Ghostbusters and Sequel Suckage

From Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Last week, Sony released a teaser of a Jason Reitman-helmed Ghostbusters. Not a reboot like the lame 2016 film, but a direct sequel.

Like the lame 1989 sequel.

For the record, I had high hopes but only moderate expectations for the Ghostbusters 2016 film. I was only somewhat disappointed. The stellar cast was wasted in a poor film with clumsy writing, a weak plot, and jokes that I can only assume were watered down to the lowest common denominator in order to make it easy to translate to scores of international markets. Then they depended on a divisive, political marketing campaign that insulted fans. And then they followed up on its less-than-stellar release by alienating fans even more in a shaming campaign.

So now, they are trying it again. I hope it’s awesome, but I also think the timing is bad for this new film. They really have to nail it. I don’t know if they can, regardless of cast. The lesson learned from Ghostbusters 2 was that even the original cast and original creative team had trouble catching lightning in a bottle again. Yeah, it did pretty well at the box office (the 2016 movie also did “okay” at the box office… it made money), but it was nowhere near the original. Of course, there’s a certain point (like in Star Wars) where the nostalgia and hype means any attempt at a follow-up is doomed to some level of disappointment.

Here’s the key that Hollywood and pretty much the entire media industry seems to have forgotten about creating follow-ups and adaptations to popular properties: You have to respect and honor the source material. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been doing so well, and just about everything else has been tanking. Films like Batman v. Superman, the 2016 Ghostbusters, and yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi have, to me, felt like ego projects where the people in charge were more focused about “leaving their mark” on the franchise. Or, just as bad (with many adaptations) — they don’t seem to have done any research on the source material to understand what makes it tick, but simply apply the ol’ formula and swap the names from their chosen IP.

It’s not just Hollywood. I’ve seen efforts made by writers taking on material now in the public-domain with attitudes that actually seem hateful and spiteful towards the original material. Maybe in their egocentric worldview, they think their writing will supplant and replace the original? I don’t know.

Anyway… hopefully a suitably repentant team of filmmakers with an ounce of humility (in Hollywood? Tall order, I’m sure) will produce a film that is finally worthy of the original. In the meantime, may I offer a plea to all artists tasked with working with someone else’s IP: Your job is not to “make it your own” (even if we all hope to hear that this is what we accomplished in the end), but rather to make something that feels like it seamlessly belongs there, side-by-side with everything by the original creator(s). Find out what makes it “tick” and why audiences love it. Use that as your guiding star. Then, at least if you fail, it was only because you were overly ambitious… not because you were a jerk.

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