Ghostbusters Reboot Has a Director, What About Its Cast (and Gender)
Is Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters Director/Producer Ivan Reitman, here to right the ship?
When a valuable franchise falters oftentimes changes are made, and new voices are brought in. What we'll watch closely here is if, in the instance of Ghostbusters, the decision to move forward with an all-female cast is scrapped.
That choice came with controversy. One that was ugly, unfortunate, and quite frankly ridiculous.
Ghostbusters is one of those iconic and beloved 1980's franchises, so it's no surprise that Sony wants to go back to that well. Reports of a Ghostbusters 3 have been around since not long after Ghostbusters 2, which was 30 years ago in 1989. Eventually, there was 2016's reboot directed by Paul Feig, and starring a female cast.
With the female cast came controversy sparked largely by internet trolls. The movie also failed to earn back a profit. How those two things worked in conjunction is up for some debate.
Of course these days it takes more than one flop to scare a studio away from valuable, nostalgia-laden I.P. And thus it was no big surprise to see that Ghosts would be busted again at a theater near you.
The interesting, and potentially explosive, aspect of it all at this early stage is if the new Ghostbusters will continue to reflect a diverse cast, or if it will shrink away from that challenging but noble task.
The first choice made was to hire a familiar name. That in itself does reflect a desire for safety.
Ivan Reitman directed and produced the original 1984 Ghostbusters. It was a script from stars Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd (with heavy and infamous adlibbing by star Bill Murray). The end result of Ghostbusters is that it is truly inimitable.
There is no other movie quite like Ghostbusters. It's a comedy/sci-fi... blockbuster. It's bizarre, hilarious, and flat out weird. Before that, the senior Reitman was known for his work on early 1980's comedy gems Meatballs, Animal House, and Stripes.
So much of what made the original Ghostbusters was the lightning in the bottle of its concept and cast. Even the sequel with the same team intact failed to replicate its unique magic.
His son, Jason Reitman has certainly had a swath of success carving out his own career in the shadow of his father's massive success. The younger Reitman is known for Juno, and Up in the Air among others.
Do those types of films and their tone make him a natural pick for a Ghostbusters movie? Not really. Certainly not in the way that Paul Feig seemed.
With Feig, it seemed like Sony was making a bold choice to pursue his unique ability to combine humor with humanity. You could certainly see how Feig's resume, with Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids, makes him a fit in much the same way that Ivan Reitman was a fit with Meatballs and Animal House.
With the cast, Feig had a group of extremely funny and talented actresses. The choice to try and recreate a different kind of lightning in a different kind of bottle was a creatively bold one.
As skilled and accomplished a filmmaker as Jason Reitman is, let's be honest: nepotism is a greater comfort to Hollywood than controversy and diversity is.
And does the name really help? Do most movie-goers globally put together, or care, that the director of the new one is a child of the director of the first one? If Solo: A Star Wars Story is any indicator, they do not.
Solo was co-written by a son of celebrated original Star Wars sequel screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan. Fans did not exactly adore that entry into the Star Wars saga, and it gained the unfortunate distinction of being the franchises first flop.
Does returning to a Reitman suggest that maybe the whole idea here is to get back to what worked? Which begs the original question... are we going to see an erasure of the female reboot cast in favor of a male one?
Star of the 2016 reboot Leslie Jones certainly thinks so. She was the target of much of the backlash and hatred during the release of the film, and according to Indiewire, she spoke out via twitter about the new film calling it "insulting".
Jones' concern is a fair one. And maybe an indicator that nobody at Sony has contacted her, or her castmates, about the new Ghostbusters.
It would indeed be strange for a major franchise that performed a reboot to scrap cast, characters, direction etc. etc. entirely. In instances like Warner Brothers' troubled D.C. Universe, the casting choices have remained intact despite expensive missteps here and there. When Star Trek Into Darkness failed to perform at expected levels, the same cast of the reboot was brought back for Star Trek Beyond.
What a choice to scrap the all-female cast would indicate is a regret of that decision, and more importantly, it's a white flag raised in the face of intolerance.
Despite a common belief to the contrary, Hollywood does not actually have a set of politics or ethical beliefs it adheres to. Even if particular individuals in the industry have leanings, and express them, bigger commercial reasons dictate decisions.
Individuals do however still get to decide what they will put their names on and effectively co-sign.
In my view, it would be a shame to signal to the trolls of the world that assaulting the idea of an all-female Ghostbuster cast can bring about the desired result.
Might we get something of a compromise? Two female Ghostbusters and two male? Maybe of varying backgrounds? If it can be done all the while serving the goal, to make a good movie, don't we all win?
The question of whether or not artists and filmmakers should consider and adhere to diverse representation in their works is a fiercely debated one.
In any case, how Sony and the creative team on this movie handle this all is interesting, and there will be hot takes abound either way.
In a time where equal representation and diversity continues to be a daily and important battle, let's hope Leslie Jones is wrong and Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters doesn't undo the hard-earned progress the 2016 reboot started to make.