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Could it have been saved?- Ghostbusters 2 and Ghostbusters (2016)

The first “Ghostbusters” (1984) is a classic. It’s iconic, funny, sometimes scary and features strong characters, a great script and of course, an immortal theme song.

“Ghostbusters II” however, is not perceived in nearly the same light. While I am a personal fan of the film, it is easy to see the flaws in comparison to the original.

And then there’s the recent remake. Between all the feminist hoopla and controversy surrounding it, what seems to be lost is that the end product was just terrible.

So could superior sequels/reboots have been made? The answer is, always, of course.

Ghostbusters 2

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  1. Come up with an original story

“Ghostbusters 2” is a fun movie. It feels almost exactly like the original. That’s because it pretty much is exactly the original.

The biggest single problem with “Ghostbusters 2” is that it follows the exact same plot as the first film. They both go like this: Some schleps that no one believes in investigate a paranormal phenomenon surrounding Dana Barrett that ends up with them busting a ghost and going on a musical montage. A plot to destroy the world is uncovered and is only exacerbated by a public official prick. The mayor needs to believe enough in the Ghostbusters to let them do their thing. The Ghostbusters work together and the power of the common love of New Yorkers saves the day.

The general rule with a sequel is “be the same, but different.” The film focuses too much on the same and fails to do anything new. The plot needs to be different. It is too much of a coincidence to have another supernatural global threat surrounding Dana. You need to build themes rather than retread prior ground.

Another global threat is fine, but rather than use a very similar plot structure to the previous film, perhaps have the Ghostbusters in another locale. Rather than a big city, perhaps a rural area or a foreign country.

And rather than have the Ghostbusters need to get together and prove themselves to the city once again, the film should start right off the heels of the last film and expand on a new story, with new characters and new themes. Perhaps the Ghostbusters try to franchise and set up other ghostbusting agencies. Perhaps by saving the world they unleash another paranormal demon they need to track around the globe. Perhaps, like the Beatles, their newfound fame creates tensions that force them into breaking apart and they need to come together to save the globe.

2. Advance the characters

In conjunction with a new plot, “Ghostbusters 2” spends too much time retreading similar character developments from the previous film. In the first film, the Ghostbusters seek recognition from the world in regards to their paranormal investigating, and Peter must prove himself to Dana. In the second film, the Ghostbusters seek recognition from the world in regards to their paranormal investigating, and Peter must prove himself to Dana.

The sequel needs to pick up where the original left off and develop those themes towards their next step. It should go deeper.

Rather than having the whole world forget about the events of the first film (seriously, how does no one remember a giant stay puft marshmallow man walking down the street?), the sequel should deal with a world that fully believes in ghosts and paranormal activity. Perhaps the Ghostbusters are overworked and need to hire more and more people to keep up with demand as people freak out more and more about the upcoming apocalypse. Or since Gozer was defeated, there are less ghosts for them to investigate and the Ghostbusters charge more and more for their services to meet up with service costs and people look down on them for being less than their glory days.

The same with Bill Murray’s character. The relationship between him and Dana is pretty good in the second film. It shows that they had a relationship, had some problems and now are thrown together for the sake of saving her child. It could just go a little deeper. Perhaps Dana is kidnapped and Venkman is forced into a father role for Oscar. This would prove his ability as a parent to Dana and reconcile their relationship.

3. Raise the stakes

Sequels also must raise the stakes. If your film deals with the destruction of a city, your sequel should deal with the destruction of a country. If it’s a country, the world. If it’s a world, the universe. Or deeper, it could escalate from the relationship with a loved one to a family.

So in the original “Ghostbusters”, you deal with an apocalyptic god who creates a giant monster and threatens to destroy everything. The stakes are already pretty tall, but “Ghostbusters 2” deals with more of the same: a demon who tries to destroy the city.

