When the news first broke that Ghostbusters would be returning to the big screen in 2016, there were mixed reactions. Some thought it was yet another unnecessary Hollywood reboot and others thought that the early idea of the film, as a female version stacked with popular comedic actresses, was pretty exciting.
Indeed, even the fact that the 2016 project’s cast is tied closely to Saturday Night Live looked intriguing in the early going, given that the original film came from some of SNL‘s greatest. Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig may not quite be Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in the comedy world, but they’ve been among the true bright spots on SNL this decade and both are on board for Ghostbusters.
Inevitably, the idea of a female Ghostbusters team replacing the traditional male squad was a little bit divisive, with some traditionalist fans preferring less of a change. But over time, the female cast has become the least of the studio’s concerns. Frankly, Ghostbusters is off to a horrible start.
To begin with, the film’s trailer was pretty much trashed by the public at large. Typically a bad trailer may not be a huge deal, particularly for a comedy in which fans often hope the trailer won’t give away too many laughs. But as the first glimpse of Ghostbusters material in decades, this one mattered, and it fell flat. As this piece put it, someone took the funny out of this trailer entirely. Jokes fell flat and the trailer’s “down votes” on YouTube far outweighed the “up votes” (which is apparently how we measure success or failure these days). Any way you cut it, it was a disastrous early glimpse at the reboot.
Another early strike against the project was that word got out that several key characters would either be missing or would only appear as little easter eggs and shout-outs to the original. That’s just not particularly satisfying given that this is a reboot and not a sequel. Most conspicuous will be the absence of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who’s really become the most iconic image from the early films not named Aykroyd or Murray. In the lead up to the reboot, a Ghostbusters-based online game here advertises itself through a big, amusing image of the Marshmallow Man. It’s a slot game that claims to follow the adventures of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Slimer as well, but it’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man who dominates the cover and indeed the slot reel therein. It’s just one game, sure, but it illustrates how thoroughly a character like this becomes linked to a project over time; and hearing that such characters are going to have minimal roles in the reboot just isn’t encouraging.
As if these early issues weren’t enough to attach a bad vibe to the 2016 Ghostbusters, it certainly hasn’t helped that of late people attached to the project have publicly demonstrated a great deal of stress and uncertainty. Perhaps most alarmingly, director Paul Fieg lashed out at the very culture of fans he’s aiming to impress with the film. This recap of the director’s quotes and general attitude cites him claiming that “geek culture” is comprised of “some of the biggest a-holes” he’s ever met in his life. Now, Fieg’s frustration is justified, if not admirable. He primarily seems upset with people who are dissatisfied purely because of the female cast, or who have even attacked cast members directly on Twitter. A director standing up for his cast and standing against the notion that a popular comedy has to be led by men is a good thing and perhaps we should expect no less from a man who helped usher in a new era of comedienne empowerment through Bridesmaids. Nevertheless, calling your main fanbase “a-holes” probably isn’t wise and makes this whole project seem stressful.
But most worrisome of all might be the fact that Melissa McCarthy, the biggest name in the cast and the woman with whom Fieg has had so much success in comedy in recent years, has let it be known that her voice wasn’t taken seriously on set. McCarthy appears to have been unsure about the idea of doing a pure reboot rather than something related to the earlier films like a sequel or spinoff. As a result, she called the trailer confusing. She even implied that she’d voiced her concerns during the process and gotten a response along the lines of “we don’t care what you think.” Not only is that pretty shocking regarding one of the most successful comedy actresses working lately, but it also makes production sound like an absolute mess.
It may end up that all of these nasty developments serve to lower expectations and Ghostbusters ends up being a perfectly enjoyable film. But every indication right now is that despite a very talented cast and a whole lot of built-in adoration for the subject matter, this reboot will have a very hard time living up to the original. It may even be a total disaster.