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Less than three years after Sony’s Ghostbusters reboot battled online trolls and fizzled at the box office, Tuesday’s news that the property is coming back quickly sparked conversations among fans about nostalgia, toxic fandom and legacy.
Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, will helm a continuation of the series that ignores Paul Feig’s female-led reboot, which starred Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. The new film, sources say, will focus on four teens — two boys and two girls — and continue the story of 1984’s Ghostbusters and the 1989 sequel.
Ignoring the 2016 film is a missed opportunity, Hannah Woodhead argues in a piece she wrote for London-based film magazine Little White Lies titled “An Open Letter to Jason Reitman.” She writes that while 2016’s Ghostbusters wasn’t an original idea, the all-female team pushed the franchise forward in an important way that may be lost in the new version.
“I think we suffer from this collective sense of nostalgia in film, where we’re always looking to the past rather than the future,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The past is safe. The past is easy.”
1984’s Ghostbusters is widely considered a classic, and while the 1989 follow-up was less well-received, it does have its fans. Decades later, Feig’s all-female 2016 Ghostbusters received a fresh 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, higher than Ghostbusters II. In addition to misogynistic trolling online, Jones faced racist attacks that caused her to leave Twitter for a period of time.
“I think it’s a really entertaining movie that was doomed simply because it wasn’t the film a certain very loud percentage of the audience wanted,” says Drew McWeeny, longtime film critic and co-creator of the 80s All Over podcast.
McWeeny understands criticisms of Reitman taking the reins for the new installment, but believes he is well-suited for the director’s chair.
“While I get why some people might be annoyed, I met Jason Reitman for the first time in 1990, when he was still ‘just Ivan’s kid,’ and at that point, he was movie-crazy and also knew his dad’s work intimately,” says McWeeny. “It makes sense that he’d want to do that, and I suspect he’ll do a good job with it.”
Cracked contributor Chris Sutcliffe, who was a fan of Feig’s film and grew up with Ghostbusters, expresses more concern about the direction of the franchise under Reitman the younger.
“What frustrates me about this new film, and I’m very aware that we’ve had very little news, is how keen they are to distance themselves from the 2016 film,” says Sutcliffe. “Not only will it feel like a victory to all the wrong people, but it just feels like a creative step backward.”
After the announcement, Sutcliffe took to Twitter to posit that this new Ghostbusters is missing an opportunity to converge universes a la Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which combined multiple spider-people into one story.
“[Spider-Verse] tells a new story with a diverse cast while still acknowledging the past,” Sutcliffe says. “You could easily take the ball from Feig’s story to explore generation gaps, or fatherhood, or the cyclical nature of disasters. You could have four of the funniest actresses right now working with the retired originals. There are a hundred stories you could tell that wouldn’t send the message to the little girls that liked the 2016 version that they’ve had their turn.”
Sutcliffe does acknowledge the possibilities of the new film, which as of yet does not have original stars such as Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd confirmed to return, though it’s a possibility.
“There is every chance that we’re going to still get a great film,” says Sutcliffe. “Maybe it will further open up the franchise. Maybe they’ve been lying and I’ll get the big crossover event all along.”
McWeeny is hopeful the new film is not actually writing off the 2016 reboot. He wonders if there’s a possibility that something larger is going on that could involve the leading ladies of Feig’s film. “The first thing I heard when they set up shop to get this go-round of ghostbustin’ off the ground, before Feig came onboard even, was that they had a master plan.”
He cites the comic book runs of Ghostbusters at IDW Publishing and how those “lean heavily on the idea that all of the Ghostbusters iterations are pocket universes, something that they came up with before Spider-Verse hit theaters.”
As Woodhead points out, an animated Ghostbusters movie Sony is developing separately could be that franchise’s answer to Spider-Verse.
The trolling the Ghostbusters reboot film encountered continued something seen before, such as when actor John Boyega was the target of racist comments following the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer in 2014. And it would be seen again when Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s Kelly Marie Tran felt forced to leave social media due to harassment.
Woodhead thinks that the new Stars Wars films prove that movies like Ghostbusters can succeed, as long as they manage to blend nostalgia and newness in a smart way. And without acknowledging the 2016 movie, you’re ignoring some of that nostalgia.
Reitman’s new Ghostbusters movie is expected for summer 2020.