For some people, the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot is cause for celebration, but for others it’s being treated as something akin to the next coming of Gozer the Gozerian – an apocalyptic event likely to result in human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, and mass hysteria.
No matter which side of the Ghostbusters divide you fall on, though, you can be certain that Bridesmaids director Paul Feig’s spin on the 1984 classic is not only happening, but it’s going to have people talking right up to – and likely following – its arrival in theaters.
Still, while remakes and reboots are all the rage these days, their track record (so far) hasn’t exactly been the stuff of franchise-restarting Hollywood dreams. So what can Ghostbusters do to avoid getting slimed in its big return to the screen?
Here are a few suggestions:
Be More Than Just A Gender-Bender
One of the great aspects of the team at the heart of the Ghostbusters franchise is that they really could be anybody – any race, any religion, and yes, any gender – as long as they have the courage to wear an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on their backs. The rebooted Ghostbusters team is a quartet of women, but if the film is going to succeed, they need to be more than just a different set of faces playing the same, familiar characters.
In the modern remake of the Battlestar Galactica, for example, a character name is really all that Katee Sackhoff’s character shares with Dirk Benedict’s version of Lt. Starbuck in the original series, and her performance is one of the defining elements of the award-winning series. Sure, it can be interesting to see actors re-interpreting fellow actors’ performances, but a good film needs more than novelty casting to carry it through to the credits. Build a good story around these particular Ghostbusters and what the cast brings to them, and you’ve proven that the movie is built around more than just a gimmick.
Play to the Cast’s (and Director’s) Strengths
Paul Feig knows comedy, and in Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Melissa McCarthy, he has a fantastically talented cast of funny actors who also happen to be at a similar point in their careers as the cast of the original Ghostbusters. The same can be said of Feig and the 1984 film’s director, Ivan Reitman. That film allowed its cast to flex their comedic muscles liberally, with just enough direction to bring everything together into a cohesive film under a director who knew when to let comedians simply be funny and when to rein them back into being actors. Feig has already shown a knack for this sort of thing in Bridesmaids and The Heat by giving his cast room to ad-lib and do what comes naturally, so if he sticks to that strategy Ghostbusters is in good hands.
Know When To Follow…
Movie remakes often struggle to strike a balance between being faithful to the films that inspired them and validating their existence. Some films find success hewing close to the source material – much like the way 2005’s King Kong remake updated a well-worn story with modern visual effects and other creative flourishes without straying too far from what made the film so compelling to begin with.
On the other hand, Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho suffered for its slavish devotion to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller, leaving critics and audiences alike to wonder why it was made. Feig has already touched on some of the elements from the original Ghostbusters that he holds dear, posting photos of the new team’s jumpsuits, proton packs, and an updated version of ECTO-1 – all iconic elements that can and should be carried over to the new film – so there’s reason to believe he’s well aware of what fans can (and should) expect to see in a Ghostbusters movie.
… And Know When To Blaze A New Trail
Feig has said that he chose to go the complete-reboot route with Ghostbusters because that offered the richest storytelling potential for the film. That bodes well for the remake, as it suggests that he’s not afraid to tell a new story with his team of supernatural exterminators – and there could be a few surprises in store for fans to go along with it. Films like Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and Brian De Palma’s Scarface all remade older films in ways that took them in bold new directions, retaining the themes of the earlier projects and exploring those themes in fresh ways. That balance can be tricky to find, however, and we’ve seen more than a few films falter when they tried to take older films to new places. The 2012 remake of Total Recall comes to mind with its decision to keep the story Earthbound, only to lose track of what made the original film so compelling.
At this point, it’s uncertain how much of the 1984 film will inform Feig’s Ghostbusters remake, but here’s hoping it finds the right balance of what we want from a Ghostbusters movie and what we need from a good film.
Question of the Week: What advice would you give the director of the Ghostbusters remake?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He’s been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.