So instead of another destroy the world plot, perhaps focus on an entirely different angle. Maybe you harken back to Dan Aykroyd’s original idea and have the Ghostbusters traveling in alternate dimensions to catch ghosts. Or have a stricter challenge from the ultimate baddie at the end, pushing the Ghostbusters towards the ultimate sacrifice.

Or go deeper internally. Focusing on the idea of a Ghostbusters breakup, maybe the test at the finale will force the Ghostbusters to band together as they once did and their reconcile gives the film a deeper emotional impact because not only do they have to overcome a supernatural force, but also their own deficiencies (an example of this would be the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy where the heroes have to save the galaxy again, but the emotional journey is more personal this time around).

4. Don’t make a sequel

This almost goes without saying, but given the success of “Ghostbusters”, don’t bother making a follow-up film. Comedy sequels are nearly impossible to pull off. Sometimes it is just better to leave well enough alone.

It is well-known that Bill Murray can be difficult to work with and his involvement with the second Ghostbusters film was cantankerous. Maybe just leaving the film franchise on the rocks and focusing on the cartoon would have been just fine.

How it Could Have Been

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So how could a second Ghostbusters film have looked?

We pick up at the end of the original movie. The Ghostbusters are now celebrities. They have saved the city and quite possibly the world.

Venkman is on talk shows and does any hack job that gives him a check. He is so wrapped up in his celebrity that he shirks his Ghost-busting responsibilities.

He has started a relationship with Dana, but she breaks up with him as he becomes a prima donna. She starts dating a stiff, stuck up musician, someone so annoying that it’s hilarious. This plays off Murray’s comedic sense perfectly.

Meanwhile, Winston, Ray and Egon continue the ghost hunting responsibilities, but are out of sorts with Venkman’s departure. Perhaps Louis, after his possession by Vince Clortho, has become a sensor for paranormal activity, able to sniff it out and occasionally possessed by spirits randomly. He becomes a Ghostbuster but is so inept that you wonder why they bother keeping him around.

Through Louis, they discover a connection with the ghosts they catch and an ancient Carpathian demon. They travel to Carpathia (comedy ensues through their journey). Egon keeps pushing the limits of the ghost busting technology, giving the team stronger and stronger technology that Louis uses to blow things up. Ray is trying to broaden public knowledge about the dangers of alternate dimensions, but nobody will listen to him as he attempts to tell others that the danger they faced previously is still out there.

Winston is just looking to keep his job and is offered a better opportunity with his sister’s brother’s company. He doesn’t tell anyone, but he contemplates taking it.

In Carpathia, they discover that the evil demon dictator Viggo is planning an invasion from the netherworld. They try to confront him, but are sucked into an alternate dimension. In the ensuing chaos, Louis is killed, turning into a ghost.

On the road, Venkman feels lost. Perhaps he has an assistant (Janosz from the second film) who he bosses around and they quip off each other. He tries to get Dana back, but she confronts him with the accusation that all he cares about is himself.

Then Louis’ ghost shows up, warning him of what has happened and the impending doom that awaits the world. As demons and ghost start to invade the planet, Venkman is presented with a chance at redemption.

He suits up in his Ghostbuster gear and saves Dana from a monster that swallowed her boyfriend. He kisses her before going off to save his friends.

He makes Louis take him to the other dimension using his ghost powers. In the crazy, spiritual realm, he faces off against Viggo who rules the spirit world and hurls everything he has at him. The three Ghostbusters are possessed as slime creatures and Venkman has to fend them off and reach their inner selves to break them free of the curse placed on them.

Together, they take down Viggo and return to the normal world. With the world saved once again, the Ghostbusters reach a crossroads.

Venkman marries Dana, free of most of his ego and his need for fame and fortune, retiring from the Ghostbusters. Winston, realizing his connection to the team, turns down the other job offered to him to remain. Egon is taken back to the netherworld by Louis to investigate the supernatural further. Ray takes lead of the Ghostbusters to recruit the next crop of paranormal fighters.

