Don’t cross the streams! – Ghostbusters and upcoming reboots

Don’t cross the streams! – Ghostbusters and upcoming reboots

I was born in 1988. My experiences of the eighties, in their truest form, amount to nothing more coherent than a sea of coloured blurs mixed with large amounts of sleeping and dribbling. Hmm. Maybe I’m not alone on that one. It was the eighties after all.

Despite this – a mere dipping of a toe in this infamous decade – there is little doubt in my mind that its cultural exports are housed nice and snugly in the bowels of whatever part of my brain dictates viewing habits. The eighties – for all its cheese, for all its tackiness, and for all its perms – produced many of the films we now consider timeless, essential watching. In the modern era, the decade has become a bountiful well for the remakers, the rebooters, and the much-delayed-sequelers looking for a reliable box office buck.

Love it or loathe it, it is easy to see why. From Indiana Jones to Ferris Bueller, much of the identity of modern cinema emanates from this period. Its cast of characters are inescapable, regardless of when you were born, and nothing embodies that idea greater than 1984 hit comedy Ghostbusters. Old or young, we all rejoice with the unanimous answer to Ray Parker, Jr.’s fabled question. Who you gonna call? If it’s anyone other than Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, and Zeddemore, you may just be the something strange in our neighbourhood.

Thirty years on, the proton packs are out of storage for another crack at some urban parapsychology. Bill Murray and co. are of course out, and the unearthly spirit of the reboot looms large as not one, but two, new Ghostbuster teams begin to form. The announcement of Melissa McCarthy’s all-female ‘Busters may have stirred some interest in the series’ new direction, but it is safe to say the follow-up announcement of a Channing Tatum-led spin-off/side-qual has produced more than its fair share of ghostly moaning. Apparently Sony enjoy putting the ‘bus’ back into ‘busters’, as two have come in quick succession after a long spell waiting in the cold. Ahem.

The reality is that – male, female, transgender, or animal – any modern Ghostbuster line-up is going to struggle to compare with the original. A team of ghoul exterminators is a batshit crazy concept that almost had no hope of succeeding. Save for sharp writing, excellent comic delivery, and a zany decade that welcomed this sort of thing, the 1984 version may have been a complete flop. Let us not forget that its own sequel does not revel in the same adoration as its bigger brother.

The original Ghostbusters was truly a unique coming together of all the right elements, and attempts to replicate that kind of synchronicity are very often fruitless. Ghostbusters 2 is an enjoyable enough film, but in its lacking of the same wit, charm, and narrative thrust of the original, it quite rightly gets overlooked. Sure enough, there was no Ghostbusters 3 on the horizon. Yet here we sit, decades later, talking about an entire Ghostbusters extended universe? How many films? “When we get to twenty, tell me, because I’m gonna throw up.”

It is just so difficult to imagine a Ghostbusters film so far removed from its 1980s roots. Bill Murray was at his deadpan best. Dan Ackroyd nailed the wide-eyed enthusiasm. Harold Ramis’ stoney-faced exposition grounded the lunacy in plausible parapsychology. Everything that needed to click, clicked emphatically. Even the out-dated visual effects add unmistakeable character that simply wouldn’t come across in today’s equivalent green screen hodgepodges. What are we to expect of the ‘look’ of a modern Ghostbusters? Crisp edges and consistent shadowing isn’t Ghostbusters as I know it, man.

Yet, there are glimmers of hope. Certainly the female version has plenty of talent behind it (even if lead star McCarthy is recording more shocking misses than hits nowadays), and the varied dynamic of oestrogen over testosterone may at least forge a respectable new identity. Indeed, the general consensus was one of cautious optimism at the film’s announcement. A Ghostbusters reboot was unwelcome, but at least they were doing something daring with it.

Quick as a proton accelerator beam though, things have turned dramatically with the announcement of Tatum’s manfest. From the respectable glory of a brave new direction, to the rubble of another (over) extended universe, Sony has dampened all enthusiasm over new Ghostbusters products. Another year, another franchise sweller, and suddenly this much-loved eighties classic is the new Amazing Spider-Man. Sony are so desperate for the money-spinning cinematic universe they are seemingly prepared to forgo all logical reason.

Is a Ghostbusters film every year really ever going to succeed? Financially or critically? Of course not. What good is a zany concept if it comes back around every twelve months? Ghostbusters aren’t superheroes. The narrative well isn’t deep enough to evolve the concept beyond what it should have been – a beloved one-timer. A film we cherish mostly in isolation, with a respectable nod to its lesser sequel. A reboot? Channing Tatum? No. Ghostbusters needs the spirit of the eighties. It is the spirit of the eighties. There it should remain.

Expanded universe? That’s something weird. And it don’t look good.

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