Tuesday, 27 September 2011

'Ray, face it, Ghostbusters is over'. Why Ghostbusters 3 is a Really Bad Idea and Won't Work.

Ivan Reitman's 1984 film Ghostbusters is due for theatrical re-release this October. For whatever reason, call it luck, call it fate, Ghostbusters is one of the most successful and beloved comedies of the 1980s. The chemistry between the three leads of Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray is as rare as it is perfect, the script is almost flawlessly paced and hilarious, and with the possible exception of Groundhog Day, the incomparable Murray has never been better. Its sequel, 1989's Ghostbusters 2, while widely regarded as inferior, still draws big laughs. The impact of Ghostbusters remains phenomenal, with lines from the film very much a part of the pop-cultural lexicon, and the theme song, Ray Parker Jr.'s Who Ya Gonna Call, is undeniably one of the most iconic and recognisable in cinema history.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Ray Parker Jr. and the film's cast
In 2009, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was released across all the gaming platforms. Set two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2, the game features an all-new story, co-written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who both wrote the screenplays for the films, and sees the return of most of the major actors from the movies. Since the release of Ghostbusters 2 over twenty years ago, there has been much speculation over a possible third film, and the 2009 video game certainly re-ignited popular interest in seeing the old team suit up again for one more outing. Clearly, the Ghostbusters franchise is still going strong, and as the box office sales for the imminent re-release will suggest, the fan anticipation for a third film is high. So why such a pessimistic title for this week's post? Well, there are several reasons why making Ghostbusters 3 would be bad. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. *** SPOILER ALERT *** If you don't know about 'the cameo' and would prefer not to have it spoilt, you should skip section 1.

1. Bill Murray's reluctance to participate
This one's an easy one, but it's also probably the most important. For the last three years or so, where a new film has seemed increasingly likely, Murray has flip-flopped on whether he will appear in the third movie. He famously dislikes Ghostbusters 2, and has said several times that he would only appear in Ghostbusters 3 as a ghost. I can understand Murray's reticence to return, especially since he doesn't like the second film, but a Ghostbusters film without Bill Murray would be like Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford. The trio of Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Murray are essential to the franchise, and to remove any of those elements would be to remove a vital component of the formula. Murray clearly likes Ghostbusters; these days he tends to pick his projects carefully (Garfield excepted) and wouldn't have returned to voice Peter Venkman in the game if he hadn't seen some pleasure to be had, nor would he have delivered one of the funniest and affectionate cameos in cinema history in 2009's Zombieland. Despite this, Murray clearly does not like the idea of a third Ghosbusters film. What does this tell us about its quality?

2. The concept
Even if we don't take Murray's word for it, the movie concept itself throws up a few warning signals. However we deal with it, the Ghostbusting foursome will have aged more than twenty years since their last cinema outing. They're going to be older, fatter and less capable than ever, but this doesn't have to be problematic. One of the central jokes in the original films is that the team are consistently out of their depth: the Ghostbusters are comprised of tubby science nerds and workshy layabouts playing at being superheroes. Making them older would just underscore a major premise already established in the franchise. But the concept of Ghostbusters 3 has less emphasis on this, and more on the old 'busters passing on the mantle to a younger team. Again, this does not necessarily spell disaster, but not only is this a rather tired concept for belated sequels (see Shia LeBland in Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, Martin Scorsese's inferior 1986 follow-up to The Hustler), but it kind of misses the point of the original films. Ghostbusters wasn't successful just because proton packs are cool (though by God, they are), it was because the dynamic between the central characters worked so well. Capturing that again with a different crew, whilst not impossible, is already setting the writers (also new) an uphill struggle.

3. They've already made the third film
Well, not literally, but the third Ghostbusters story has already been told in the form of the 2009 video game. The original concept for Ghostbusters 3 was for the team to go to Hell, with the title being Hellbound: Ghostbusters 3. This concept was incorporated for significant portions of the recent game, and Aykroyd himself has even stated that the game is 'essentially the third movie'. If we do consider it as such, the game is probably the third best 'film' in the franchise, but it is undoubtedly worthy, and manages to balance the tricky business of nostalgia for fans of the original while still creating a compelling story and retaining some of the creative and comedic magic of the films. After the success of the game, do we really need another Ghostbusters story? I'm inclined to say that we don't.

4. The time has just passed for a third film
In science, we always look for the simplest answer. Here, perhaps it is simply that, as great and iconic as Ghostbusters is, maybe it is best left well alone. The first film in particular captured lighting in a bottle with a hilarious script, an incredible cast and a great concept, and it's incredibly unlikely that the same magic can be repeated. Ghostbusters 3 could certainly be very good, but it can't have the same magic formula that the first, or even the second film had, and will always suffer as such. 2001's Evolution, also directed by Ivan Reitman, is effectively an homage to Ghostbusters, and even features a cameo from Aykroyd. But at the same time it is able to be its own thing, because it isn't Ghostbusters. Is it is good as Ghostbusters? No, of course not, but it isn't trying to be. The same could be said more recently for the superb Zombieland. In light of comedies like these, Ghostbusters 3 seems increasingly unnecessary and irrelevant.

5. Who ya gonna trust?
I will end here with a simple rhetorical question. Dan Aykroyd, who, bless him, actually believes in ghosts, and is somehow even dorkier than his on screen character Ray Stantz, thinks Ghostbusters 3 is a good idea. Bill Murray, who is possibly the coolest man on the planet, doesn't. Who are you ready to believe?

1 comment:

  1. I think number 4 is your most compelling argument, man. However, I think it probably will get made and here's why:

    Dan Ackroyd wants to be a Ghostbuster again.

    If you think about it, the reason why Crystal Skull got made was because Harrison Ford really wanted to be Indy (and star in a hit again) and would accept just about any storyline to get that to happen. Lucas was happy to oblige and the whole world went off on a nostalgia trip that wasn't quite satisfactory. Regardless of whether these franchises are necessary or advisable, they seem to keep trundling along if that's what their creators want to do.

    The worst ones seem to be the ones that get revisited some years later. Usually, the creators and principal cast members go off and try their hands in other directions (Copola, Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, Ackroyd) before getting the itch to return to their greatest success. It seems that twenty years later, the reason why this belated sequel/prequel isn't any good is because IT WASN'T NECESSARY TO MAKE IT BACK IN THE DAY AND IT ISN'T NECESSARY NOW. Godfather III, Star Wars I, II and III, Indy IV (and V), Ghostbusters III - they're all basically the self-indulgent whims of nostalgic creators who fancied going back to their pomp without much thought about what might be interesting or relavent to the punters.

    And, you know what? I defend their right to do so. After all, no one is making us like it.