Ghostbusters 3

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  1. Tie into the first two movies

The first real issue with the 2016 “Ghostbusters” film is that the film has no ties to the first two films. When you are dealing with a property as beloved as “Ghostbusters”, you can’t create a straight-up remake. It is sacrilegious to ignore the work done by Reitman, Aykroyd and Ramis. Much like “Jurassic World” and “The Force Awakens”, you need to soft reboot, returning some of the original cast and continuing the story already set in addition to having new characters.

2. Don’t reintroduce everything

The other major issue with studio remakes today is that they for some reason believe that audiences need to be re-introduced to everything. They feel the need to go through what a ghost is, how the technology to catch them works, what they are up against, etc. I would imagine that most people going to see “Ghostbusters” 2016 have seen the original. It would be better not to waste everyone’s time by replaying the exact same movie.

3. Make a good movie

Harold Ramis is gone. Dan Aykroyd is a pretty strange fellow. Bill Murray is as cantankerous as ever. What they created together with director Ivan Reitman is lightning in a bottle, something that only they could have done. So in approaching a third film in the series, it is imperative for newcomers to realize their limitations. To recreate what those men had would be foolhardy. You have to take their bare bones and realize what you yourself can do. That’s why an entirely different approach was needed. Ramis, Aykroyd, Reitman and Murray did Ghostbusters their way; in making future films, make it to your strengths.

Director Paul Feig and stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon rely too much to what had come before. And their attempt at humor is the lowest common denominator (fart jokes, sex jokes, chuckle gags). There is no wit, there is no charisma. When faced with creating a new Ghostbusters film, it seems as though they panicked, churning out the easiest, cheesiest jokes and plot to satisfy the masses. In that, they greatly undervalued what made “Ghostbusters” work. It’s not just a comedy. Its story, its characters, its plot twists and its heart all made it more, and Feig and co. never really understood that.

How It Could Have Been

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So how could a “Ghostbusters 3” have gone? Ignoring my own personal interpretation of “Ghostbusters 2”, if a third movie were released about 27 years later from the latest movie, it should follow in the footsteps of past soft reboots and incorporate pieces of the original while branching off on its own adventure.

The Ghostbusters are on their last legs. There haven’t been ghosts to hunt in years. Many believe that the fight against paranormal activity is over.

Venkman and Dana have gone on to live their life. Egon is gone. Ray has retired. Winston runs what is left of the shop, checking in on old housewives who hear spooky noises in their attic.

A young paranormal investigator (let’s call her Sarah) grows up idolizing the Ghostbusters. Her parents tell her that the paranormal threat is over, but this doesn’t stop her from pursuing parapsychology. Her paranormal hunting leads her to a house out in the country that has reported some sort of ghostly activity. Sarah goes to investigate and discovers a gateway to Hell.

She tries to tell everyone, but no one believes her. She finally gets in touch with Winston running the downtrodden Ghostbusters, but he doesn’t believe her either; he has no confidence in what he does anymore.

Sarah finds some way to convince him and Winston puts out an ad for a new team. They run through several candidates to hilarious effect and add three more members (let’s call them Greg, Alice and Paul). Each of these members has their own personality quirks and personal journeys they must embark on throughout the film.

The newly-formed Ghostbusters consult Ray who tells them that what made the Ghostbusters special is their belief in their destiny together, and they embark on a quest to the supernatural destination. They are put to the test as a team (fighting amongst each other, issues with ghosts), but in a huge display in front of the world, they believe they defeat the supernatural threat.

The world believes in ghosts again and the new Ghostbusters go out to work in this new world. They follow the advances in technology (ghosts in cell phones, ghosts using Facebook and Twitter) and hunt down the supernatural phenomena that have sprouted in the world once again. Winston runs the department from the confines of the studio, basking in the Ghostbuster fame once again as he retires from the field.

