Fritz Babbles About The Movie That Isn't Called Ghostbusters III
So I've finally seen it.
tl;dr Take: I loved it!
Long, semi-snarky review to follow:
It's been twenty-seven years since a new Ghostbusters movie made it into theaters; I went and saw the last one on opening day (June 16, 1989) and while I enjoyed it a great deal, it still felt...off. I won't go into all the reasons--some of them are very well known and some of them are shared by others--but it left me very reluctant to embrace a third movie, should it come. I just didn't trust Aykroyd and Ramis anymore. Maybe Bill Murray keeping the "real" GB3 from happening was a good thing. While the 2009 video game was well-received by the fandom--a lot of fans consider it the closest we'd ever get to a third movie with the original cast--but to me it was more of a collection of set pieces mining the two movies (especially the first) for nostalgia. It retreaded the first movie's villain instead of its plot structure, but it still left me underwhelmed. (For all of its faults, GB2 at least gave us a new enemy completely unrelated to Gozer)
In 2014, Harold Ramis Crossed to the Other Side and it looked like GB3 was just as dead. Even if it wasn't...how in the hell could it possibly be any good? My favorite of the four Ghostbusters couldn't be in it, my second favorite probably wouldn't be in it either, and without their participation it just didn't seem worth bothering.
But Ramis's mortal remains had hardly gotten cold when the first rumors came out of Sony, embodied by one oft-dreaded word: "Reboot". Before long, the rumors became truth, as "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig had accepted the assignment but only if he could do it his way and he just couldn't imagine telling a story in a world where everybody already knew ghosts existed.
I gotta admit, to some extent, I can't help but agree with him--everybody thinking the Ghostbusters were "frauds" and "full of shit" in GB2 a mere five years after an enormous fucking marshmallow man stomped all over Manhattan was one of the creakiest parts of the movie; really, it was just an excuse for telling the whole "the Ghostbusters are out-of-work losers then convince the world they're right" story again. At least in a world where the Ghostbusters didn't exist, telling that whole story a third (or fourth, if you count Extreme Ghostbusters
) time makes more sense.
Feig's other condition was that he be allowed to have an all female cast, which inevitably included Melissa McCarthy, and thus a massive misogynist internet freakout of biblical proportions was born; the low point came when the new cast, during filming, appeared at a children's ward and the trolls quickly flooded the hospital's Facebook page with some of the most vile stuff imaginable.
You: "So, okay...stop blabbing about the backstory take and talk about the movie, all right?"
Me: All righty then...
We start with a tour of the Aldridge Mansion and the spooky story of how Gertrude Aldridge went insane and was locked in the basement, died there, and rumors say her ghost has been trying to get out ever since. A candle holder falls off a shelf, and the tour guide suggests the tour group kind of hurry along...
Hah hah. Except later we see him put the candleholder back on the shelf and it has a mechanism in it that made it fall off when he pushed a button in his pocket. So totally mundane.
The ghost that then lures him into the basement and beats the crap out of him? Not so mundane.
The familiar strains of Ray Parker Jr. start up, and the Ghostbusters logo appears over New York City. Much like GB1, we then transition to Columbia University, where we meet the first of the Ghostbusters-to-be: Dr. Erin Gilbert, played by Kristin Wiig. Kristin is a brilliant physicist, and up for tenure...everything's all going smoothly until Ed Mulgrave (Ed Bagley Jr.) appears, and wants to ask Erin about something. Her book, Ghosts From Our Past
. Erin can't believe what she's hearing--first she denies being involved with the book, then says it doesn't exist anymore, but Mulgrave tells her it's out on Amazon (me, I got my copy at Barnes & Noble). Erin freaks out--this could ruin her tenure. I mean, the Dean of Physics is Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), so we know he doesn't have a sense of humor.
The offices at Columbia provide our first familiar cameo, of sorts: a bust of Harold Ramis. Since Egon probably doesn't exist in this universe, I guess it's actually Cold War hero Russell Ziskey.
