Ever since a Ghostbusters reboot was announced to replace the lost-in-limbo third installment of the popular eighties franchise, the film, which gender-swapped all the main roles, has been steeped in controversy – you’ll find none of that mentioned in this post. Instead, as we’ve done with various reboots/remakes in the past (see our Evil Dead remake post), we’re going to take iconic scenes, characters and other components from the original 1984 Ghostbusters film and see how the new movie compares to them.
This isn’t a review of the movie (which we’ve already posted), so you won’t find any discussion about which movie “got it right” or “did it better” in this post. We’re simply going to present the differences between the two films (yes, it goes deeper than simply changing genders), and briefly discuss how those changes affected the new movie overall.
You also won’t find any discussion here comparing the style and tone of comedy used in the film. Comedy is highly subjective from person-to-person, so comparing the two from an unbiased position would be difficult.
****WARNING: THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS****
The Opening Scene – The Library vs. The Museum
The opening scene for the movie perfectly sets the tone of the film, letting audiences know the amount of horror they can expect going forward – scary but not too scary. It also gives viewers just enough information to let them know what’s happening, but holds back the full ghostly reveal for a later time.
The scene contains no dialog. Instead, the mood is set by following a librarian (Alice Drummond) as she wanders an underground section of the New York Public Library, eventually being scared half-to-death by an unknown ghastly entity.
The movie opens in much the same manner as the original, except it swaps the public library for a haunted museum – the Aldridge Mansion. Paul Feig and Katie Dippold chose to highlight comedy over horror for their movie, a tone the opening scene undoubtedly sets through the heavy exposition of the mansion’s tour guide (Zach Woods). Just as in the first film, viewers don’t get to see the otherworldly spirit attacking him, but the danger is clearly present.
Initial Contact – The Grey Lady vs. The Forgotten Daughter
As the foremost experts in the field in paranormal activity, Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are called to the New York Public Library to check on above-mentioned ghost-induced disturbance. Upon arriving, they come across a stack of books, which Ray compares to “the Philadelphia Mass Turbulence of 1947,” then discover ectoplasmic residue splattered everywhere.
After turning a corner, they encounter the ghost of former librarian Eleanor Twitty. She turns from gentle to hostile though after the team attempts to bum-rush her.
Physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is confronting her former research partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) when they find out about the paranormal activity at the Aldridge Mansion. Yates’ current lab partner, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), joins them on the investigation, where they find a once locked cellar door now open, seemingly by otherworldly means.
This is when they first encounter a ghost – Gertrude Aldridge, the daughter who was locked away in the cellar and forgotten. However, the peaceful looking apparition turns demonic and, as Erin attempts to make contact, she’s sprayed from head-to-toe in ectoplasmic slime.
The Characters – Original Team vs. New Team
Peter Venkman is the basically a con artist scientist, always looking for his next angle. Of the four members, Ray Stantz is clearly the expert when it comes to paranormal activity and demonology, as he is constantly comparing current ghostly events in New York City to others throughout history. Egon Spengler is the group’s “tech guy” and builds all of their weapons and equipment, such as the proton pack and ghost traps. Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) is the team’s only hired personnel (besides their secretary), but he’s no less essential to the group.
Besides gender-swapping all the characters, the reboot also flips many of the team member’s personalities and squad dynamics. Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates are estranged, former research partners, who serve as “co-straight men” to the comedy provided by Jillian Holtzmann and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Unlike Spengler, who was reserved and nerdy (he collects mold spores for fun), Jillian, who creates the team’s proton weapons, is zany, outspoken, and just a little bit nutty. Tolan, a former MTA worker, joins the team to fight ghosts after seeing one while on the job – a far cry from the way Zeddmore joined the original team.
The Headquarters – Firehouse vs. Chinese Restaurant
After the team is kicked out of Columbia University, Peter convinces Ray to take out a third mortgage on his parents’ house (the one he was born in). They decide to rent an old New York City firehouse, making it the base of operations for their new business venture, “The Ghostbusters.”
The facility has become somewhat of a structural icon in the Big Apple, with many visitors stopping by its real world address, 110 North Moore St, annually.
Soon after encountering the ghost of Gertrude Aldridge, Erin gets fired from Columbia University, while Abby and Jillian are booted from their jobs as well. Undeterred by these setbacks and determined to show the world they aren’t crazy, the trio attempt to start their own business, “The Department of the Metaphysical Examination.”
A realtor (played by scriptwriter Katie Dippold), initially shows them the iconic firehouse but upon learning of the $21,000 per month lease, they take up residence in something a little more affordable – a rundown studio apartment above a Chinese restaurant.
The Secretaries – Janine Melnitz vs. Kevin Beckman
Attempting to make their supernatural business seem legit, the team hires Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) to be their secretary. Janine is a loud, no-nonsense New Yorker who doesn’t like being told what to do very much (answering the phone is her least favorite job duty) yet, she’s exactly what the team needs to counter their soft, nerdy personalities.
