The decision to position this film as a reboot of Ghostbusters and do a new origin story does seem an odd choice if you're going to stick so closely to the format of the original; right down to the character types. You could pretty much take this script and make it almost unaltered with the original cast (in 1992) and it would just be another fairly uninspired sequel. The opportunities afforded by a full reboot were not taken advantage of.
And, given the exceptional nature of the high concept that is Ghostbusters, the fact that this is a remake and by definition lacking in originality, gives this incarnation all the more reason to embrace radical change. But they played it safe, and got a safe film for their trouble.
The plot itself works pretty well but there are some misfires. I felt that the dumb secretary character (one of the Hemsworths) was over played and entangling him into the real plot instead of keeping him as comic relief was unnecessary. Having said that, the actual villain of the piece was lacking in any kind of charisma or character so perhaps getting rid of him earlier was the only purpose.
Tonally, the film got lost a couple of times. The general feeling seemed to be to play the plot straight and have the comedy come from the characters (much like the original) but there were several points where the comedy became much more self-conscious and I felt like I was watching people doing gags. The film was also very guilty of doing something that has become increasingly common in our post-Appatow world of comedy: semi-improvised material that doesn't drive the plot in any way and is used purely for entertainment. Not a problem in moderation but people seem to have also embraced the Appatow motto of not knowing how to edit that shit down. This was fresh and intriguing twelve years ago but it's starting to get very stale.
Wiig embraces playing the straight man (so to speak) and even McCarthy manages to tone it down appropriately for the more plot driven style of comedy. Undoubtedly, however, the standout is Kate McKinnon, picking up the Bill Murray mantle with seeming ease. McKinnon is primarily known as a regular on Saturday Night Live (as are most of the cast of all the Ghostbusters films) and as such is a new face to me and most British viewers. But she just broke through like McCarthy in Bridesmaids. Expect to see a lot more of her.
There are numerous references to the original films and cameos from previous cast. Most of these are pretty grating. Bill Murray was so terrible I suspect he only agreed to be in it to try and destroy it from the inside.
One final point to address, which I thought I wouldn't have to. I'm on record saying that making it an all female cast was irrelevant and shouldn't have caused so much hullabaloo. Having seen the film, I realise I was wrong. The fact that the characters are female is unimportant in the sense that they are not defined by their femininity - they could easily have been played by men without any real change. But that's exactly why it is relevant.
It struck me as I watched this film that yes, I've seen strong female characters before, but never four of them in the same film. Not even three. I'd struggle to name any with two. Because Strong Female Character is not something you can just be, you have to show it and prove it within the narrative structure, strive to overcome hurdles and achieve your goals (get the man). But a character who is just female and has skills and strengths that go beyond that and has a character arc that does not pertain to gender? And then another one? And another one? Unheard of.
Why does this feel different to other representations of women? This wasn't a film made for women by men. It was a film made for people by women (and they let some men in).
Sometimes you don't know what you're missing until you get it and even though it seems this film is not going to be a great success in the eyes of the public, I believe this is a watershed moment. Ghostbusters (2016) will become a touchstone in feminist film criticism and will be a catalyst to drive further female led projects that will widen and diversify the film industry. It won't happen quickly, but remember this moment, because this is the first drop of water through the hole in the dam.
Film rating: 7/10
Historical significance: 9/10