It's difficult not to consider the 2016 version of the Ghostbusters story without acknowledging the maelstrom that enveloped it from the moment it was announced — fans vigorously opposed to a new version in the general sense, misogynists opposed to the prominence of female characters, and general internet whining. After seeing Ghostbusters, it's clear that the controversy weighed heavily on the filmmakers (how could it not?) in ways that both invigorated and dampened the film.
Let's get this out of the way, first: This is a very, very funny movie, one I laughed aloud at more than anything in a long time. In fact, people were laughing so much in the (typically jaded, because press) screening I saw that I know I missed some of the best jokes. And the hilarity doesn't just come from those you expect, like Melissa McCarthy (when is she not good?) as the arguable heart of the Ghostbusters; a just-dialed-back-enough Leslie Jones as the Ghostbuster who knows everything there is to know about New York; and Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann, the "techy" Ghostbuster (I could watch a cut of this movie that is just Holtzmann's reactions to things, they are THAT GOOD). But director/co-screenwriter Paul Feig also got crackling comedic performances from folks you don't first associate with comedy, like Andy Garcia as New York's slick mayor and Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters' awful receptionist.
The plot is one of the things I suspect was informed by the sturm und drang around the film's announcement: The villain (played by Neil Casey), it turns out, is the stereotypical depiction of an internet commenter (SFist commenters excluded, of course). Rowan North is a bulgy-eyed, pudgy white guy who constantly complains about how oppressed he is. But the way the character fights back against oppression isn't leaving vile remarks beneath YouTube videos (another act Ghostbusters side-eyes), it's to open a portal between the dimension on which ghosts reside and ours.
I see where they're going with the character, and what they're trying to do — after all, in real life the people making the world burn aren't The Joker, they're quiet, vaguely creepy guys (cough James Holmes cough) like this one. Let's face it, if any of these men who're shooting up schools or churches or movie theaters had a smidgen of the charisma and general shit-togetherness that a traditional cinematic villian-with-a-capital-V does, he'd have better things to do then shoot up schools (or, in the more restrained version, threaten people's lives on twitter).
And yet...I so desperately wanted a traditional cinematic villain, one who could stand up to the satin-padded baseball bat of charm, personality, and wit of our team of Ghostbusters. Even with the ghosts on his side, North was a nothing, so the fight didn't just lack stakes, it seemed remarkably unfair.
I also believe that it was the burden of these great-or-not-so-great expectations for the film that prevented it from being as effervescent as it might have been. I fucking told myself I wasn't going to compare it to the 1984 Ghostbusters, but now I am, dammit! But one of the great things about that film is how weird and loose it is, with a lot of little noodlings that meant nothing, but painted a greater whole. I am dead certain that a similar eccentric playfullness was planned for the 2016 Ghostbusters — after all, in addition to those I already mentioned, why cast improv greats like Kristin Wiig, Cecily Strong, Matt Walsh, and so many other comedy geniuses? But I could feel the tension, worry, and likely studio intervention over what had in the intervening 32 years become a monster property quashing a lot of the likely more random elements.
Do either of these complaints I raise mean that the film is crappy, or that women can't carry a movie, or that stories familiar to you from your childhood should never be retold? Don't be silly! Like I said, it's still very, very funny, and I can't wait to see it again. Of course women can carry a movie — and if you think they shouldn't, you probably haven't read this far, anyway. And, finally, for goodness sakes, don't be one of those backwards people who argues that a story may only be told once, and to tell it more than that will either ruin your childhood or is indicative of the decline of culture — are you upset with every high school's interpretation Oklahoma? Every retelling of the tales of Aeschylus? Then why is Ghostbusters sacrosanct? Please, don't be provincial. It doesn't suit you.
But, of course, there's no film ever made that will silence people intent on being shitty about women, or people intent on clinging to the past. For the rest of us, I believe Ghostbusters will go down as an oft-side-splitting chapter in the saga. I just hope that in the sequel (and there must be a sequel, which reminds me — DO NOT LEAVE until the credits are completely over. You can thank me later) the bosses leave the filmmakers and cast alone to do what they do best — and that everyone working on Ghostbusters 2 remembers that you should never, ever read the comments.