Pop Culture #642

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Pop Culture #642

If you ask around it seems like nobody likes sequels. “Where are the new ideas?”, movie-goers cry. And fair enough too, as pretty much every blockbuster this year (and every other year) is a remake or a reboot. And yet audiences keep on turning out for sequels and remakes. Everyone says the Ghostbusters remake looks iffy; yet everyone’s still planning to check it out at some stage.

Going to the movies costs a lot so people want to see sure things, which means movies based on things they already know about. Going to the movies is also firmly age-related. Teenagers go a lot because they have money (but not bills or babysitters) and going to the movies is one of the few fun things you can do with your friends as a teen. Which means that 30 years later when Hollywood remakes a teen-friendly film, they’re hoping to get today’s teens in as well as the older folks thinking “I remember that average film fondly because it reminds me of my lost youth – I think I’ll go check the new version out”. But having to wait 30 years or so before they can start making money off old ideas is tricky for Hollywood in 2016, because looking back at the hits of the late ’70s and ’80s reveals a big problem: a lot of them were comedies. Sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live had created a new generation of comedy stars like John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy, and they made movies that succeeded based on their performances – not high concept ideas. You can make frat comedies like Animal House all you like – Bad Neighbours 2 was one just a few months ago – but you can’t make money off the Animal House name without John Belushi. Ghostbusters though is one of the few big comedy hits of that era that also had a concept that was high-concept enough to work – perhaps – without the original cast. It was a performer-driven comedy that was also a special-effects driven blockbuster. And if there’s one thing modern-day Hollywood knows how to do, it’s special effects.

Unfortunately, Hollywood already had a big comedy boom a decade ago, when Judd Apatow movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up were massive hits and Will Ferrell was a box office star. Maybe in 2008 we could have had a Ghostbusters movie with Seth Rogen and James Franco but those guys are old news. Now the big comedy stars that bring people to the movies are women, so the only thing really new about the new Ghostbusters is the gender of the cast, so the only thing anyone talks about is the gender of the cast because there’s really nothing else to talk about yet because it’s a remake – we all know what it’s about already. The really bad news for Ghostbusters is that every year out of the flood of basically identical blockbusters, one or two are chosen by the press to be the ones that are slotted into the narrative of “it’s destined to fail”. It only takes a couple of so-so trailers or a sense that the film is out of tune with the zeitgeist and suddenly – as we saw with Batman v Superman earlier this year – all the press about a film turns negative. Ghostbusters is shaping up to be one of these films: fingers crossed it surprises us all.

Written by Anthony Morris