When a classic movie is remade or rebooted, when a book is made into a movie, when a new Bond, Superman, Spiderman or Batman is selected, there are rumblings of discontent in the fandom. Remember when fans thought Heath Ledger too pretty to be the Joker and Jennifer Lawrence too blonde to be Katniss Everdeen?
None of those have come close to the vitriol hurled at the new Ghostbusters movie and its female cast. The movie might have raked in US$46 million in the US in its opening weekend but it is still the most disliked trailer on YouTube with 990,000 [at time of publication] thumbs-down votes. The director, Paul Feig, and the actresses (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones) have been on the receiving end of criticism that ranged from apologetic to demeaning.
Obviously, many people have committed to disliking the movie even before watching it. The movie will soon end its run in the cinema, so here's a guide on how to engage naysayers with or without dropping the word 'sexist'. Give them examples of when they should have rallied against a change in a movie's plot but did not. Exhaust them with enough pop culture trivia that they acknowledge their hypocrisy.
"How dare they remake a classic!"
Actually, remaking a classic movie is a Hollywood tale as old as time. We now live in an era of '80s movies and television remakes, as the kids of the '80s are now grown adults trying to recapture their childhood favourites while updating it for the new generation. In fact, every five years or so a new Spiderman or Batman gets casted. I am now old enough to know at least three Spidermans and four Batmans, which I use as a barometer for my ageing.
One of the most portrayed literary human characters in film and television is Sherlock Holmes. In the latest remake with Benedict Cumberbatch, it is set in the present day as opposed to the Victorian era. Elementary, another contemporary remake, is set in the United States, starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson. If fans were unhappy about the changes in setting or Watson's gender, they have been very quiet about it.
"Why can't we have a proper sequel?"
The short answer is that comedy sequels do not often work. Jokes and deadpan humour work best when you do not see them coming, so if the sequel relies on the same material, the audience will not be amused. This is why 'Zoolander' fans would rather forget 'Zoolander 2' exists.
When people talk about 'Ghostbusters', they are referring to 'Ghostbusters 1', which debuted in 1984, became a surprise hit and spawned a cartoon series and 'Ghostbusters 2'. While 'Ghostbusters 2' was a commercial success, it did not wow fans and critics. Still, fans kept asking for a 'Ghostbusters 3' movie, but for years Bill Murray turned down scripts for the third Ghostbusters installment. When Harold Ramis (one of the original ghostbusters) died in 2014, it put an end to any chance for a cast reunion.
Which bring us to the next point.
"Is this new movie a reboot, remake or sequel?"
A common complaint about the new 'Ghostbusters' is that people are confused about where it fits within the movie timeline from Ghostbusters 1, 2 and the TV series. The new 'Ghostbusters' trailer caused more confusion because it opened with the line "30 years ago...", making it seem like a sequel or a passing of torch to a new cast.
We'll have to put that down to clunky marketing.
For clarity, the new movie is a reboot. It takes place in a world where the original movies and characters did not exist because Paul Feig thought it would be better for a new generation of audience to see an origin story, instead of seeing the new ghostbusters being handed technology. So, we go right back to the start and see how they develop their ghost-catching technology, how they get their office space and where they get inspiration for their logo.
"I don't recognise this updated version"
The original 'Ghostbusters' was about four people fighting ghosts and the new movie is still about that. The theme song is the same, it is still set in New York and in both movies their ideal office is an old firehouse. There are also scene-by-scene comparisons that show how the new movie paid homage to the original, like how both movies start with a member of the public encountering a ghost in a place that would become essential to the movie.
If we want to talk about an updated movie franchise, let's look at how the Bond franchise has evolved. Daniel Craig's Bond bears little resemblance to Sean Connery's Bond. Craig's Bond is less campy, less reliant on ridiculous gadgets and does not always say the sound bites that we have come to associate with Bond ("Shaken, not stirred", "The name is Bond, James Bond"). What's even more shocking is the new Bond actually falls in love with Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, an unthinkable character development for the notorious playboy spy.
There are comments that the studio could have gotten fans on their side if they featured two male and two female ghostbusters for a more realistic gender representation. While that is true, it is unlikely there will be calls for a realistic gender representation if it had an all male cast.
This post was first published on Lipmag