What the team doesn’t realize is that the entity they thought they eliminated back at the farm is actually inhabiting Paul, controlling him. This ghost learns all the secrets of the team and works to destroy them from the inside out. With the team broken up, the evil spirit unleashes demonic entities across the world, with a central hub deep in New York City.

Sarah has to bring the team back together. She uses the knowledge that Winston taught her and the team overcomes their deficiencies to defeat the evil spirits. The Ghostbusters are back.

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“Ghostbusters” will always be a classic and nothing can change that. Its sequels do not detract from its strength. They only prevented it from franchisement. But it’s fun imagining how those sequels could have been better.

 

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The Best 25 Movies of the Last 25 Years Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

8. Lost in Translation (2003)

As indie film took over the industry in the 2000s, Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” asserted itself as a quiet, brilliant character examination that utilized so little but created so much. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an aging actor doing advertisements in Tokyo. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is abandoned in a Tokyo hotel as her photographer husband is out on assignment. A chance meeting brings them together in this land of personal emptiness, and they connect in a way that is so purely human over the course of the story. Revealing their inner fears, hopes, regrets and loves to each other, as the film connects these two lost souls, we feel that connection and remember the connections we ourselves have made and lost over our lives in such a poignant way.

7. Moonlight (2016)

A film about being black, poor and gay all at the same time,  Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” is a tale of acceptance and identity. Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) grows up with a mother addicted to crack. He befriends his mother’s dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Terea (Janelle Monáe), and they become surrogate parents to him. As he learns about his homosexuality, he is picked on at school, with only one friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, André Holland), whose relationship with him grows over the course of the telling. The film is told over three periods of Chiron’s life, from youth to adolescent to adult to fully illustrate his journey. It is about the barriers we create to hide from the cruelty of the world and how those barriers block us from true connection. A beautiful story, “Moonlight” will become a classic in the years to come.

6. Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood not only crafted a great film with “Unforgiven”, he made the defining Western movie. When a prostitute is cut up in the town of Big Whiskey, the whorehouse puts a bounty on the wrongdoer’s heads. William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is called to collect the reward from a young gunslinger, the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett). They partner up with Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and begin the trek to hunt down the two men. Big Whiskey’s sadistic sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), poses a direct threat to their efforts. The film utilizes the tropes of the Western genre, but places a moral compass in the middle of the narrative, showing how killing takes something intangible away from the killer. No film has ever been able to create as much heart from the genre as Eastwood did, and the film stands as the ultimate statement on the Western.

5. Schindler’s List (1993)

“Schindler’s List” is more than just a film. It is a transcendent statement on humanity; the despair and the simultaneous hope that it brings at the worst of times. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a Nazi who owns a factory. As the exterminations of the Jews begin, he decides to save as many souls as he can, hiding them in his factory as “workers.” As the war drags on and the death camps continue, he attempts everything in his power to save his workers. Brimming with history and sorrow, director Steven Spielberg uses all of his creative talent to create not just the story of Schindler, but of the entire Holocaust. Haunting, humbling and unforgettable, it is the most revered film of all time.

4. City of God (2002)

Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God” tells the story of three boys, Bené (Phellipe Haagensen), Li’l Zé (Leandro Firmino) and Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues). All three live in the slums of Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s. Li’l Zé and Bené become crime lords while all Buscapé can do is witness the events surrounding him through the pictures he takes. The film’s narrative weaves together themes of poverty, opportunity, violence, yearning and history as Li’l Zé’s mob gang rises and falls. A coming-of-age story, the film examines social derision and the problems of the modern world in a powerful way.

3. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson has only made 7 feature-length films, but his vision and style are distinctive and incredible. Perhaps his greatest achievement is “There Will Be Blood”, starring a sensational Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview. On his quest for oil and power, he comes face to face with competition in the form of religion, personified by a radical preacher, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). The conflict between business and religion illustrates the methods both use to control the people they need, and in so doing, it relegates both as unethical and corrupt. Perhaps nothing speaks to modern times more than the themes utilized in Anderson’s film.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Few filmmakers have defined an era as much as Quentin Tarantino did during the 1990s. From his breakout hit “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), Tarantino blew the roof off with “Pulp Fiction”, as swag and as defining a film as has ever been made. Whether it is the Royale with Cheese, the gimp or walking with the shepherd, the memorability of the film is uncanny. Tarantino brought the B-list storyline into mainstream moviemaking and paved the way for indie films to become a leading force of the industry. “Pulp Fiction” is one of those films that will always be remembered, ingrained in pop culture with as much vitality as “The Wizard of Oz” or “Star Wars.”

  1. Fargo (1996)

We finish this list with, in my opinion, the best filmmakers of the past 25 years: the Coen brothers. As great as “No Country for Old Men” is, their ultimate work came 14 years beforehand: “Fargo.” It is the story of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a man who hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect the ransom money from his stringent father-in-law. But the star of the film is police detective Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) who is tasked with investigating the murders that transpire as Lundegaard’s plot spins wildly out of control. The Coens don’t make films that are easy to digest. They take a bit of thinking to figure out what it all means and even then, you may find yourself changing your mind upon a second, a third, a fourth viewing. They are artists in an era where more and more of the industry is inundated with banality and a dearth of ideas. When the Coens make films, it’s a cinematic event, and “Fargo” is their seminal work, a film with interesting characters, an ingenious plot, an uncommon theme, great acting and fantastic writing and directing. It is everything we love about the movies.

The Best 25 Movies of the Last 25 Years Part 2

Link to Part One

17. The Social Network (2010)

The finely tuned tandem of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin create a fascinating examination of the dawn of social media with “The Social Network.” Swirling testosterone mixed with betrayal and the potential of billions of dollars combines to alter the lives of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) in ways none of them can imagine as their project, Facebook, shoots off to become a phenomenon the world has never seen before.

16. No Country for Old Men (2007)

A masterpiece of cinematic craft, the Coen brothers create a folk tale from Cormac McCarthy’s source novel. When Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a bag full of money after a drug deal goes wrong, he runs off, initating a cat and mouse chase that features one of the greatest villains of the modern era in Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Tommy Lee Jones plays the cop chasing the whole situation and who realizes the depths of carnage in the world around him. It is a brilliant examination of violence and the harm it does not just to the perpetrators and victims, but the soul of every man in the community.

15. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Hollywood had never really made an honest look into the slave trade until Steve McQueen’s immersive “12 Years a Slave”, a film that brought home the horrors of slavery and the crushing weight of its history. Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man kidnapped by a couple of journeymen and sold into Southern slavery. His journey takes him across two plantations, one run by a semi-decent man (Benedict Cumberbatch) and one by a sadist (Michael Fassbender). A reminder of the pain and disgrace of slavery in United States history, the film examines how the act of slavery is not just a restriction of freedom, but a perversion of basic human decency.

14. Toy Story 2 (1999)

Perhaps no company has defined the past 25 years more than Pixar. Using ground-breaking CGI technology, the original “Toy Story” changed not only animation, but all filmmaking. The fact that it is a great film is an added bonus. But it is with “Toy Story 2” that Pixar officially became a cinematic powerhouse, with a film that added to the first film’s heart, humor and durability. When toy Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy store owner who will sell him to a foreign collector, the rest of the gang (Buzz (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and Slinky Dog (Jim Varney)) will team together and venture out to save him. It is the story of Jessie (Joan Cusack) however that steals the heart of the viewer, a cowgirl toy abandoned by her owner and unsure if she can ever love again. A story about friendship and youth, all the “Toy Story” films are remembered by the child in each of us.

13. Groundhog Day (1993)

A modern day Frank Capra film, “Groundhog Day” takes a comedy premise (What if you lived the same day over and over again?) and imbues it with a deeper quest about life’s purpose and the value of love and community. Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a grumpy weatherman sent to Punxatawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day ceremony. Phil can’t leave however because he keeps living that same day over and over again. As he falls in love with his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), Phil must cope with his seemingly hopeless situation as it drives him to near-insanity. Perhaps Bill Murray’s finest performance, he and director/writer Harold Ramis craft a film that simultaneously makes the viewer laugh, think and love all at the same time.