Erin, in a huff, tracks down her former partner, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) who is working in a run-down place called the Kenneth T. Higgins Institute, where Abby is working with a complete weirdo named Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Abby is still very bitter about being shut out by Erin. Holtzmann likes to burn things and blow them up. She also has flatulence issues. In other words, Jillian Holtzmann is awesome.
Anyway, a deal is struck--Erin takes Abby and Holtzmann to Aldridge Mansion, to hopefully find a real ghost, and in return Abby will pull the book at least until Erin gets her tenure. We get another fun twist on an old horror movie staple when the threesome arrives at Aldridge, and ask for Ed Mulgrave. "But he died fifteen years ago!"
And then we see him "Oh, you mean Ed Jr" Fun little fake-out I thought.
We encounter our first piece of familiar equipment reincarnated: Abby's PKE Meter. It's a neat update, looking like it was cobbled together out of digital camera parts (Sony of course) and has a rotating detection system reminiscent of the RGB toy.
Soon enough, they meet the real ghost. It pukes about ten gallons of slime on Erin.
They're all ecstatic that they got video footage of an actual ghost, but then Abby goes and posts it online, the comment section from the GB2016 trailers sees it ("No bitches can bust no ghosts"), and, uh-oh, so does the Dean of Physics. Erin is now an ex-professor, and I guess, all told, Erin should be glad Tywin Lannister only fired her--having her shot, hung, stabbed, drawn, quartered, and raped by her brother fits his usual MO.
Not long after, Abby and Holtzmann also get fired: the Higgins Institute apparently has standards after all. The three women decide, to borrow a phrase, To Go Into Business For Themselves. First they gotta find a place to stay--there's a neat firehouse at the corner of Varick and Moore, but the rent is way too high; they instead end up on the second floor of the Chinese restaurant that always shorts Abby's won-ton soup of won-tons.
Meanwhile, we meet the last member of our main cast: MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who is more or less happily working in a subway ticket booth until the day a creeper in a bellhop uniform starts ranting about the "Fourth Cataclysm". Patty writes him off until there's a problem on the tracks...she checks it out and gets the shock of her life, but not as big as the shock the ghost (Tony Scoleri, or is it Nunzio?) is getting. Patty understandably runs--there's probably some clause in her contract that says getting killed by someone who's already dead voids her pension plan.
So who's she gonna call now?
Back at the new GBCentral, they're hiring a receptionist: his name is Kevin Beckman and he's as dumb as a post but looks like a Greek god. Strike that, he looks like a Norse
god--Thor, to be precise, because he's played by Chris Hemsworth. Abby and Holtzmann are just sort of resigned to hiring him despite his stupidity because he's the only one who applied; Erin, on the other hand, is drowning in estrogen. I can't help but be amused and a bit charmed by this--something about the Ghostbusters' resident socially awkward physics genius and the receptionist becoming potential love interests scratches a familiar itch.
Patty shows up and takes the three "Conductors of Metaphysical Examination" down to the Seward Street station, Holtzmann dragging her experimental "proton cart". Sure enough, they eventually find the ghost--along with the remnants of a strange device that they find oddly familiar. Erin gets to be the one to try and blast the ghost, but it...doesn't go well; Erin nearly gets hit by a train and loses the proton cart in the process. And all of that after she got slimed again
. Even Venkman didn't have it that bad!
So after that...Patty basically recruits herself to the team and in short order between her and Holtzmann a lot of the problems encountered in the Seward Street job get fixed: Holtzmann builds a new backpack size proton cart--a "proton pack" if you will--and Patty both secures a car (believed to be a 1984 hearse) from her uncle to carry all their junk around, and four snazzy tan/grey flight suits with orange reflective striping that offer more slime protection.
This is something that the new movie did that the original didn't--we pretty much went from "Venkman, Ray, and Egon go into business" to the Slimer bust at the Sedgewick, where they're already in full "final" uniform and kit. Sure, they make it clear the proton packs hadn't been tested yet, but they're already in their "final" form. In GB2016 we see the evolution from the proton cart to the "PP-16" over the course of the movie, and Holtzmann also branches off into a few experimental variants, like the Proton Glove, the "shotgun", the proton pistols, proton grenades (Egon would be so proud), and the "woodchipper", all of which are used in the final battle (oops...spoilers sweetie...)
