were actually my least favorite cameos with Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver’s being my favorites - because they worked naturally within the flow of the plot.  In fact, one of my favorite lines was from a cameo while Holtzmann’s new containment unit was being discussed.  The actress asks what she’s always told Holtzmann.
Jillian Holtzmann: Safety lights are for dudes!

I felt like I could relate to the different characters, more than just one, and I could see my friends as other characters.  I mean, those thoughts alone were like revelations.  Look at that: me and my girls could bust some ghosts instead of be a romantic interest in some other hero’s action movie (though if it’s Captain America doing the asking - call me!)
There were many excellent scenes that built up the characters and their relationships.  And the scene where the team interviews Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) is fantastic.  Everything with Wiig trying to flirt with Hemsworth cracked me up (because that would so be me - all awkward and geeky).   Yet there was no need for a romantic subplot in this movie.  Those scenes were just fun.  The story focused on the team working together to uncover who was bringing ghosts into the city and why. 
While the main villain is not terribly scary, this movie doesn’t pretend he is either.  The villain is unveiled very early on.  Is his motivation earth-shattering or full of depth and backstory?  No, but neither is the movie.  It’s a good balance of serious and funny moments. 

Plus, the women kick ass at the end.  I loved the proton whips that came out, the musical score rising in awesomeness, and ghosts being sent back to their maker.  I enjoyed how the proton packs were used a little differently not only to catch but also to throw ghosts out of the way.  I liked the team using skills with their physical weapons along with their intelligence to defeat the main villain.  There is great dynamics and humor between the four women, and the relationship building adds to the appeal of the film.  

Finally, Hollywood has flipped on its head the typical action hero film.  I got a huge GIRL POWER rush after this film was done.

Hemsworth was great as the pretty but dumb blonde.  I liked the new ghostbuster team.  I rocked out to the music.  I appreciated the look of the equipment - it felt more raw and hand-crafted than those in the original.  I even felt more danger/menace with these ghosts versus those of the 1980s films. 

Abby Yates: It's really easy sit there and be the naysayer when you don't actually do anything.

Was this a man-hating cartoonish reboot?  No.  And no one seemed to have a problem with Peter Venkmann’s creepy stalking of Dana in the original.  Let’s consider how Dana was treated in the 80s film.  She asks for help when she discovers a hell beast in her fridge.  Venkmann comes over to examine everything in her apartment except the fridge but including her bedroom.  He stands too close.  He doesn’t listen.  He makes inappropriate comments.  He just wants to get in her pants.  Eventually she shoves him out but later accepts his offer to go on a date.  Huh?  Later, a demon possesses Dana’s body, makes her proposition her body and make out with one guy and subsequently causes her to have sex with a neighbor guy she dislikes - yet this is a “joke” for the movie.  I didn’t know sexual assault by any means (in this case, by the supernatural) was a joke.  But hey, it’s a classic! 

So let’s be fair when we compare these movies, shall we?  If this is considered man-hating, the original should be considered woman-hating.  The original had an all-male team with a female villain who was wearing a bubbly outfit and high heels.  Interesting.  Kind of like this film as an all-female team and a male villain?  Not sure how that’s man-hating.  More like completely turning the tables.  Also of note, have the 50 different Spiderman reboots ruined the franchise?  No.  Batman reboots?  No.  So this should not be considered a franchise killer either. 

This movie re-invents a franchise and has a good time doing so.  I felt it was done well.  I’m waving my nerd flag high!  Rock on, Ghostbusters.  I hope to see you again.  It’s not going to be hard to surpass Ghostbusters II!  Because women can be comedy and action stars too 

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