Friday, 4 March 2016

Is it the Wiig or the hat?

https://youtu.be/w3ugHP-yZXw
Been biting my tongue on this one, but if yesterday's second teaser for the upcoming Ghostbusters says anything, it's that the business of remaking a classic is no less a barefoot hot coal walk than it has been since, well, ever.

According to legend, writer/creator/lead actor/blues hero/vodka connoisseur, Dan Aykroyd has been trying to get a third film made for decades. Makes sense to me. Even at its weakest (which ain't saying much), the first installment was unmistakably for the time capsule, the sequel only marginally failed to recapture that proton stream in a bottle a second time around, and the burgeoning franchise even managed to spawn a very well-written and received cartoon show. Like the characters' albeit fictional business in the film, from a marketing standpoint alone, Ghostbusters clearly has legs.

In all fairness, the trailer opens well, with some suitably haunting piano chords evoking a wonderful nostalgia, only to be unraveled by some dunderheaded title cards that seem only to muddle the single biggest issue surrounding the film itself - is this a soft or hard reboot?

The notion of a new band of busters isn't anything new. A plethora of big names have been broached over the years as being potential box office-satisfying accompaniments to the original cast. Though the very thought of injecting some fresh blood always seemed to be dependent on the (other) Fab Four in some way either passing on the torch, or serving as proto-Spock Prime-like mentors, throughout.

At first glance, strong proponents for a hard Ghostbusters reboot appear to be thin on the ground, and arguably, with good reason. Certainly, the prospect of somehow seeking to better the source material would surely be such an uphill struggle, that it would be far more propitious a bet to simply play to the established cinematic universe's obvious strengths and attempt to more naturally bridge/transition a new crew with the old? After all, even with its galaxy-sized web of interwoven continuity, Star Trek managed to do so, a few years back. Actually, Star Trek pretty much nailed it.

Cast-wise, this new troupe all seem to be highly capable, across the board. Most recently recalling her star turn in The Martian, Kristen Wiig in particular is a strong and reliably funny presence. Individually, I completely understand the reasoning behind this particular group casting. But as a unit, I also fail to see enough of the instantly-recognisable magic that made that first team so enduring (by this trailer's own admission, now, three decades and counting).

The new Ectomobile doesn't exactly scream wow, either. And given the choice between these here CG ghoulies and their 'archaic' photo-chemical ancestors, I think you already know which showcase I would prefer. Fan favourite Slimer is also clearly present, but why would you call one ghost 'Slimer' if practically all the ghosts depicted herein 'slime' characters, too? Maybe this time around, they might actually refer to him as 'The Onion Head', as first conceived.

AND WHILE I'M AT IT, the new ghost busting equipment... it feels too, for want of a better word, offensive.

The late, great Harold Ramis is on record saying how he once read an article where teachers and child psychologists were applauding the inaugural film's positive influence, as they suddenly found that kids weren't playing Cowboys & Indians anymore, but rather teaming up in the school yard to defend themselves from the great unknown. Now, it seems, we've got characters wielding (or in at least one shot, tonguing) proton pistols and grenade belts, and I can't help but feel that one of the original, most important messages has been lost, somehow. As a spooked seven year old, I didn't want to blast Pipes into a million strands of ectoplasm, I wanted to safely and securely entrap him within the thrumming, fire engine red, Containment Unit where he belonged.

That said(!), I'm sure the chances are, anyone who hasn't seen the original will get a kick out of this when it opens in theatres (until they eventually discover its barely-aged predecessor, perhaps). For me, thus far, it just seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity, given that the original cast, with the very sad exception of Harold, are still kicking about, and remain as funny, capable and talented as ever. Considering the undoubtedly negative response this (admittedly, first look) teaser appears to have evoked, the makers would surely have saved themselves a whole heap of trouble, by merely developing a more original concept to effectively allow their latest, talented contributors to shine.

Prove me wrong, NewBusters. I promise, I won't mind if you do.