Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Full Roaming Vapors: The Recent History of GHOSTBUSTERS III

It's the 30th Anniversary of one of my favorite movies.  One of the funniest, most influential and highest grossing comedies of my lifetime and a primer on how absolutely perfectly the combination of well-written character-comedy and big special-effects chaos can be achieved.  We're talking Ivan Retiman's Ghostbusters (1984), of course, and lately it's all over the varied forms of entertainment news these days in ways I couldn't have guessed.

Sadly, just a few months before the much talked about anniversary, actor, co-writer, and comedy genius Harold Ramis passed away.  This sent shock waves through the show business world as Ramis was a warm and loved figure in the community.   Almost immediately, industry talk of a proper Ghostbusters III sequel stopped, despite it having being teased over and over again for the better part of the last decade.  Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II (1989) director Ivan Reitman then stated that he was pretty much completely off any sort of new sequel project, which soon compounded with not only the continual screenplay rejection of the always great Bill Murray but the still-up-for-it exuberance of actor Ernie Hudson and especially the continual marching-on of the franchise holdout and co-creator, Dan Aykroyd, who'd leaked incorrect start-dates in interviews several times before.

Then Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids (2011), a substantial hit for Universal, was teased online as a top contender for director a new Ghostbusters film, this time with an all-female cast.  Hundreds of articles were written about this possibility and whether it was a much-needed shot in the arm or a total casting stunt meant to test the fan waters and see if anything floated.  Industry insiders guessed immediately that there'd be a place for Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, two stars of Feig's hit, Bridesmaids, and possibly Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman among others.  Just recently, celebrating "Bill Murray Day" at the Toronto Film Festival, Bill himself gave his picks as to who he'd like to see cast: Wiig, McCarthy (with whom he'd just filmed the new picture St. Vincent), Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) and Linda Cardellini (Mad Men), going on to say "I would watch it."  I would, too.  I like the idea of a female team of Ghostbusters, especially with Kristen Wiig involved, much more than any of the various Rogen-Franco-McBride-Robinson-Cera-Zuckerberg-Milano-Dukshu-Jack Black-Hader-Sudekis-Samberg combinations being thrown around in the last few years.  In fact, give me a Wiig-Stone-Maria Bamford-Meagan Good team.  I love me some Bamford and Good was great in Anchorman 2.  That's my Ghostbuster Lady dream team, right there.

Not to be outdone, in the last 24 hours, Dan Aykroyd has come back into the picture and made two interesting and wild statements.

The first: he thinks the Ghostbusters world could/should be blown up and writ large, as Marvel has done with it's extended cinematic universe, a la Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and so on.

"It’s beyond just another sequel, a prequel, another TV show. I'm thinking what does the whole brand mean to Sony? What does Pixar and Star Wars mean to Disney? What does Marvel mean to Fox? That’s what we have to do. The whole vehicle of Ghostbusters has to be rebuilt. That’s the ambitious thinking that’s going on now. Taking on the model of Marvel where we take all of the elements that are in this movie and we put them out there as different ideas.”  --

Now here's the thing.  I'm a die-hard Ghostbusters fan.  With the exception of Dan himself, you're rarely likely to bump into a someone more into the movie on the street.  And while there would be a certain interest for me, personally, to see something kooky like this happen (sequels/prequels/spin-offs, etc), I think for the general populace Dan comes very close in this thinking to diluting the brand to such an extent that it all comes crashing down around him.  As far as it goes, Ghostbusters II, Caddyshack II and Blues Brothers 2000 show that sequels aren't exactly Aykroyd's best friends.

Thirty years later, people still love the original Ghostbusters.  Twenty-five years later, Ghostbusters II can't even get a properly packed special edition blu-ray.  (No commentary track and minus several deleted scenes that are said to still exist.)  People who dress up as Ghostbusters for charity Halloween parades are typically greeted with huge love and applause, especially if their suits and props are screen-accurate.  And yeah, if I had the where-with-all, I'd have one too and be marching along right there with them.  But the die-hards are always gonna love the Ghostbusters, while sub-par franchise expansions could really hurt the general public love.  Then again, The Clone Wars cartoon, video games and novels kept the love for Star Wars alive for the last ten-plus years, despite the successful but now-reappraised Second Trilogy.  So, I don't know.  As long as the stories work, I guess it could be fine.  There's a possibility.  I liked 88MPH's Ghostbusters comic series much more than the longer-lasting IDW ones, as the writing and art were so much stronger in the former than the latter. The novel Ghostbusters: The Return was solid and true to the original films, and the 2009 videogame just flat out rocked.

I'm torn between two other movie-based schools of thought on this.  "I want to believe," and "I've got a bad feeling about this."

And just a few short hours ago, this little nugget popped up on the internet from

Dan Aykroyd has said he is “100% assured” that a new Ghostbusters movie will be released in the next two years, and has backed British action movie star Jason Statham to star in the sequel. Discussing the possibility of moving location to London for the new film, he said: “I think that that’s a big part of what we would think about in the future, that it’s an international thing. It would be rich to do something here in the UK because there’re so many possibilities.  “There are so many great locations here and… in fact true spirits here that are living right now amongst us. There is so much talent coming out of the UK but I would love to see Jason Statham as a Ghostbuster in some capacity. He’s a lot of fun,” said Aykroyd.

Jason Statham.  As a Ghostbuster,  Would I see that movie?   Hell yeah.  Do I think it will ever happen?  Hell no.  In a way I kind of hope it does.  Sometimes crazy can work.  Just look at this year's highest grossing adventure flick, the one with the raccoon and the smiling tree man.  Anything can happen and nobody knows nothing.  Still, still...  Mentioning both this crazy casting and that there might be "true spirits here that are living right now amongst us" might not be the best way to deliver your messages and hopes of sane, bankable corporate filmmaking creativity to the masses.

So, okay.  If this is the kind of thing that's going on his mind, let's get really crazy.  No idea is too much, apparently.  Nothing is impossible.  So yeah, okay, let's open up that Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe and really expand it.  How about a war movie?  A romcom?  Let's get nuts, blaze some trails and put the Busters in some whole new cinematic realities.

- Combine the new film with Ivan Reitman's long-gestating, not-really-wanted Twins sequel and make Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Eddie Murphy into Ghostbusters.

- A Fistful of Ghostbusters.  Old-tech in the Old West.  Like the Doc Brown steam science designs in Back to the Future Part III.

- Ghostbusters VS. Army of Darkness.  Deadites in New York.  The New Venkman meets The New Ash.  Pseudo-hilarity ensues.  In fact, fuck it, throw some Gremlins in there too. why don'tcha?

- Ghostballs.  Ghostbusters meets Meatballs.  Summer Camp flick.  Teens getting laid and trapping vapors.  And not just the ones that come from the Fat Kid's ass.

- Ghostly Instinct.  An NC-17 sexual-thriller about a tormented Ghostbuster having a scandalous affair with a particularly sexy spectre and vowing to help find her killer from beyond the grave. With Emma Stone and Jason Statham.  Box office gold.

- The Grudgebusters.  They go over to Japan to kick that little meowing kid's ass once and for all.

- Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ghostbusters.  Probably the dumbest idea and the one that actually makes some kind of sense. 

- Ghostbusters of Mars.  'Cause why not let John Carpenter get in on this, right?  In fact...

- Big Ghostbusters in Little China.  Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore meet Jack Burton.  Lo Pan and The Three Storms don't stand a chance.   

Call me, Dan...  At the very least, you can stay in our guestroom here Boston while you try to set up a meeting with Damon and Affleck about location scouting for Good Will Busting.

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