12. A Separation (2011)

Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” is a brilliant interpersonal drama about gender, marriage, responsibility and truth. Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami) are trying to secure a divorce because he doesn’t want to leave the country due to his ailing father while she does. He hires a housekeeper, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), but when Nader’s father nearly dies when he is out, he blames her for negligence and attacks her. As events spiral out of control, the viewer can’t help but think of the state of the globe and the changing dynamics of old world versus new world in it.

11. Spirited Away (2001)

Hayao Miyazaki has been at the forefront of Japanese animation for the past quarter century and perhaps no film of his Studio Ghibli has been more admired than “Spirited Away.” Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents are moving to their new home when her father takes a wrong turn while driving, and they enter a magical world. When her parents are turned into pigs, it’s up to Chihiro to navigate the mystical land and find the help she needs to save her family and return to the normal world. The film is among the most creatively inspired movies ever made with breathtaking images and a moving story seemingly taken out of mythology.

10. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Perhaps the greatest trilogy ever made, Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” is a composition of everything we love about cinema: big, adventurous, thrilling and heartfelt. In the land of Middle-Earth, young hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) is given the ring of power. He must destroy the ring before it falls into the hands of its master, Sauron, who will use it to enslave the world. With a fellowship to guide him, his journey takes him across the world as war breaks out among the kingdoms of the land. The trilogy brought writing, acting and special effects together in a way that may be unequaled, and it has become a beloved piece of cinema history.

9. The Dark Knight (2008)

Boldly asserting a new type of superhero film, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” incorporated many of the lingering feelings of the post-9/11 world into its narrative. Batman (Christian Bale) joins forces with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to bring down the mob plaguing Gotham city, but the Joker (Health Ledger) emerges from the darkness, threatening their hopes and pushing each of them to their limit. Heath Ledger’s defining performance as the Joker gives the film edginess and charisma, and the encompassing idea of heroism and what that means makes “The Dark Knight” the greatest superhero film ever made.

Part 3

‘The Jungle Book’ gorgeous

Despite the fact that it is a nostalgia-driven marketing endeavor, Disney’s latest live-action foray based off one of their animated classics works because it is filled with heart and gorgeously animated.

Much like its predecessor, “The Jungle Book” focuses on the young boy Mowgli (Neel Sethi) raised by wolves. When the tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba) threatens to kill him, his panther guardian Bagheera (voice of Sir Ben Kingsley) leads him on a quest to the man village where he’ll be safe. Along the way, they meet the villainous Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), the gigantic King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken) and the lovable Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).

Much of the plot remains intact from the animated film with one huge change near the film’s conclusion meant to make way for a sequel (it is not terrible, but not great either). The characters are magnificent CGI representations, full of identity, grace and beauty, and all of the voice actors are excellent (Idris Elba in particular).

The theme of man as a disease to nature works well and respect towards each other across species is a metaphor to our current culture. With a fully realized world in the Indian jungle, the film is engrossing, entertaining and full of Disney charm.

Two detriments to the story are inherent however. One is that the movie can not help but exist in the shadow of its predecessor. It tries to push out and be its own film at times, but with every rendition of “I Want to Be Like You” the film reminds viewers that it is essentially a remake. The film then works as a companion piece to the original, but one can’t help but wonder what the final product would have looked like if director Jon Favreau had been able to create Kipling’s tale independent of the animated film.

The other is the manner of the making of the film. There is no actual jungle at all. Everything was shot in a Los Angeles sound studio. Every creature, tree, mountain is all computer-animated. It is the height of hypocrisy for a film whose moral is the preservation of nature to not actually feature any real nature in it. The film lacks grit and a sense of reality because of it. It is a shame.

