In one small way, this is the tale of two Hemsworths.
Over the past several days, I’ve sat through two action movies that are also reboots. First, it was Independence Day: Resurgence and—shocking virtually no one—it was terrible. Next, it was the new Ghostbusters—the one starring women that puzzlingly has the power to destroy the childhoods of weak-minded men the same way Slimer rips through a vulnerable hot dog cart.
Ghostbusters was actually fun and funny—everything you want from a summer blockbuster. As a reboot, it maintains the spirit of the original (many of the original film’s stars make cameos), while also being fresh and—while not necessarily unexpected, as they’re definitely working in a well-oiled formula here— never boring. The action sequences are gripping. A supernova of star-worthy charisma, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig have palpable chemistry and clearly have a blast working together. Chris Hemsworth makes a surprisingly hilarious turn as the Ghostbusters’ new secretary, Kevin, and the villain (Neil Casey) is—get this—the same type of pathetic dude who’s probably spending his workday sabotaging Ghostbusters’ ranking on IMDb right now.
While the new Ghostbusters succeeds to further and strengthen the line of Ghostbusters movies that came before it, the new Independence Day does the opposite. It’s boring and (featuring the lesser Hemsworth, Liam) poorly acted. The plot is scripted in a way where actions—even the deaths of returning characters—don’t really have emotional consequences, making it impossible to feel for, well, anything. If you’re the type of extreme person who believes that a sequel can disgrace or destroy an entire franchise (and I am not), look no further than this. The first Independence Day was a near perfect action movie, while the new version is an irredeemable snore. (I literally fell asleep during the climax.)
And yet, for some mysterious reason, the internet’s most furious jerk-off boards don’t seem to care about the way this sequel besmirches the original, even though, unlike Ghostbusters, Resurgence is receiving awful reviews across the board. Actually, the reason’s not mysterious at all; it’s because of vaginas. Specifically, vaginas attached to women making jokes, kicking ass, and taking names.
I was looking forward to going into Ghostbusters and reviewing it as an action comedy, not an action comedy *starring women,* but midway through, I discovered this was impossible. You can’t escape the fact that these are female Ghostbusters because the filmmakers (director/co-writer Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold) and its cast don’t want you to escape it. The jokes are decidedly silly and from a woman’s point of view (queef jokes are the new fart jokes). There’s a scene midway through the movie where Wiig’s character Erin reads sexist comments from her YouTube channel (“Ain’t no women gonna catch no ghosts”). Later, Leslie Jones’s Patty, dropped while crowdsurfing, complains, “Okay, I don’t know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell.” Even in their fictional world, these Ghostbusters are facing sexism and—thankfully—they’re ready for the fight.
That’s not to say that the film is political or allegorical or hinting at some deeper meaning. Rather it’s goofy and stupid in a good way, exactly as the original was. Zach Woods opens the movie as a tour guide in a haunted mansion, pointing out historical features like a“face bidet” and “anti-Irish security fence.” Andy Garcia appears as the willingly ignorant mayor of New York and Cecily Strong, always a delight, is his high-strung assistant. There are jokes about sexism, but there are also jokes about DeBarge, rent prices, and—weirdly—several about soup.
Still, as a franchise that’s always been about underdogs fighting to make the world believe them, featuring women as its leads feels like a natural turn. Wiig and McCarthy’s characters are academic outcasts, Leslie Jones plays a disrespected blue collar MTA worker, and McKinnon is an undervalued (and genius) engineer. For a film about ghosts, it’s all decidedly real and played to with the refreshing lightheartedness that says “we’re laughing together,” not “we’re laughing at you.”
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Watching Ghostbusters and comparing it to Resurgence made it all the more clear that those up in arms about the former aren’t mad from a place of nostalgia, they’re mad from a place of misogyny. Assuming that the ‘80s and ‘90s were the true salad days of action movies, I can easily say that the new Ghostbusters—without a doubt—further succeeds in capturing that vintage spirit. The only difference between now and then is that the modern version contains jokes for and by women. If you can’t see that this is a good thing, then—I don’t know, my dude—enjoy your summer of terrible Independence Day installments.
Image via Columbia Pictures/Ghostbusters.