Okay Hollywood, it’s time we had a chat. Not a comfortable, cookie-and-coffee chat like you’d have at Starbucks or whatever fancy, overpriced swish-o cafe on the High Street you’d care to enjoy, but a pants-down, jolly-good-rogering kinda chat that will leave your skin raw, your concentration frayed, and possibly even your mental genitals mutilated beyond repair. I want to talk about the Gratuitous Reboot.
Last week we saw the (ugh) release of a teaser trailer announcing a soon-to-be-released trailer (double ugh) for the upcoming Paul Feig “comedy” reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise, and something inside me snapped. Not because of the hideous over-marketing this claptrap film is likely to bludgeon us all with, but the fact it’s been made at all; of all the possible properties one might have felt a studio would consider ripe for strip-mining again, who the hell thought a twenty-odd year old film franchise featuring some of American comedy’s then-brightest stars and most on-point visual effects would warrant a remake, let alone a gender-swapping one?
The Ghostbusters reboot is a film I’m already actively detesting, simply for the sake of its own existence. The added cringe factor of reversing the gender roles simply because it’s the cool thing to do these days (reversing sexual inequality, I guess, starts with our beloved film franchises) is simply the cherry on top of what promises to be the ugliest opening for a “comedy” film since Adam Sandler made Jack & Jill. As a film critic, I should look at upcoming films with some sense of positivity, but I look at Ghostbusters and think to myself whether it’s possible to continue my existence on this Earth knowing chunky-cheese Melissa McCarthy and her sweaty-boobed comedy troupe of pandering acolytes have stomped all over the allure of what was a key cinematic moment of mine, and many other, childhoods. Sony Pictures, who own the rights to the Ghostbusters property through their purchase of Columbia Pictures, are well within their legal rights to develop and produce a new Ghostbusters film, so I can’t knock them for trying to prop up their ailing idiotic film production methods by fistf@cking the legacy of Egon, Venkman, Ray and Winston into oblivion and countless parody memes, in a sad, desperate attempt to right the studio ship following a few years of horrendous ill-fortune. But the moment McCarthy utters the phrase “It’s true, this man has no dick”, I’ll officially protest the entrance of that egregious mouth-breathing bucket of monkey spunk into our country for any kind of film promotion for the rest of time.
So who wants to see a Ghostbusters reboot/remake/whatever? What audience are they pitching this to? Fans of the original films, who’ll look at McCarthy and her cohort of lesser-light co-stars and give them a free pass to just rewrite franchise mythology to suit their cash-grab mentality? I count myself among those fans of the original, and I’d rather piss razor-blades than watch “modernising” a classic story – a classic brotherhood story – be undermined by some misguided reorientation of the sexual ledger that turns Thor into some half-assed “we got one!” character and repatriates the idea that creativity is entirely absent in the Hollywood Hills. Is Sony trying to aim this at a new generation, many of whom won’t even realise it’s a reboot and think it’s some cool new idea, like the talking car or extra large condoms? No doubt Feig and Co have peppered the film with tips of the hat to the previous movies, so fans of the originals brave enough to sear their eyeballs with gobshite can laugh displeasingly at “how clever the film-makers are in their love for the franchise” – so in love with it they gang-raped it out of existence? So if Millennials and Gen-Xers, the latter of whom regard the original Ghostbusters with much the same warmth and love as the original un-f@cked Star Wars, don’t really wish to see this film, who the hell does?
Can somebody say “Box Office Poison”?
As a matter of contention, I’m actually interested to see director Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Blade Runner universe, but the vast majority of my cinema-loving soul is wrenched with bile at the thought of Ridley Scott’s undisputed sci-fi classic being re-imagined, particularly with Ryan f@cking Gosling in the lead role, and it’s enough that I cannot stand it. A Sequel to Blade Runner should star (not cameo, star) Harrison Ford once again, or not be made at all. To try and create a new character to follow through a world so iconic in cinematic history is risky enough, let alone dealing with one of the most ferocious and vociferous fan-bases in all of movie history. The argument could be made that a sequel to Blade Runner should have happened decades ago, rather than right now, and the question as to who might have wanted to see a sequel (thank God they didn’t just decide to outright remake it, there’d have been riots in the streets) remains a mystery we might never solve.
Undoubtedly, a Blade Runner sequel will benefit from the very best modern CG has to offer, which, like the original Star Wars trilogy before it, wasn’t exactly the most worrisome part about the first film. Nobody looks at Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and thinks “gee those effects are a bit shit, we need to have another crack at this, don’t we Jim?” Of course they don’t, because both Blade Runner and Ghostbusters are timeless. Their characters and story, their entire aesthetic, transcends technological limitations to become unassailable classics in their own right.
Could you imagine the shitstorm if somebody decided to remake Casablanca? Maybe cast Emma Stone and f@cking Ryan Gosling in the lead roles? Other than capture a zeitgeist in The Notebook, what the hell has that Gosling clown done anyway?