It's about here that a news reporter tags the team with the name "Ghostbusters". Erin hates it at first, but, of course, since that's the name on the marquee, it sticks. It's also about here that another familiar face pops up in a new way: the TV news interviews professional debunker Martin Heiss, played by Bill Murray. Having Murray as a debunker is kind of a meta joke, sinice it was his skepticism that kept the Ghostbusters off the movie screens since 1989.
The newly-christened Ghostbusters get their first case under that name--there's a problem brewing at the Stonebrook Theatre, which is hosting a heavy metal festival! Ozzy Osborne is there! The Beasts of Mayhem are there! And so is a ghost! The Ghostbusters arrive in their hearse, now called ECTO-1 and sporting a cartoony ghost logo that Holtzmann designed, from a piece of graffiti created by some punk Patty talked to during the Seward Street case. As the saying goes, Hijinks Ensue, with animated mannequins, crowd surfing (Abby only), and a ghost that looks like something from a Gwar album cover. Best news of all for the Ghostbusters--their experimental ghost trap (that looks more like a thermos than a shoe box) works! They have now succeeded in actually catching a ghost!!!
(And also at Stonebrook: another one of the same wierd devices that the Ghostbusters found at Seward Station. Hmm...)
The Ghostbusters are ecstatic--they've actually caught a ghost! Let the disbelievers disbelieve now! They get their chance to prove one wrong in short order as Martin Heiss shows up at their place of business. Erin wants to show him the ghost they caught just to watch the smug look disappear off his face. Abby and Holtzmann aren't so sure--seeing as how they'd have to get the thing back in the trap afterwards (they really need something to hold those...a "containment unit" if you will). Erin gets her way, but Abby and Holtzmann are validated too--the ghost gets away and sends Heiss doing a half gainer onto the street below. (It's not clear whether Heiss dies after this--Ghosts From Our Pasts
"new" intro has him complaining about the medical bills, but the book also claims that the intro is written by an authentic ghost. It could also be another meta comment on the long-standing story that Murray would only do GB3 if he gets to die in the movie. Murray: "I knew this franchise would be the death of me")
The Ghostbusters are then taken to Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia) and his really patronizing aide Jennifer Lynch (Cecily Strong). We get another twist on the old lore, where Mayor Lenny Clotch didn't believe in ghosts, but was ultimately convinced. Mayor Bradley knows ghosts are real--he's got a couple of Homeland Security guys here monitoring the situation--but is going to publicly call the Ghostbusters things like "frauds" and "publicity hounds" (to borrow a phrase) to keep the city from having a mass existential crisis and worse, panicking and blaming it on him. Plus, you know, ghosts can't vote except in Chicago, so why bother? The team is a little confused and disturbed by this, but are allowed to go on home.
At home, they're stewing, but then Erin starts to put everything together. They map out all the recent ghost sightings and realize that they're forming a pattern: ley lines crossing at a great big "X" at the Mercado Hotel. And when they look up the Mercado's web page, sure enough, there's the creeper Patty saw in the subway: maintenance man Rowan North! (Neil Casey). They rush to the Mercado, and we get another cameo: the front desk is being run by Vanessa (Annie Potts; not as cool as her old job, but at least it isn't food service or housekeeping, right?)
They rush to the basement to confront Rowan, and the full horror of his plan is revealed: using information from Erin and Abby's book (which is why the tech seemed familiar to them) he's been building psychokinetic capacitors at spots on the ley lines, weakening the barriers between Earth's plane and the spirit world--there are all sorts of creepy ghosts swirling around in mirrors just waiting for the final capacitor to be fired up. This is the freaking ginormous one Rowan has built in the hotel basement: he feels like he's been ignored and put upon his whole life but in fact he's better than everyone else, so he's going to Make Them Pay!!! Then it gets really bizarre--the sound of police sirens causes Rowan to commit suicide by electrocuting himself in his own gizmo!
