Thursday, 28 July 2016

Ghostbusters


Immediately I have to profess to having never seen the original Ghostbusters. It's been a film advised to me by many, and one that I'd always hoped to get around to, but always found other things that I opted for instead. The advantage of having not seen the 1984 classic is that I have little to compare Paul Feig's offering to, meaning I have the ability to view the film independently rather than drawing unwanted and unneeded comparisons. It would be an understatement to say that, since the announcement of the film's casting choices, Feig's Ghostbusters has been subjected to criticism and controversy. People were lining up ready to pan this film into oblivion and wipe it off the face of the Earth as if it never existed at all. This is why, as a general fan of Feig's work, it makes me pretty happy that this film is actually really rather good.

Look, it's not going to change the world. It's not going to be remembered in a decade's time and it's not going to be as commercially successful as many hoped and it probably won't even gain its own little fanbase. But it doesn't need to. The aim of a remake should not be to recreate an original film's success by acting as a carbon copy, it should reimagine the stories and themes and ideas of that original and attempt to puts its own unique spin on it. That is exactly what Feig and his terrific cast have achieved here. His Ghostbusters is an exciting and enjoyable feature, one in which every frame and every line of dialogue springs to life with a kind of energy that many blockbusters of late can't seem to pull off. There are bumps and grinds along the way, of course, but with a film this giddily enjoyable they almost feel redundant.

Much like many of his other successes, Feig works wonders with his cast. Kristen Wiig is delightful as the film's general protagonist, and she uses her wide ranging skills to help Abby feel like a more fleshed out character than the script allows. Wiig has succeeded in a variety of roles since her breakout in Feig's own Bridesmaids some years ago now, and she puts them all to terrific use here. She has impeccable comic timing, but when the time comes for Abby to talk about something in her past, Wiig pushes through the corny script and finds something quite raw about Abby as a person. It's a highly impressive performance. The other three leads are enjoyable too: Melissa McCarthy may be a tad too McCarthy-ish here for my liking, but she works fine; Leslie Jones packs a handful of the film's biggest laughs with her committed and likeable performance; and Kate McKinnon tries her hardest to nail the sloppy and uneven stuff the script gives her. She offers the least laughs from the main four by a wide margin, but McKinnon's light performance keeps her an enjoyable presence and, because of this, Jillian as a character doesn't quite hit the "annoying" boundary as many times as the script sets her up to.

The real surprise that Ghostbusters' casting offers comes in the form of Chris Hemsworth. As viewers, we're only really used to seeing Hemsworth drive cars and swing a hammer, so casting him here seemed odd and misguided. It turns out, though, to be one of the film's best moves: Hemsworth is simply hilarious. His body language and vocal delivery across all of his sequences are pitch perfect, and many of the film's funniest moments belong to him. He effectively combines both physical and dialogue based comedy in what may be the performance of his career thus far. His character also offers some of the film's subtle work on gender roles within the film industry. Feig's script wisely avoids focusing on these matters too much, but simple character types are reversed effectively and it's a refreshing touch for this female led film. Going overboard on making these points would have forced the film into an uncomfortable territory, but Feig pulls back and only drops subtle hints about the ideas he's going for. It's a deft move that really pays off.

The issue with being so gentle with this, though, is that the film ends up touching on a number of things it doesn't feel prepared to discuss fully. Abby's brief backstory is touched upon but never truly explored. The film's villain is so under developed that when the plot reaches its big, CGI ridden finale that it's difficult to work out how we arrived there. The film's biggest missteps come from its lack of forward momentum; the first ninety minutes all feel static and don't do enough to warrant such an over-the-top finale. Sure, some ghosts are caught and the government gets involved, but it never really comes together to form a coherent plot, and it forces the final act to feel entirely weightless. Despite ghosts appearing all over the city there are't any real stakes, and when the film succumbs to your conventional central-character-has-been-sucked-into-a-void trope, it isn't difficult to predict what will happen next. Despite the film's energetic feel, there's a constant sense that nothing is really pushing forward, so when it comes to that big final act it's kind of tough to take it all seriously.

That said, Ghostbusters remains gleeful fun even in its bombastic final act. Feig has produced a film that, as sloppy as it can be, is more than capable of putting a big smile on even the gloomiest of faces. His Ghostbusters is terrifically performed from a superb cast and packs more energy that every other film this year combined. There is little going on behind the scenes, sure, but the film has intended to side step this. It may hurt the final act a touch but it's difficult to really criticise a film that achieves all it sets out to achieve. After being slated as a disaster before its release, Ghostbusters has bounced back strongly, and the film acts as a wonderful counter argument to all those who predicted that it would bomb. It's not the greatest film of the year, but I don't mind because this is the most fun I've had in a cinema in a long time. The icing on the cake? It does a great job of proving one thing to anyone left out there who still suffers from such an inept and stupid opinion: women are damn funny.

To Summarise: Fast, funny and terrifically performed across the board, Paul Feig's Ghostbusters admirably takes on an enormous challenge and the result is as charmingly brainless as it is deliriously fun.

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