Why The 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Should Exist In The Same Universe As The Original

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..

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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.

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Too Much of the Old, Not Enough of the New

For a reboot, the new Ghostbusters is certainly borrowing a lot of elements from the original movie. The logo, the firehouse, the proton packs, the Ecto-1, Slimer, the jump suits, the ghost trap. There are just so many things lifted from the original movie. If this is meant to be a true reboot, then what's the point of directly lifting these things, with only slight modifications, from the original movie? Fan service.

But this kind of fan service doesn't work so well if the movie isn't set within the same universe. It doesn't allow for as much originality, and it almost feels like it's holding the movie back. If the reboot existed in the same universe and followed the format of recent legacy-quels, then all those coincidental similarities wouldn't be coincidences anymore and there would be reasonable explanations for their existence while still allowing the new movie to branch out in a different direction. Both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World pulled this off successfully, and Ghostbusters could have done the same thing while keeping everything Feig wanted to do with the movie intact.

Instead, the movie is just full of details made to please fans. For example, there's this shot:

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So we know that at some point, Ghostbusters will have the team occupy the iconic firehouse instead of just referencing it in the trailer. Sure, it's a nice nod to the series, but wouldn't it be even better if the firehouse were worn down with all the pertinent technology (like the ghost housing system) ripped out, leaving the team to fend for themselves — just like the original team had to when they bought the rundown place? If you're going to use the location anyway, if only for a quick reference, why not really go for the gold?

Beyond that, Feig confirmed that the original Ghostbusters theme song will be in the movie, but there will also be a new one. Surely they'll figure out a creative way to fit it in there, maybe the way that Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies figured out a way to fit in the classic theme song, but the existence of the song in the universe could have been used as a source of humor as well. Even without knowing how they're fitting in the song, it already feels shoehorned in to me.

And then there are the cameos. With the exception of Rick Moranis and the late Harold Ramis, all the cast members that you would want back for cameos are appearing in the movie. But as far as we know, unless secrets have been kept very well, none of them are playing their characters from the original movie. That also seems like overkill for a movie that is driven by wanting to stand on its own as a reboot instead of a legacy-quel.

In the end, it seems like all the cool little ties and references to the original film don't mean much without a narrative legacy behind them. If the narrative of the reboot doesn't really need the history of the original movies to stand on, then there shouldn't be as much reliance on so many elements from the original film anyway. The reality is, the movie may not be quite as divisive if it embraced the original Ghostbusters universe.

On the next page, I talk about using the original Ghostbusters team as an advantage to convince the naysayers as to why this movie is worth their time and why lady Ghostbusters shouldn't be frowned upon.

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Women Can't Be Ghostbusters?

There's a contingent of Ghostbusters fans who are against the idea of having an all-female team of Ghostbusters, simply for sexist reasons, even though they'll try to explain that's not the case. Thankfully, this is just a vocal minority, but it's still given the movie an uphill battle to fight even as it also strives to live up to the legacy of the original. Existing in the original universe would allow the characters to tackle that issue head on.

In New York City, there could be a vocal group of people who are against the idea of a new team of lady Ghostbusters taking over the mantle of the previous male heroes. Protesters, some bitter 24-hour cable news pundits, and others could complain about them just tying to coast on the coattails of the men that came before them who can do their job better. But they're all proven wrong when the ladies take on a threat of a larger scale that was even more dangerous than the previous films' villains.

Does that make the lady Ghostbusters better? No, but in this world, women have had to consistently prove themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty, and putting that struggle in the movie might be a way to help shut up some of the naysayers out there. Plus, it would also allow a fine opportunity to make fun of them, or maybe even get their comeuppance the way Walter Peck did by having a huge load of marshmallow fluff dumped on him.

Ghostbusters - Kate McKinnon

Still Hoping for the Best

Look, as a huge Ghostbusters fan, the kind who has all of his friends asking what they thought of the new trailer, I want this movie to succeed. Having a new team of Ghostbusters sounds like a blast. If it's not good, it won't ruin the original movies at all. And even if the film did have ties to the original franchise, it still wouldn't ruin what came before it. This would just be an updated continuance of the same timeline that would usher in a new generation of fans while still hopefully pleasing the old ones.

The new efforts of the Ghost Corps production banner to build an interconnected series of movies set in the same universe is a good one, but I think it would benefit greatly from a solid foundation that lies in the original Ghostbusters. Maybe the real reason there's no narrative connective tissue is because all the original writers and producers would have to sign off on it. If that's the case, it would be frustrating that some of them are appearing in this movie but wouldn't allow any connection to the old guard.

If the Ghostbusters reboot truly has no connection to the original franchise beyond some influence and cues, it certainly won't make the movie bad. However, a connection just might make it better, especially in the eyes of the fans that the studio, Paul Feig and Katie Dippold seem to eager to impress. It would allow a merging of the old with the new in a way that would allow for a promising future while acknowledging the past, but not in just a cheeky way. Considering how much the movie would benefit from that element, both in creatively and commercially, there doesn't really seem to be a good reason to have avoided this aspect of a reboot.

Who knows, maybe the world being set up for this new Ghost Corps universe will work better overall for whatever future plans the studio has for the Ghostbusters brand. And maybe the film as a whole won't be trying as hard to please Ghostbusters fans (though clearly there will be plenty of things for them to appreciate). There's just still a big part of me that wishes the original Ghostbusters team had some kind of legacy in this cinematic world as opposed to just providing fuel for references made for fans of the original films.

What do you think?