Also coming down the pipe this week is news that Disney is looking to remake Mary Poppins, and talks surrounded Emily Blunt to play the title role. Given Disney’s proclivities in rebooting beloved properties or characters with modern technology (cough*cough Alice In Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book – which itself is re-imagined every decade by default – and now Poppins) it’s a given they’d look to one of Uncle Walt’s most enduring and personally favourite films to give the old modern pixel whiz-bangery to. To my mind, Blunt is probably the current best least-worst option to play the role, considering Emma Thompson not only is too old, but has partly done that kind of thing in those Nanny McPhee things, so if they must, then I guess having Blunt as Mary is as good a silver lining as is possible.
That said, why remake a classic film, particularly one so adored by modern and older audiences alike? Poppins isn’t the kind of character who would knowingly submit to wanton commericalisation, you’d expect, and it was Walt’s attention to detail and obvious love of the source that manifested so brilliantly on-screen with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke that made his film version not only definitive, but beloved around the globe. Rob Marshall, the director films like Chicago, the fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean and more recently Into The Woods, has been tapped to helm this production, so there’s going to be an all-in hedge-bet of talent behind the camera; but how much genuine, DNA-approved love for the source material is there that can match Walt Disney? For all her talent, I’m hard pressed to imagine Blunt winsomely essaying Julie Andrews’ scintillating persona without causing a fit of unintended giggles. I guess had the gratuity of Maleficent’s boffo box-office and Alice In Wonderland’s gargantuan coffer-filling ride failed, we might not be in the position we are now – sadly, we are, which probably says more about global film audiences than it does anything else.
Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?
Look, nobody is claiming the idea of a remake is some modern idea that’s ruining cinema, because the concept of the remake has been around since the dawn of the medium. Hell, there were multiple film versions of Ben Hur around decades before Charlton Heston went all latent homosexual on us in his 70mm performance that one time, so it’s not like audiences shouldn’t be aware of the idea, or entirely accepting that Hollywood’s desperate meat-grinder need to drag people in off the streets to see some newfangled 24fps wonder is nigh insatiable. Hollywood will survive beyond us for as long as people watch movies, remake or not. But surely, somewhere, audiences can ask that enough is enough of cultural sabotage by diminishing creative identity.
Somewhere, thirty years from now, some poor schmuck is going to go to a bar, and get into a heated discussion over the fact that 2017’s Blade Runner was a film that changed his/her life, much the same way there’s people breathing our oxygen who claim Jar Jar Binks is a legitimately funny character. F@ck those people, by the way. But that’s the sad fact – there’s a crass cultural vacuum occurring of a generational nature that means kids born today will think the film remakes they watched as youngsters were the versions they were meant to see. Not the original movies, made well before they were born. It’s an insatiable desire to feed the machine by Hollywood that hampers genuine artistry and creativity being birthed for the Happy Meal idea of a quick cash-in on sentimentality and post-modern irony.
Sure, some films need rebooting, or remaking. Where’s my Police Academy reboot with half the current cast of SNL lined up to kick comedy goals? What about that long-mooted cinema version of ThunderCats? Dreck like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles keep being rebooted because each successive film is rightly reviled by the majority, and was based of a hugely (inexplicably) popular kids comic back in the 90’s or something. Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare keep finding new iterations because hey, that’s culture. Not that Blade Runner, Ghostbusters or Mary Poppins somehow isn’t “culture”, but they’re different. They’re films that exist outside of simple commercial interests, that have become touchstones of singular importance to a vast majority of people. I’ve only picked out three films here, but the point remains over many a big budget broom-sweeping remake: some films don’t deserve to have their legacies tarnished. Who the f@ck wanted to see Colin Farrell check out a triple-titted interplanetary hooker in that Total Recall remake? Box-office aside, that film was damn near as offensive as a piece of creative fiction as any Uwe Boll flick. What was so bad about Arnold’s version that it needed another go-round?
Here’s the thing: there’s a saying that pain is temporary, and film is forever. If film is forever (and it is), then why do people insist on pretending it isn’t? In a few years, I’ll be able to sit down with my kids and watch Julie Andrews magically browbeat an uppity-but-try-hard father into loving his kids with the same sense of awe and wonder as I did, and enjoy it as a film for what it is. I’ll be able to have that moment where my son watches Ghostbusters for the first time and be scared shitless by that demon thing coming out of Sigourney Weaver’s lounge-seat and dragging her into the fridge. And in a few more years, I’ll be able to have a discussion on the existential questions posed by the seemingly endless variant cuts of Ridley’s Blade Runner and what “that” final scene really means.
Sadly, there’s many kids who won’t, because the slick shiny packaging and high-def 3D IMAX quality reboot will have supplanted it as the version to watch for kids born today. So before you plonk down your hard-earned on a ticket to watch Melissa McCarthy perform the comedic equivalent of genital wart removal on a cinematic icon later this year, spare a thought for the people who’ll grow up to think that that is the height of entertainment in our modern age.
All opinions are those of the author, and do not represent those of anyone else.
© 2016, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.