The Ghostbusters are "fake arrested" and have to deal with more patronizing scorn from Lynch, but, again, everything's fine now, right? Rowan's Evil Scheme was stopped, and at least the gals in grey weren't really arrested, right?
Except...the PKE Meter left behind when the Ghostbusters were "fake arrested" starts to spin like mad...
Erin, pissed, goes home and discovers she's taken Rowan's copy of Ghosts From Our Past
with her, and starts to page through it. It's filled with crude drawings of Rowan's revenge fantasy...
Her blood goes cold. There's a drawing of Rowan electrocuting himself.It was all part of his plan
Things go from bad to worse: Rowan is now a ghost! He possesses Abby and tries to destroy the Ghostbusters' equipment; he fails when Patty literally smacks him out of Abby. ("The power of Patty compels you!!!") But no time for celebration: Kevin chooses exactly the wrong time to drive up and show off his new homemade Ghostbuster uniform and ECTO-2 motorcycle (proving once again Kevin is a well-meaning screw-up: the real ECTO-2 is a mini-helicopter) and thus providing Rowan with a new body to possess (let's face it, lots of empty room in that head) and wheels!!!
Erin, unable to reach the rest of the team (because possession and fight) instead tries to tell the Mayor what's going on. It doesn't go well. He so is the Mayor from Jaws, but it doesn't help that Erin really is acting like the crazy person the Mayor's office is treating her as in public.
Well, from there things escalate quickly: Rowam goes back to the Mercado, fires up the gizmo, and the Fourth Cataclysm starts--the mirrors shatter and the city is inundated with ghosts. In movies past, they would be playing Mick Smiley's "Magic" or Glenn Frey's "Flip City" at this part. The three Ghostbusters (minus Erin) make their way to the scene and are attacked by spectral parade balloons, including a demented Uncle Sam and a very familiar looking one--the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man! Mr. Stay Puft lands on them, pinning them down.
Oh, and during all this Slimer showed up and stole the car. I guess he couldn't find a bus. Bad Spud, bad!!!
Erin, meanwhile, gets a ride from a cabby played by--update your Cameo Bingo Cards now!!!--Dan Aykroyd. The cabby's obviously read Abby and Erin's book (that would be the in-universe explanation) because he spouts totally correct ghost terminology. Since Aykroyd is basically the man who started the ball rolling on this franchise, and is a real-life paranormal enthusiast, I thought this was a fun touch.
Anyway, Erin shows up and saves the other three by stabbing Stay Puft with a Swiss army knife Holtzmann gave her earlier in the movie--the Stay Puft balloon vanishes like one of Holtzmann's farts. The Ghostbusters are together! Rowan watch out!
The police and the army, meanwhile, show up at the Mercado, and Rowan uses his fabulous new powers to make them perform a dance number that was thankfully mostly cut and put into the closing credits.
The Ghostbusters are kicking butt and taking names, and Holtzmann gets this "Matrix" scene where she uses her proton pistols to immolate ghosts in slow motion, and finally they reach Rowan. "Give us back our terrible receptionist!!!' Abby yells (I think it was Abby). Rowan complies, because he's tired of Kevin anyway, and then we have a new version of the "Choose and Perish" dilemma. Patty suggests something little and cute; Rowan complies by turning into the Ghostbuster logo, then from that into the ghost that danced at the beginning of the intro to every episode of The Real Ghostbusters
, then...well, I guess they decided they just couldn't do a Ghostbusters movie without a kaiju-sized critter stomping around. Rowanzilla literally bursts out of the Mercado and starts stomping taxis, churches, and anything else he can.
As a Ghostbuster from a different universe once said in a similar circumstance: "This looks extraordinarily bad."
At this point, they shoot Rowan in the dick.
But Rowan's a ghost, and really really tough, so this doesn't do much other than to further annoy him.
So we're down to the wire here. So I guess it's time to cross the streams, right?
Well, to their credit...no.