She makes no attempt to hide her crush on Egon, hitting on him every chance she gets (though she constantly strikes out, as the scientist is clueless to her advances.)
Thinking they need someone to answer the phones for their new business, Abby sets up an interview with loveable lunkhead Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). What Kevin lacks in personality, common sense, and secretarial acumen, he makes up for in loyalty, good looks, and tight shirts. Much like Janine, the aspiring model (whose hide-and-seek team is in the city championship) doesn’t like to answer the phone – mostly because he thinks it’s underwater.
First Capture – Hotel Ballroom vs. Theater Rock Concert
After several weeks with little-to-no business, the team find themselves in dire need of a cash infusion. As luck would have it, they get a call from the manager (Michael Ensign) of the Sedgewick Hotel, desperately seeking their discreet services. After encountering a “focused, non-terminal, repeating phantasm or a Class 5 full-roaming vapor,” they capture the green ghost affectionately known as “Slimer,” destroying the hotel ballroom in the process.
The success of this incident makes them instant superstars across the city and soon, business begins to boom, leading into a long ghost-capturing montage.
Desperate to prove their paranormal theories to the world, but unable to do so, the new team catches a break when Jonathan (Michael McDonald), a local theater manager, calls them to investigate a series of ghostly apparitions at a death metal concert. It’s there that Patty is singled out by the ghosts, as she is chased by a possessed mannequin and gives a piggy back ride to a giant, winged, dragon-looking demon.
Working together and using gear created Jillian, they are able to capture the demon, then remove him from the building. However, while they are privately praised by Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia), they are publicly called frauds, so as not to “cause mass hysteria.”
The Equipment – Proton Packs vs. Proton Weapons
The “positron collider,” better known as a “proton pack” (though it wasn’t given that name until the Ghostbusters II), is an unlicensed portable nuclear-powered particle accelerator which uses a beam of protons to capture negatively-charged ghosts. Once they’ve been snared, the team sucks the ghouls up in a ghost trap, then deposits them into the specially designed Containment Unit, all of which were created by Egon.
Additionally, Egon uses a PK Meter that is able to both detect and measure the amount of psychokinetic energy produced when a ghost manifests itself in the real world.
Jillian is this team’s scientific genius, always creating, then upgrading, various weapons and devices used to battle those from the other side. Her first attempt at a “proton containment laser” is both a success and a failure – it works but is wildly uncontrollable. She takes it several steps further by creating custom proton weapons for hand-to-hand ghost combat. The best weapon (which is showcased in the most exciting scene of the movie) are the proton pistols, which are actually canon, appearing in several Ghostbusters comics published by IDW.
Ecto-1 – Ambulance vs. Hearse
Ray acquired the 1959 Cadillac ambulance – lovingly referred to as Ecto-1 – for the tidy sum of $4800 (roughly $12000 in today’s market) and, after some extensive repair work, was able to convert it into the perfect vehicle for the team. With a blaring siren and its unmistakable red and white color scheme, the team could easily haul a multitude of supplies, including all of their proton packs and backup traps, using the patient transportation area in the back of the car as storage.
Trying to prove her value to the team (and do her part), Patty “borrows” a Cadillac hearse from her Uncle Bill (one of two that he owns). While Erin and Abby aren’t too thrilled at the aspect of riding around in a hearse (there could be a body in the back), Holtzmann is ecstatic about the vehicle’s potential. This Ecto-1 also receives a loud siren, along with the iconic red and white color scheme, and even houses a portable nuclear reactor on top, which the team uses to create a total protonic reversal in order to defeat the film’s main villain.
The Ghosts – Old School vs. New School
Ghosts such as the Grey Lady, Slimer, and Zuul – a demon who possesses Peter’s girlfriend Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) – usually take center stage when it comes to the film’s ethereal characters. However, once Environmental Protection Agency officer Walter Peck (William Atherton) releases all the ghosts from the Containment Unit, New York City is overrun with spirits. A female ghost floats over Ray as he sleeps, a ghost chases people from the subway, and a decaying corpse can be seen driving customers around the city in a wild manner.
The visual effects for Ghostbusters, headed up by Richard Edlund (Poltergeist), were near cutting edge for the time period. By using a mixture of animatronic puppeteering and plate photography, they were able to produce some of the most realistic ghosts ever seen on the big screen.
Running the gamut between scary, spooky and just plain wacky, Abby, Erin, Jillian and Patty had the (dis)pleasure of running into all sorts of ghosts. Besides the aforementioned dragon demon and mannequin they encountered at death metal concert, the team has to deal with many other ghastly creatures including: Revolutionary War soldiers, a electrocuted inmate, a group of people from the roarin’ twenties, a stilt-walking man, a bunch of Macy’s Day Parade balloons and of course, Slimer.