But overall, the film is enjoyable, well-made and strong. It is the best live action from animated film released by Disney and an argument can be made that it is even better than the original.

Scene Analysis: Ghostbusters

Director: Ivan Reitman

Writers: Dank Aykroyd and Harold Ramis

Actors: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver

Context: Drs. Venkman, Spengler and Stantz are called to a library where a librarian has been terrified by what she claims is a supernatural specter. The trio of paranormal investigators try to locate the apparition.

Shot 1:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 3.03.58 PM

The scene begins with a tracking shot, showing the men walk down stairs, highlighting how they are leaving the realm of the normal and descending into something wholly unknown to them. We follow along with them, part of the journey. The use of narrow tunnels around them illustrates that they are in a maze, seeking a minotaur more or less of which to combat (or in this case, discover).

Shot 2:

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The row of books at the center of the frame is unnatural since an audience is used to action happening just the right or left of center. The entire scene also emphasizes shadow to show how the characters are navigating into something mysterious, the light barely illuminating the mystery they are searching through.

Shot 3:

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The highlight of the slime shows that they are truly entering an unknown realm, something perverse around them. The motion of the slime dripping down further draws attention to its unnaturalness.

Shot 4:

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The characters are entering the new realm, drawn further into the mystery.

Shot 5:

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The characters examine the slime, unsure quite what to make of it, further being drawn in.

Shot 6:

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The medium shot brings the slime from the previous shot directly into contact with Venkman, eliminating any distance there had been before between the men and the unknown.

Shot 7:

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As the characters continue on their path, the tone is kept in check by Venkman, who treats the slime with disgust and humor. This keeps the story balanced between horror and comedy.

Shot 8:

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A staircase nearly falling down on the men as they continue highlights how much closer they are coming to danger. They are now near the minotaur in the maze and it is challenging them. (As a side note, this was not part of the original script and was a result of the bookcase actually falling down on its own during a take. The filmmakers wisely kept it in to add tension.)

Shot 9:

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The closer angle on Venkman and Stantz highlights how the characters realize they are very close now, and the stakes are higher.

Shot 10:

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This shot directly tracks with the men, following Spengler’s PKE meter, leading down the last leg of the path. We are now firmly with the trio, heading into danger, the PKE serving as a torch of sorts through the halls. By moving the camera so quickly, the viewer can sense the action ramping up.

Shot 11:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.21 AM

The men come face to face with the minotaur, but the shot keeps the anticipation lingering for just a moment longer, showing that they’ve found it, but preventing us from seeing what it is, only their reactions. This makes whatever it is seem that much more terrifying just for a split second more.

Shot 12:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.23 AM

We now glimpse the specter, a benign old woman. This counteracts our expectations which had been building, the audience assuming some sort of terrifying force. By portraying her so small in frame, her power seems diminished.

Shot 13:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.26 AM

Spengler and Stantz stare on in amazement. They are positioned symmetrical in line with the bookcases behind them. It is also worth noting that there is a quiet gust of wind blowing across all three men at this time from some unknown source adding further to the unnatural nature of the encounter.

Shot 14:

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We move in closer to the ghost, admiring it as the scientists do. The wider hall indicates that we have indeed entered the center of the maze. This is what we were meant to find.

Shot 15:

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Stantz and Spengler continue to stand in wide-eyed disbelief. They are so completely taken in by what they see that they cannot even speak. This contradicts their earlier know-it-all attitude and leaves the audience wondering exactly the next shot.

Shot 16:

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Venkman finally asks the two men, “So, what do we do?”

Shot 17:

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Stantz and Spengler turn to each other, both with the same expression that the audience knows is, “I have no idea.” This shows the audience that despite their professionalism and enthusiasm, they are very much in the dark about what to do.

Shot 18:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.39 AM

Venkman decides to take action, moving in the frame while the other two had remained frozen, indicating a need of action.

