In 2011, it was widely reported that Bill Murray had placed one of many potential scripts for “Ghostbusters 3” into a shredder, gathered the pieces into a box, and mailed it to Dan Aykroyd. In any other situation, the tale would be too fantastical to believe. Murray’s reluctance—perhaps a word too gentle to adequately convey his actual feelings—to see the franchise resurrected made the report more believable. Be it legend or urban legend, one thing was always perfectly clear: Murray wanted nothing to do with another Ghostbusters film, and everyone knew it.
The world waited with bated breath, just in case, but most respected this stance. The original “Ghostbusters” was a perfect storm of a movie. The script was penned largely by Aykroyd, who had a passion for the paranormal that came from years of watching his family participate in séances and documenting their experiences. As written, the film was too expensive to make, and Harold Ramis was brought in to assist with the rewrite. The casting itself was the result of preferred actors leaving, declining, or even tragically passing away. The script was a mere suggestion, laying out events more than lines.
Despite the hiccups in its creation, “Ghostbusters” released on June 8, 1984, and it was a monumental success. “Ghostbusters 2” released five years later, and while it is not as revered as the original, it has a loyal and even growing fan base.
What made “Ghostbusters” so genre-defining and singular is the seamless, organic combination of an over-the-top subject matter with charmingly sarcastic banter that worked with the sort of left-brain right-brain synergy that cannot be replicated by merely retracing steps. The “meh” success of the sequel halted Murray on returning to the franchise. The team delivered a good sequel to a great movie, but the risk for failure was too great to try again.
A third installment could destroy the franchise, and no one wanted that. After years of development hell, the trilogy was completed—in the form of a video game for the third entry, but complete nonetheless. Most fans felt satisfied, ready to lay the series to rest once and for all. But others weren’t quite so ready to do the same.
A Sequel Is Revived, to Popular Complaint
On October 8, 2014, “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig announced on Twitter that he was making a new Ghostbusters alongside writer Katie Dippold, and that it would star “hilarious women.”
“That’s who I’m gonna call,” Feig wrote, later naming Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon as the film’s stars.
Further, this was no sequel, although most fans would likely be curious to see how the universe in which ghosts are real and sounds in the night aren’t quite nothing would evolve over the years. That is not what Feig is doing. This is a reboot, a complete reimagining of the story, wherein the events of prior Ghostbusters stories never occurred. It is an audacious move to boldly insert your name onto a beloved franchise in such a way, and many would argue Feig lacks the right to do so.
The response was vociferous and passionate. The official trailer has more than 700,000 dislikes on YouTube, making it the most disliked movie trailer of all time. Most publications have credited “misogynists” and “men’s rights activists” with the unpopularity of the trailer, arguing that men don’t want to share the geek space with women. Feig appears to fault “geek culture” as a whole.
“Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life,” Feig told the New York Daily News in a recent interview. “Especially after being attacked by them for months because of this ‘Ghostbusters’ project.”
The reaction to the “Ghostbusters” reboot is the unsurprising, and dare I say long overdue, response from a generation of fans that have repeatedly watched their most iconic childhood memories cut up and sold for parts. Directors, producers, and writers are more focused on the shiny new reboot or sequel, dishing out forced fan-service callbacks with the belief that success is intrinsically tied to more of the same, that a feeling cannot be replicated without replicating that which brought on the feeling in the first place.
From the trailer, the reboot appears to be a passable if tedious project, hitting familiar beats without the organic spontaneity and uniqueness that catapulted the original title to its pedestal in the first place. The original two films are notoriously filled with ad libs, from “This man has no dick” from Murray to Ramis quipping “That would have worked if you hadn’t stopped me” in reference to attempting to drill a hole in his own head. Part of the magic of the first two films was how natural the banter felt—because it was, in fact, natural.
Studios Are Just Playing You For Chumps
As films are becoming increasingly more expensive, and consequently increasingly riskier, to make, studios have taken to exploiting established brands as a sort of advertising gimmick in order to minimize that risk and maximize exposure. “Jumanji,” “Interview With a Vampire,” and “The Exorcist” are only a few of the films that have controversial remakes on the horizon, with “Point Break” and “Poltergeist” not yet far enough in the past for most of us to have fully recovered.
On the other side of the entertainment spectrum, annual video game releases like “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed” have repeatedly drawn the ire of even fans of the franchises. In just five days, the trailer for recently announced “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” received more than 600,000 dislikes on YouTube. In seven days, the “Ghostbusters 3” trailer reached more than 1 million dislikes. Alternately, Ubisoft shocked fans by announcing there would be no major “Assassin’s Creed” title in 2016—an announcement fans and critics alike enthusiastically applauded.
The rejection of remakes is neither new nor unprecedented, and is far from exclusive to Ghostbusters, or even films, thus leaving the accusations of “sexism” ringing particularly hollow. If your only fresh take on a classic is “doing what the original cast did, but with vaginas this time,” then perhaps it’s simple to blame negativity on “sexism.”
It’s also lazy and insincere. Lazy, because there is no acceptance of the fact that they’re not doing what the original cast did. No one can. “Ghostbusters,” and to a lesser degree “Ghostbusters 2,” was a film that defined a generation, and fans believe it deserves better. That’s an argument worth listening to.