This year marked the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which first premiered on June 1, 1984. Strangely enough, this is also the year that’s seen the most traction on the much rumored, only dreamed about, and highly divisive continuation of the franchise. While many fans of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, have longed for a third installment in the supernatural undertakings of New York’s finest paranormal experts, getting the movie off the ground has been a long and arduous process. The biggest hurdle in getting a third film made was the apparent lack of interest on the part of co-stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as well as director Ivan Reitman. Considering the cast and crew were essentially pressured into making the sequel by Columbia Pictures in 1989, it’s not surprising that there would be some hesitancy in making a third.
Plans to revive the franchise have been bandied about for over two decades with interest waxing and waning depending on popular trends in Hollywood and the state of the film industry itself. The project appeared to be moving forward in 2010 when Reitman announced he’d be directing and that Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd would make cameos in order to pass on the torch to the next generation of Ghostbusters. The death of Harold Ramis in February of this year, however, followed by Reitman dropping out of directing a month later seemed to be the last straw for the franchise. With the need for nostalgia-fueled movies running high, was a third film even worth attempting if Ramis was gone, Murray a probable no-show, and Reitman backing off to produce rather than direct?
The fact that Ghostbusters III is now a highly anticipated reality speaks to the franchise’s viability. With Reitman taking a back seat as the director, it was announced in October that Paul Feig would take over those duties, adding that he intended to make the next movie about an all-female team of Ghostbusters with screenwriter Katie Dippold. Neither Feig nor Dippold are strangers to projects with hilarious women – the two worked together on the buddy cop comedy The Heat (2013) starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Prior to that Feig gained critical acclaim with Bridesmaids (2011), featuring an all-female cast of comedic actresses, while Dippold cut her writing chops on MADtv and Parks and Recreation. Their comedic backgrounds in sketch, improv, film, and television make them highly qualified to take over the reins of a huge comedic franchise that includes cartoons, video games, and comic books.
The only sticking point is Feig and Dippold’s plan to turn Ghostbusters III into a hard reboot, starting from scratch instead of building off of the first two films. Feig told Entertainment Weekly:
I had lunch with [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal when I got back to town. She was just saying, gosh, nobody wants to do this. I said, yeah, it’s really hard to take that on, especially since it’s 25 years later. how do you come back into a world that’s had these ghosts and all this? It just felt too difficult. How do you do it and not screw it up? But then it was bugging me for the next few days because Ghostbusters is such a great thing and everybody knows it, and it’s such a great world. It’s a shame to just let this thing sit there. I want to see another one. My favorite thing to do is work with funny women. I was like, what if it was an all female cast? If they were all women? Suddenly, my mind kind of exploded: that would be really fun. And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?
There are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, I can totally see why rebooting the property and starting from scratch works to Feig and Dippold’s advantage. If the movie functions as it’s own thing, removed from the previous films, then it gives them the ability to establish their own rules as to how the paranormal works in a modern day setting. It also sets a new tone for possible sequels going forward that would allow them to do more world-building, making the movies as funny and scary as they want without having to stay true to what came before. Their Ghostbusters would be “spiritual” successors to Reitman’s in that the general premise would remain the same while giving them the freedom to branch out with their own brand of Ghostbusters.
On the other hand, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II never concretely established the mechanics of the paranormal, so it would still be possible for Feig and Dippold to establish their new team of Ghostbusters while building off of the first two films. Yes, the tone of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II was mostly lighthearted fun with a few freaky moments, but in the thirty years since Gozer tried to destroy the world and Vigo tried to possess a baby, there’s plenty of room to explore how the world has adjusted to ghosts being a thing and whether or not the Ghostbusters have thrived or faltered.
That’s why I feel like there’s more potential in at least keeping the next Ghostbusters film in the same reality as the first and second. One of the charms of the first film was the idea of treating ghosts like vermin, something that needed to be exterminated with the Ghostbusters taking on the role of blue collar working stiffs who just happen to take them out with highly unstable proton packs. The simplicity of the premise is how easy it would be to introduce new characters into the world.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Ghostbusters, in-universe, have expanded their business to other cities outside of New York, recruiting young, eager scientists, engineers, and your typical blue collar types in the same vein as police and fire departments. Depending on your team, there are plenty of ways to introduce the new characters. If Peter Venkman had a local tv show in New York, it’s not out of the question that one of the new Ghostbusters, or all of them, watched his show as children. Ray owned a bookstore, so someone could have been a former employee. Maybe others took classes from Egon in college. Hell, Winston could have taken over the business himself, acting like the beleaguered captain to a bunch of newbie Ghostbusters. Or it could simply be a case of having characters who want to bag ghosts. Look at the plethora of “ghost hunting” reality tv shows; the paranormal is of definite interest to the viewing public and I could see a Ghostbusters parody of those reality shows, only this time the ghosts are proven to be real and the ‘Busters are cashing in on the trend.
Of course, the same parody could occur in a universe where the Ghostbusters are reintroduced via reboot. While trying to be “ghost hunters” a la the tv shows, a group of female scientists and enthusiasts discover real ghosts, which leads them down the path to becoming Ghostbusters. So, yes, it’s possible for in-universe and new universe explanations, but I still like the idea of one of the new Busters being such a fangirl for Venkman’s show that she went into paranormal studies because of him.
Ghostbusters is a franchise made to be updated as new teams are introduced. Dan Aykroyd definitely sees the same potential in the franchise, telling Dennis Miller on The Dennis Miller Show in 2011 that:
What we have to remember is that ‘Ghostbusters’ is bigger than any one component…The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters III is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.
The “new blood” in question may be actresses like Kristin Wiig, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Lawrence, and Amy Schumer. But the recently leaked emails from Sony reveals another possible spin-off starring Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt, with the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) producing, that could turn the Ghostbusters franchise into a multi-movie spanning universe where various teams from around the country, or the world, join together to defeat a major threat.
Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking, but in the post-Avengers world of movie making, I guarantee you the thought has crossed the mind of at least one executive at Sony. Anything that can be turned into a franchise of movies with tie-in comics, tv shows, and toy lines is ripe for the picking. So, yeah, DREAM BIG! And much like J.J. Abrams taking on Star Wars VII, Ghostbusters will be in the hands of a director and writer intent on honoring what came before while still pushing forward. There’s also a whole generation of actors who are passionate about being involved in the project because they grew up with the movies. As daunting as the task is to “get it right”, it’s also not about reinventing the wheel. Ghostbusters lends itself to finding new angles of storytelling within a familiar setting. All you need is a team, cool gadgets, some humor, and a lot of ghosts!
But what are your thoughts on Ghostbusters III? Should they work within the already established universe or branch out on their own? Who would be your dream team of female Ghostbusters?