The Challenges Facing 'Ghostbusters 3'

Next year, there’s going to be something strange in the neighborhood again. Sony has brought filmmaker Jason Reitman on board to relaunch Ghostbusters, just three years after Paul Feig’s franchise reboot. This next installment won’t follow the continuity of Feig’s movie, however, nor will be another ground-up reboot. Instead, it’ll be a sequel to 1989’s Ghostbusters II, because … that’s a thing that needed to happen, apparently?

To be fair to Sony executives, the idea of going back to the original movies is one that makes a certain amount of sense, particularly following the failure of the 2016 reboot, which was estimated to have lost around $70 million for the studio; given what could be seen as a rejection of the idea of starting afresh, bringing back some of the original cast and trading explicitly on the nostalgia for the original movies is the most obvious approach for keeping the property alive moving forward — especially in light of Star Wars having successfully relaunched under those same conditions.

The open-ended stories of the original two Ghostbusters movies mean that it wouldn’t be too difficult for audiences to believe that there could be a new supernatural threat visited upon New York City; the first two were seemingly random, so why couldn’t another random attack happen today, requiring the original characters come out of retirement? It makes as much (or, conversely, as little) sense as anything else in the series.

But not everything needs to be given The Force Awakens treatment, and approaching Ghostbusters as if it were Star Wars feels like a misunderstanding of at least one of those properties. Unlike Star Wars, Ghostbusters isn’t a series that is attempting to tell one story, never mind one that has a generational aspect built into it; all of the Ghostbusters movies to date have been comedies first, with series mythology as an afterthought. Indeed, the original movie was intended as a one-off, with the second arriving only after pressure from the studio.

More than that, the appeal of Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t translate easily into Ghostbusters; not only is one-quarter of the original team unavailable, following Harold Ramis’ 2014 death, but those that remain are — with the arguable exception of Bill Murray — no longer the comedic figures that they were 30 years ago, to put it mildly. Do fans really want to see the Dan Aykroyd of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and Christmas With the Kranks busting ghosts onscreen once again, especially given comments he made about the 2016 reboot after it flopped?

Add to that the choice of director; Jason Reitman is hardly known for making the kinds of broad, special effects-driven comedies that one would expect from a Ghostbusters movie. That’s not to say he’s incapable of doing so — and, of course, the Marvel Studios system has thrived on giving big budgets to directors not known for such projects — but, outside of his familial connection to the franchise, his involvement feels particularly counterintuitive. (That said, if Reitman delivered an introspective, quiet comedy about the aged Ghostbusters decades after their heyday, I would be entirely onboard; I just don’t think that’s what’s coming.)

All told, the revival of Ghostbusters in this form feels cynical and insincere in its pursuit of a demographic unsatisfied by the last attempt, which is surely the opposite of everyone involved. Could the eventual movie be good? Of course, and we’ll all wait for summer 2020 before making a final decision. Right now, however, it’s something weird and it don’t look good. Who are we supposed to call about this kind of exorcism, though?