Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
The first trailer for Paul Feig‘s reboot of Ghostbusters just debuted on March 4th. While we know that this is new take on the paranormal exterminators doesn’t have any narrative ties to the universe in which the original 1984 comedy and its 1989 sequel took place, the opening to this trailer made that very unclear. There’s graffiti of the old Ghostbusters logo, which implies a history of them in the city, the shot of the iconic firehouse headquarters of the original team, and of course the direct reference to “four scientists”saving New York City 30 years ago (even though Winston wasn’t a scientist in the first movie).
The confusion that followed among those casually interested in the movie made me realize that creating this reboot with no ties to the original Ghostbusters universe may be a mistake. Even the creative reasons for making that distinction can easily be incorporated into a movie that allows the original mythology to remain intact. After the jump, I’ll run through my reasoning as to why the Ghostbusters reboot should exist in the world of the original franchise.
Before we get to the meat of this post, I’d like to acknowledge that we’ve only seen this first trailer so far. My thoughts here are based solely on what we’ve seen there and what the filmmakers have discussed about the film. Some of these concerns and fears may be addressed when the movie finally opens, but this is my thought process behind the decision not to make this reboot a Ghostbusters sequel..
The Reasons This Is a Reboot Instead of a Sequel
Our own Peter Sciretta attended an event for the debut of the Ghostbusters trailer the day before it premiered online, and there director Paul Feig and writer Katie Dippold explained why they went with the reboot route instead of a sequel that effectively reboots the franchise. Feig’s reasoning focused on the idea of seeing the team develop the technology used to bust ghosts:
I know some people are gonna ask why is it not a sequel instead of a reboot? I didn’t like personally the idea of them being handed technology. Here’s how to do this. I wanna see it developed.
And yesterday’s surprise featurette that showed up on a viral Paranormal Studies Lab website demonstrated that a lot of thought went into updating the proton packs and other Ghostbusters gear for the movie. Meanwhile, Dippold talked about the idea of setting the story in a world that doesn’t believe ghosts exist:
One of the reasons to do it this way is that it’s just like today’s modern times. Like science doesn’t believe in ghosts anymore. So to say that [ghosts] had existed for the past 30 years, it’s just a different world. And in the original it’s so fun when ghosts unleash upon the city for the first time. It’s just a fun thing, we didn’t wanna skip over it.
Both of those points are good narrative ideas, but they’re also not elements that would be negated by having the story set in the world of the original Ghostbusters. And there’s an easy solution that allows both of those ideas to exist in a world where the events of the original Ghostbusters happened.
First of all, ghostbusting technology doesn’t just need to be handed to the new team. It’s been over 30 years since the original Ghostbusters, and 27 years since Ghostbusters II. Instead of setting the story in a world where ghosts have been acknowledged to exist for 30 years, why not just establish that there haven’t been any ghosts at all since the team saved the day the last time? Roughly 30 years is a long time for people to forget about things happening, even the events of Ghostbusters.
If The Force Awakens can establish the idea of the Jedi and the dark side of the Force as something that has become myth, then it stands to reason that an event like this that happened only in New York City wouldn’t be something that the entire world would keep remembering. Sure, we would have news footage to remind us of what happened in New York City, but that doesn’t mean the actual experience of ghosts coming back would be any less scary. If anything, it might be more scary because we thought we were safe.
Think about something like 9/11. Even though comparatively, the fictional disaster of ghosts and a giant marshmallow man descending on New York isn’t on the same scale of devastation, it’s the same kind of scenario. Still, the 9/11 attacks happened 15 years, ago, which means there’s a whole generation who doesn’t know the fear those events inspired because they were too young to truly comprehend it or even experience it as it’s happening. So with 30 years as the buffer, it stands to reason that ghosts coming back to the spotlight would still be pretty damn scary, for both those who were around at the time and those who haven’t experienced that fear yet.
If you follow that narrative train of thought, you could use that same concept to explain why the new team doesn’t have the old technology at their disposal. If it’s been 30 years since the Ghostbusters saved New York and there haven’t been any ghosts since then, why would the proton packs still be lying around? In fact, just have them confiscated, maybe even destroyed, by the government, because having unlicensed nuclear accelerators just lying around somewhere isn’t all that safe. And just to make sure fans don’t get mad about the old proton packs being completely destroyed, of course there’s still one kept in some secret location. But it doesn’t work anymore, and it’s a dead end for the team, though maybe it still helps them have a breakthrough in their own new devices for capturing ghosts.
On the next page, I’ll dive into the abundant references to the original movie, just in the trailer alone, and how they’re not helping the cause for the new Ghostbusters in the eyes of some fans.