Shot 19:

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Venkman pulls Stantz towards him, drawing the other two into a need for action with him.

Shot 20:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.44 AM

As the characters move behind a bookcase and out of frame, the viewer can see the library ghost turn and look at them. She is no longer just an object to them or the audience anymore, but an active participant in what is about to occur. The slowness of her movement is also eerie, and the fact that she does not participate further suggests that she is lurking, waiting for the right opportunity.

Shot 21:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.43.49 AM

With Venkman’s back to the camera, the audience is placed in his shoes as he questions Stantz and Spengler on what to do. We, as an audience, watch the two squirm under pressure, trying to decide on a proper course of action. As they decide to make contact, their eyes turn to Venkman, the initiator of the action to come up with a plan, to break the barrier. This shows that not only are the men unsure what to do since they’ve found a ghost, they’re afraid to confront it, revealing a bit about their character (though this will be remedied later throughout the film as their characters are put through trials).

Shot 22:

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Venkman reacts to being singled out as the breaker-of-contact. He sighs in just the right way to show his disappointment in a humorous manner.

Shot 23:

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The characters go back to face the ghost.

Shot 24:

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We now stare at Venkman’s actions as he attempts to make contact. The shot is framed from the opposite point of view, our attention focused on Venkman, not the ghost, but we get a closer sense of the ghost whilst earlier we had stayed away. She appears as more a normal woman who just happens to be a ghost, diluting our expectations further as to what kind of power she possesses.

Shot 25:

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Spengler and Stantz busily take photographs and do readings, retreating into their happy place of research, not contact.

Shot 26:

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The close-up of Venkman asking where the ghost is from brings us back away from the ghost to the scientists. We are Venkman once again, not observing him.

Shot 27:

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Since we are back with the trio of scientists, the librarian ghost appears small again, but her actions of shushing Venkman quietly carry a great effect of creepiness. The sound reverberates longer than it should and her lack of personal connection with any of Venkman’s contact speaks to her otherworldliness.

Shot 28:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.44.18 AM

Venkman’s face drops at the response, or lack thereof. The omnipresent strange glow and low wind continue to stay on him. This series of shots reflect a confrontation of sorts between the scientists and the ghost, setting them up as adversaries, the scientists trying to prod her and the ghost refusing to even contact.

Shot 29:

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The scientists go back in the corner again to discuss their strategy. Stantz takes charge, stating that he has a plan and leads the men back out and towards the ghost.

Shot 30:

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This is in contrast to the earlier shots showing the distance between the scientists and the ghost. That distance is now being closed as they move forward. The music growing louder shows how the confrontation is coming to a head.

Shot 31:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.44.39 AM

The men present a unified front, arcing forward as if ready to pounce. Stantz talks with greater and greater anticipation, building suspense. As we move with them towards the ghost, all the previous buildup of the scene comes to light, the wandering through the halls, the discovering of clues of stacked books and slime, the discovery of the ghost and her utter disregard of them, all building to this moment of actual hero meeting beast. Stantz finally reveals his plan, which is strangely enough to shout, “Get her!” The lack of subtlety produces a burst of humor.

Shot 32:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.44.42 AM

The utter terrifying transformation of the librarian ghost into a demon mixes that humor with horror, both feelings intertwined with the surge of surprise and reaction to the anticipation. By previously confounding our expectations about the nature of the ghost, going from demon who terrified librarian to quiet ghost to terrifying demon again, the ebbs and flows of the scientist’s journey allow easy emotional access for the audience to follow. By moving in closer to the demon than any previous shot had allowed as well, we are placed firmly in its domain.

Shot 33:

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 9.44.44 AM

Venkman, Stantz and Spengler scream in terror and retreat quickly, echoing the audience’s own reaction to the series of shots.

Conclusion:

The scene moves from the scientists trying to find paranormal activity to discovering it. Their experience in the library gives them greater knowledge that will be utilized when they confront other ghosts and ghouls throughout the film.