While some effects in the film are a mix motion capture technology and digital enhancements (such as the Forgotten Aldridge Daughter), most of the ghosts who appear in the movie are mostly done in CG. All the colors are vibrant and the ghosts are clearly defined though, but they just look a little too “clean”, often being compared to those seen in a Scooby Doo cartoon.
Slimer – Ugly Little Spud vs. Slimer and His Joyriding Friends
Slimer, while not very powerful or dangerous (he’s just hungry), is probably the most well known spirit in the Ghostbusters universe. Affectionately referred to as the “Ugly Little Spud,” Slimer is made up of pure ectoplasmic energy and leaves a trail of ectoplasma, or slime, everywhere he goes – hence his name.
Peter learns this first hand when the team attempts to capture Slimer on the twelfth floor of the Sedgewick Hotel, causing him to utter those iconic words, “He slimed me.”
Because Slimer isn’t the first ghost the new team encounters, audiences won’t get to see him until much later in the film, but it’s still a throwback to a scene from the first movie. As they approach a food truck, Slimer appears from the storage area with his mouth full of food. Startled, he runs from the team and steals Ecto-1, taking it for a joyride around New York City.
The Bad Guys – Zuul and Gozer vs Rowan and the Fourth Cataclysm
All of the extra supernatural activity in New York City (generating enough psychokinetic energy to make a thirty-five feet long, six hundred pound Twinkie) is the result of the Zuul, the Gatekeeper, and Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster – demigods and minions to a powerful demon known as Gozer – trying to generate enough PK to bring their master back into the real world.
When Gozer asks the team to choose the body of their own destruction, only Ray is unable to clear his mind and the mascot from his favorite childhood snack food comes to life.
Rowan is a disturbed and creepy young man who works as a bellhop at the Mercado Hotel. All the ghosts recently seen by the team and various New Yorkers are being summoned by Rowan in an attempt to bring about the Fourth Cataclysm, which would end the world as we know it. He builds electric, steampunk-like devices in the hotel’s basement that help the ghosts break the plane of existence between their world and ours.
The Final Showdown – Stay Puft Marshmallow Man vs. The Ghostbusters Logo
Ray gives Gozer the material it needs (the ancient Mesopotamian god has no gender) to bring about the world’s destruction in the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – the smiling, sailor hat-wearing anthropomorphic mascot for Stay-Puft Marshmallows. Mr. Stay Puft is a 100-foot tall Class 7 Supreme Being and he begins a rampage down the streets of New York City.
As he scales the side of Dana’s apartment building, the team realizes the only way to defeat him is to “cross the streams” of their proton packs – something Egon warned them earlier not to do, as it could result in apocalyptic results. They defeat him and he falls harmlessly into a melted pile of goo on the street below.
After the new team manages to eject Rowan from Kevin’s body, he gives them the choice of what form he should take next. Patty tells him, “Let’s go with something little, cute, and non-scary,” offering the group’s logo as a suggestion. Instead of the cute little ghost seen on the side of Ecto-1, Rowan becomes a 100-foot tall monster, complete with large teeth, and begins stomping and ripping apart everything in sight.
The Theme Song – Ray Parker Jr. vs. Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot
Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song for the original movie, aptly titled Ghostbusters, is arguably the most recognized pop song from any movie in history. The song is distinctly eighties, layering synthesizer keyboard hooks and a repetitive synth bass line constantly “walking” in the background, over easy-to-remember lyrics such as, “Who ya gonna call?” and “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost”.
Just as the original theme song was filled with a sound which was modern during the eighties, the new theme song, Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid), is familiar modern blend of pop and hip hop. Written and performed by pop punk/emo band Fall Out Boy and featuring the lyrical talents of rapper Missy Elliot, the new song is driven largely by a bass and drum track, with a dirty, overdriven guitar present throughout.
The song hasn’t been all that popular with fans of the original property (it’s also featured at odd times during the movie), and while it most likely won’t be remembered as fondly in thirty years, it still fits with the overall modern spin director Paul Feig was attempting to create. Listen to the song – HERE – or watch the fantastic Japanese video for the original song – HERE.
Like it or not, Ghostbusters (2016) will always be compared to Ghostbusters (1984) and that’s a mighty big shadow to get from under – no matter how talented the cast, writers, or director involved with the project. From the ghosts, to the bust of the late Harold Ramis, to cameos from the original cast (minus the retired Rick Moranis), it’s clear that Feig was trying to pay homage to the original series, while still creating something new for the franchise with his own spin.
That’s not to say that every change necessarily lands successfully, but when both movies are laid out side-by-side, it’s easy to see how the two stories, and various elements from each, compare to each other.
Did you spot any other comparisons from the first film that we may have missed? Tell us about them in the comment section.
Ghostbusters is in theaters now.
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