While watching Ghostbusters for the billionth time recently, I thought about how the movie would be different if it were made today today. Besides the fact that it probably wouldn’t get made today since it’s not based on any intellectual property, it could go one of two ways. Firstly, it would be made as a rated-R comedy staring the likes of Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz- Plasse as pot head versions of the Ghostbusters. Or it could go the dark and gritty route. The boys have black armor and carry huge mechanized guns. Peter Venkman reluctantly joins the group because he’s still suffering from PTSD from when his wife was murdered by. . . ZUUL!
Comparing and contrasting how filmmaking was back then to what it is now really made me appreciate the movie more than I already did. That’s saying something considering the fact that it’s my second favorite movie of all time and I quote it like scripture (“what about the Twinkie?”). But it’s true. Despite all the parodies, merchandise, and rip-offs that has come since,Ghostbusters is a special movie.
The idea first came to Dan Aykroyd while reading an article on quantum physics. Because while we like to flip throughReader’s Digest to past the time, Dan Aykroyd flips through science journals. He and Harold Ramis (R.I.P.) fleshed out the story about a group of scientists who become the first ever ghost hunters. It’s the type of concept that is so simple that you scratch your head and think how it hasn’t been done before. The stroke of genius to this is to not make the team a group of government agents with slick weapons (no, that is not a knock against the awesomeness that is Men In Black), but paranormal pest controllers or firefighters, if you will. Their tech is highly advanced, yet it looks like something that you could make in your garage. It’s this type of practicality that gives me the film a relatable factor that most Hollywood screenwriters wouldn’t dream of doing.
The ace in the hole to the cast is another SNL alumni, Bill Murray. He has essentially played the same character in every comedy he has made since, but it is perfectly captured in his Peter Venkman. Murray is the modern Groucho Marx, delivering his lines with such sharpness and sincerity that we can’t help but love the guy. No matter how many times he shocks the kid during his experiment in order to hit on the girl. No matter how lazy he is. No matter how much he makes fun of people, we still root for him. If Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz is the heart of the team, then Venkman is the soul of it. This is why without him (or Egon for that matter) you can’t have a third movie.
It also struck me during this viewing how great the supporting cast is. Rick Moranis is comedic gold as Louis Tully. His performance is the perfect combination of sweetness and awkwardness that he didn’t quite nail in his other films. Sigourney Weaver shows quite a bit of range as Dana. Especially when she becomes possessed during the latter half of the film. William Aherton gives us one of the best cinematic jerks of all time with EPA agent Walter Peck. Everyone is just as good as the main four are.
It’s also surprising how well the special effects hold up thirty years later. The ghosts were a combination of animatronics and visual effects and still have that spooky vibe to them. I love how the ghosts are a mixture between science (balls of light, stream of energy) and Lovcraftian monster. Slimer is the most popular of the creatures in the film (it’s really weird how they basically turned him into Snoopy for the cartoon), but for me, it doesn’t get better than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I get giddy every time I see him. He’s just so happy to destroy things! He crystallizes the tone of the film, he’s both absurdly funny and kind of scary at the same time.
Along with other films like Back To The Future and theIndiana Jones trilogy, Ghostbusters has become a staple of the pop culture that the 80’s brought us. A film that is great not just because of its laughs, its scares, its smarts, or its theme song. But because of its purity. Ghostbusters did something incredible. Like catching a proton beam in a bottle.