I Ain’t Afraid of No Sequel

Image result for ghostbusters gif

A new Ghostbusters film is in the works!

I am so incredibly excited for this. Ghostbusters for me is one of those childhood films that you just somehow keep coming back to. As a kid, I feel like I watched that movie over and over again, and it just kept popping up throughout my life. I love it so much.

Granted, not everybody is happy. Shortly after the announcement, Leslie Jones expressed her personal hostility on twitter, saying that replacing the all-female cast with men was like “Something Trump would do.” However, she’s completely approaching it the wrong way. First of all, any attempt to separate the universe isn’t some sort of anti-woman campaign. While, yes, there was a completely unacceptable campaign against the movie by a portion of the internet that were unhappy about the all female cast, the main failing point was that the reboot was just mediocre at best. Both the laughs and action fell short and it wasn’t able to launch itself to the height of the original. It was in its own way a fun movie, but in trying to compete with a classic, it just didn’t gain any footing. Will Jason Reitman’s sequel do better? It’s far too early to tell, but it’s also far to early to say there won’t be any female Ghostbusters involved, so let’s put the torches away for now.

The second point to remember is that Jason Reitman is making this movie as part of his legacy, not some vendetta against the female cast of the reboot. Reitman’s father, Ivan Reitman, directed the original two Ghostbuster films (as well as Evolution, which if Jason would like to also make a sequel to that, I’d be very appreciative), and Jason was often on set for those films, even having a speaking role in the second movie as one of the kids from the party. For Reitman, this franchise is about family business. He’s connected to it, has literally lived through it, and is absolutely the best choice to continue the movie and retain its tone, visual themes and brand of humor. Reitman’s choice to make a new Ghostbuster film is from a lifetime of attachment to the franchise, not in direct response to the underwhelming result of the reboot. The studio’s decision to move in a different direction, however, probably was.

Now, I don’t want to just take shots at the reboot. It’s been 3 years, it’s had enough at this point. Is it perfect? No, definitely not. Does it do a good job nodding to the original and throwing in some fun Easter Eggs? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s a fun movie in its own way, but is definitely cringe-worthy at points and hard to get through for some people. However, Paul Feig did a good job working in tons of cameos and send backs to the original franchise. Honestly, aside from the general clunkiness of the script, the biggest falter of this movie was that it was a reboot to begin with.

Had it been a sequel, had it focused on the original Ghostbusters, or at least some of them, training up a group of new Ghostbusters that just happened to be female, it would have avoided the entirety of the screeching internet troll brigade, which wouldn’t have entirely saved the movie, would have at least given it a leg to stand on by the time it made it to theaters. Reboots are just tough, especially those were you have to spend an ample amount of time giving credibility to the characters. Reboot Batman, you can jump right into him nut-punching bank robbers. Reboot something like this with intention of focusing it around new characters, you have make those characters worthy replacements for the original. If you provide them connection to the original, their credibility can be established through training or the sage advise of a seasoned vet in the field.

Granted, the struggle to get a Ghostbusters 3 has been a long and mainly uphill battle. Dan Aykroyd original pitched a script with a budget of $150 million, but was simply scoffed at by the studio. Over the years the process ebbed and flowed in a common pattern: Screenwriters were found, drafts were made, Bill Murray wouldn’t read them, problems would arise, script would be tossed, rinse repeat. By the time 2016 rolled around, a reboot seemed like the way to go since nobody could get on board for a sequel. And yet, the reboot saw the return of the entirety of the main cast in cameo form, minus Harold Ramis, who passed away in 2014 six months before the movie was announced, and Rick Moranis, who has long since retired from acting. Paul Feig taking the movie in the direction of a reboot made sense, as it felt like everybody had mostly just excepted a sequel wouldn’t happen at that point.

So, for what it’s worth, there was a lot stacked against the reboot, and what we got wasn’t entirely awful. Heck, it even won some Kids Choice Awards.

But this is why a sequel is so exciting. The teaser seems to suggest that the Ghostbusters weren’t a continuous and consistently successful thing, a them familiar from Ghostbusters II, which opens with the group mildly disbanded and some members having to do birthday parties to make a buck. Jason Reitman has mentioned that we’ll meet all sorts of new characters as well as reintroducing old ones. It’s perfectly set up to be what I mentioned above: New people drafted into a cause by the seasoned veteran. In addition, Reitman’s connection to the franchise will hopefully keep the film grounded in the tone and visual appeal of the first movie. I’d like plenty of practical effects, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m excited all the same, CGI ghosts or not.

