Review: Ghostbusters 1 & 2

Well, at least there’s one positive to enjoy: I get to rewatch these films again!

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Ghostbusters (1984)

Wow, what can you say about this 1984 classic? Two Oscar nominations, the film’s a true product of the time and most likely a catalyst for the movies we have today.

Three scientists investigating supernatural apparitions in New York decide to go it alone after their funding is pulled from the cynical establishments. Now branded as The Ghostbusters, this collection of science nerds must do battle to save the city from demon possession, ghosts, the end of the world and those intent on taking their company down.

Bill Murray headlines this supernatural comedy set in contemporary 1980s New York as Peter Venkman, a doctor of psychology and shameless womaniser (very much borderline creeper!) flanked by writer/actor’s Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis as Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler. These three characters are introduced to us in wonderful fashion, and we instantly recognise these guys know each other and they are very unique individuals. Murray is the wannabe ladies man and overall cynic of the other two, Aykroyd is the excitable puppy of scientists, while Ramis is the socially disconnected but very intelligent one.
The opening act of this film is probably my favourite. The comedic edge this film has is on point and not at all forced on us as we see these characters grow. There is a real spooky edge atmosphere, from the initial Library Ghost to the eggs that cook themselves on a kitchen counter! Their first busting of ghosts, the iconic Slimer, is both scary and funny!
As the film progresses it becomes such a classic 1980s experience. Here is a film not based off previous work; an original screenplay written for cinema, capturing all the charm, lunacy, fun and creativity of that decade (by today’s standards, this is like an independent film having a budget of $30 million)
Like a lot of films of the time, the soundtrack is on point! Keeping up with the film’s switching from haunting to raving hilarity with tremendous ease. Sure, alright, one has to concede that some of the special effects have dated. Not all of them though.

Ghostbusters was released in 1984 (a fantastic year for film) and one can easily see the relevance this film, and films just like it from the decade, had on film culture today. You think the rise of geek culture just happened? No, what happened was children and young people brought up on things like Ghostbusters are calling the shots today! Couple that with the fact that something so spontaneous and original as this could gain so much momentum in culture… it is practically unthinkable in today’s market.

Due to… recent developments… I was compelled to focus on the film’s secondary characters. Sigourney Weaver as Venkman’s crush Dana, Annie Potts as the Ghostbusters’ secretary Janine, and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddmore the “fourth Ghostbuster”.
The two women, Weaver and Potts, have great subtle performances here to juxtapose with the raving science mumbo-jumbo of the men. These characters know exactly what’s happening; from Dana’s calling out on Venkman’s ulterior motives, to Janine’s eye-rolling reluctance as secretary to a bunch of low-lives.
Ernie Hudson though does have less to do, in fact he isn’t really needed except to provide a more unbiased opinion of the Ghostbusters when motives are called into question. But we do learn a little about him, his difference in opinion compared to the others, and it is Ernie Hudson… you want Ernie Hudson in your movie.

I can’t dislike this movie. I grew up with it. I have a hard time imagining people not having seen Ghostbusters. It is an iconic film of the time and contributing factor to the movie culture of today.
If you haven’t seen it… Please do. Even if you think it has dated there will be good times ahead for you!

5c8c0-4-5

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Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

Almost a testimony to the original’s flash-in-the-pan nature, even its own sequel with fully returning cast and crew cannot live up to the 1984 classic.

Set five years after the events of Ghostbusters, we see the titular characters flat broke and disrespected; they have gone their own ways and New York is suffering from disillusion. But when an evil spirit lurking within a painting feeds off the city’s negative energy, the team must reunite to save the day before the spirit can manifest itself.

Watching the sequel is something of a bittersweet experience. Don’t get me wrong; I watched this as a kid just as often as the original. But there is a sense that no one really knew what to do with the sequel.
There’s a germ of a good idea; the Ghostbusters are out of commission, the city’s negative energy breeds an evil spirit that causes chaos, and the team rise to the occasion and are redeemed. It really resonates with the camaraderie of the first film; the positivism and energy invoked from New York’s own personality.
Yet… the film feels bogged down and a little repetitive in its storytelling. Parts feel like deliberate retreads of the original, carbon-copies. The Ghostbusters are immediately seen as useless and as con men all over again, the first act drudges through enforced plotlines: Ghostbusters taken to court, Dana has a baby now (though we never see the father) there’s ooze under the city no one has noticed before that… makes ghosts appear?
The film plays it fast and loose with the supernatural element. While the first film felt somewhat grounded, the sequel just does things to give the plot traction, like villains… astral projecting (???) the city not being plagued by ghosts yet has a river of ghost-resurrecting slime beneath it? Juxtaposing oddly with Dana and Venkman’s “playing house” with the baby, and Rick Moranis’s Louis having a relationship with Janine.

It is clunky, compared to the first. But it still has great moments of comedy (a surprising amount from the dry humour of Harold Ramis as Egon) and pretty scary moments; I remember being scared as a kid by the train tunnel scene, which is so randomly horrible, and the various ghostly powers Peter MacNicol’s bizarre Janosz acquires. The music too is still awesome.

It is a good time, and watching both films back to back is no bad experience. Ghostbusters 2 really benefits from its special effects and its spectacular third act. If only it hadn’t been so similar to its predecessor.

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Additional Marshmallows: Did you know that Industrial Light and Magic pulled funding from other projects, such as Star Trek: The Final Frontier, to provide for Ghostbusters 2‘s special effects?

The Ghostbusters franchise would go on to have a very troubled existence over the following three decades (ish) with writer Dan Aykroyd campaigning for a third film to go into production, promising the fans of the franchise that this would happen.
While the series would see a very successful cartoon The Real Ghostbusters (which Cinema Cocoa was a massive fan of!) and an accompanying line of toys, years went on without sign of a third movie.

Scripts were leaked (one of Aykroyd’s called Hellbent revolved around the Ghostbusters going to Hell and finding a Hellish version of New York) and rumours went around. But as time went by lead star Bill Murray showed little to no interest in reforging the franchise.

In 2009 the Ghostbusters: The Video Game was made for all major home consoles and PC and is often considered the spiritual third part in the franchise and a good game besides. It included a returning cast providing the voices and is highly praised by fans of the franchise.

It would only be after Aykroyd stepped down from development and writing, after Bill Murray showed no signs at all of working on a sequel and in the same year that co-writer and star Harold Ramis sadly passed away that a new Ghostbusters film would go into production. Much to the disdain of fans and critics alike, this film is being represented as a remake.

The new film features an all-female cast replacing the originals, and is written and directed by Paul Feig and is due to release in July 2016.

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