Crossing the streams wasn't ever mentioned in this movie. I will still assume it's "bad" until told otherwise (I think the novelization mentions it if I heard right) but it doesn't come up here: because it's not part of the solution to the problem. Egon mentioning it to Venkman was basically setting a really dangerous Chekhov's Gun on the wall. This movie's Gun came when Holtzmann mentioned that the stuff on ECTO-1's roof rack could be as powerful as a hydrogen bomb. Too bad Slimer stole it, right?
Well, just about then the ECTO-1 comes careening into the battle scene, Slimer at the wheel, Lovely Slimette in the passenger seat, and a bunch of drunk looking ghosts literally hanging on for dear un-life. The Ghostbusters herd it into position at the portal, open fire on the roof rack, and BOOM!!!
(I know plenty of people will be happy that they blew up the 2016 ECTO-1. At least it's a more heroic "death" that just breaking down)
The portal reverses, all the ghosts including Rowan are sucked in, but he tries to get the last laugh by grabbing Abby as he goes. Erin quickly latches a tether to her belt and goes in after her...she abandoned her friend once, she's not doing it again. The other two Ghostbusters pull them back into the Earth plane...their hair's turned white (kinda like Ray in "The Hole In The Wall Gang") but they're safe. Heck, just like in "The Brooklyn Triangle" and a lot of EGB episodes, the destruction caused by Rowan is erased and everyone's fine! Candy and teddy bears fall from the sky!
Well, not really. There's a few little bits of wrap-up; Holtzmann gets a scene where, after acting weird for the entire movie, she has a sorta genuinely sentimental expression of friendship to the others. The Mayor's office is of course badmouthing them in public, but in private are extremely grateful and are willing to give them anything as an expression of that gratitude.
We next see the Ghostbusters moving into their new headquarters, the firehouse at Varick and Moore. It just somehow seems like the perfect place to have a Ghostbuster team stationed, doesn't it?
And then we get our final two cameos: Ernie Hudson is Patty's Uncle Bill, who's trying to find out what they did to the car they lent them; and Sigourney Weaver appears as Holtzmann's mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Gorin, meaning that all of the important characters from the first two movies were represented by their actors (albeit by a bust in Ramis's case).
(I probably would have done something like this: maybe switch Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts' cameos; except instead of Holtzmann's mentor, Potts's character would be Holtzmann's mother. Mrs. Holtzmann would say something like "Your father would be so proud of you, Jillian!" and they turn and look at a framed picture the late Dr. Holtzmann Sr--who would, of course, be represented by a picture of Harold Ramis.)
Then the final teaser: Patty is listening to a tape, and asks the others "What the heck is Zuul"?
So how did I feel about it?
I liked it a great deal. The characters played off each other well, and unlike the two classic movies we actually felt like we had four Ghostbusters instead of three Ghostbusters and some other guy who gets ignored way too much. Leslie Jones wasn't left off any of the promo posters, as far as I know. That's one way the new movie exceeded the originals, and brought to mind the animated Real Ghostbusters
series, which always treated Winston as an equal to the other three. I expected to love Holtzmann, and I did, but I think the surprise was how much I liked Patty--I sometimes think she may actually be my favorite of the four new characters. Erin was very much the POV character of this movie, and as I said I was somewhat charmed by her puppy love for Kevin. It seems weird to say that Melissa McCarthy was the one who made the least impact on me, but playing a less loud and obnoxious character than usual is a good change for her (something I've also heard said about Leslie Jones)
Rowan worked for me: a resentful creep who feels like he's better than everyone else, and since the world won't acknowledge her superiority The World Must Pay!!!
Will I buy the Blu-Ray/DVD? Hell yes. Would I watch a sequel to this movie? Hell yes.
Did I enjoy it as much as the originals? No in the case of GB1. GB2's a little harder...I still like the original characters better. There were some brilliant moments in GB2. But on the other hand, GB2 also contains the most cringe-worthy scene in all of Ghostbusters lore in my opinion, and GB2016 didn't make me cringe even once.
My score: four Whacko Jacko Slimers out of five