One thing that I wish would become more commonplace, and would easily have been an option of some kind to the reboot, is setting an IP in the WORLD of another IP, without directly rebooting the IP or connecting to the IP. If they had set the Ghostbusters movie in the world established by the Ghostbusters movies, with all the freaky occurrences and creative ghost design, but NOT made it tie directly back into the original franchise, with the aforementioned “sage advice from an experienced expert” trope, it would have hit theaters as both a connected IP to the original world and lore of the first two movies and also something that stands on its own without the need to be compared to the original. This doesn’t happen nearly enough, honestly. Recent examples are the Fantastic Beasts movies set in the World of Harry Potter, which are stories set in the past of the Wizarding World and, except for brief glimpses, do not tie directly into the Harry Potter movies the way a prequel would, in that the actions of these characters don’t directly produce the story of the main Harry Potter title, even if some of the ripples do.

We’re so obsessed with letting there only be Sequel or Reboot that we just don’t allow people to build new stories in the compelling world they’ve already created. It happens from time to time, typically as directly connected Spin Offs, a la Angel spawning out of Buffy. It works sometimes, doesn’t at other points. Another recent example is Fear the Walking Dead, which was set in the world of the Walking Dead, but out in California instead of the American South. As far as I know, the show didn’t do great. I mean, first of all TV is tough in general and viewership can decline fast. Second, it’s zombies. No matter where you set it, it’s not going to have much appeal or really feel to different. However, in the end this was a new IP created in a world built by previous IP and that’s commendable. That’s creative. Constantly looking to continue stories or completely reboot them just feels stagnant at times or even ruins the impact of the original stories end.

I often fly into this rant when I think about the upcoming Last of Us 2. I was excited when they announced this game because I had hopes that it would be a new tale from new characters set in the grim wilds of the Last of Us world. Again, it’s zombies, but the Last of Us crew has shown incredible ability at writing character-driven narrative with the apocalyptic dangers as a backdrop. While their zombies are definitely more creative than what we’re generally used to, it’s the characters steal the focus. Their plights and the air of untrust that drapes across the world. The first game beautifully developed this relationship between Joel and Ellie as they quested across the nation and learned how to trust one another. It ended with this trust being tested and Ellie silently deciding what that means to her. We don’t know for sure what Joel’s actions would lead to for their relationship, but the point we left them at was beautiful culmination of a visceral story of humanity. Close book, take deep breath, move along.

Then comes part two, which again focuses on Ellie and Joel. They’re older now and interacting with a few new characters (oh look, Laura Bailey and Troy Baker in the same game….weird), but where does the ending of the first one fall. Are we going to see how that ending impacted their friendship or father-daughter dynamic? Will they reference it too much or not enough? Do we learn if Ellie chose to believe Joel or if his decision to lie to her hurt her trust? More importantly, do we need to know these things? What’s the problem with an ambiguous ending?

I’m bummed, to summarize, and I may be in a minority, I’m not sure. The only person I’ve really talked to about this is a close friend of mine and is, honestly, very hyped for that game. However, she tends to be very hyped for a lot of things. She hypes easily. It’s one of her lovable quirks.

I just believe they built this big beautiful world and deep lore that could easily be explored by new people. It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be direct sequels or full on reboots. Assassin’s Creed has been doing this well lately, though their story is a might bit convoluted. I just wish more creators would see the potential of building their story from a new angle as opposed to rehashing and reworking the same characters, never truly giving them an ending until we watch them die on screen (sorry Han). Looking forward with this concept in mind, I’m very curious where Star Wars will go. The latest trilogy is wrapping up and Disney is juggling all their “Hey, what about this character but as like a 20-something or teenager?” movies around. It will be interesting if we just keep getting movies about the youths of characters we’ve already met (Watto at Business School: A Star Wars Story) or if we’ll start getting some more original stories. I’d love for the next push to focus on the Old Republic or possibly more stories set in the Outer Rim. Just no more Skywalkers, please.

In the end, I just wish creators focused more on the boundless potential of world-building instead of just one character’s story or focusing on origins. There are so many stories to be told in these beautiful worlds and rich lore we’ve established. We as consumers need to support and praise the new and bold.

……Seriously excited for that Ghostbusters sequel though.

[I’m a hypocrite]

~C

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