The recent announcement of the cast for the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot was met with the usual flood of overblown internet outrage that accompanies nearly everything these days. Most of the objections seem to be centered on the idea that Hollywood shouldn’t have unearthed the franchise at all. Personally, I’ve resigned to compromising with what Hollywood productions are going to offer. Nostalgia is big money right now. In a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people to the cinema, producers will take the guaranteed, built-in audience every time. The best you can hope for is that somewhere in the process someone’s going to try to make these reboots interesting, because they aren’t going away. Paul Feig’s all-female approach to a Ghostbusters reboot is honestly just about the only one I could imagine that wouldn’t be completely pointless. The recent casting announcement make the idea even more promising, since it included four eccentric, boisterous personalities (Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Melissa McCarthy) that have the potential to bring enough weird, idiosyncratic energy to the reboot to distance it from its source material in both style & tone. Feig’s Ghostbusters might just be the rare kind of reboot that can justify an existence on its own.
It at least beats the alternative. For years O.G. Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd has been trying to get his own sequel to the franchise off the ground. Bill Murray’s resistance to reprising his role as Peter Venkman in Ghosbusters 3 was the long-time thorn in Aykroyd’s side, but Harold Ramis’ devastating passing last year was the final blow to the prospect. Admittedly, Aykroyd’s long-in-development script sounds like it had some promise. For instance, he dropped hints that the plot would somehow relate to recent advances in particle physics & the role he had written for Murray would’ve involved Venkman’s wisecracking ghost. The problem is more that Aykroyd cannot be trusted when left to his own devices. His sole director’s credit, Nothing But Trouble, which he also wrote & stars in, is one of the most bizarrely terrible movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a thoroughly unlikeable & unfathomable work that is the direct result of Aykroyd’s ego going unchecked. Similarly, his decision to write a Blues Brothers sequel more than a decade after costar John Belushi’s death was a total disaster and a detriment to the reputation of the original. Nothing But Trouble & Blues Brothers 2000 were the last two screenplays penned by Aykroyd, so it might be best that his version of a third Ghostbusters film never saw completion.
Aykroyd has publicly given his blessing to Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot and I hope that he’s sincere when he says he’s “delighted” by the casting. Ayroyd doesn’t need to write a Ghostbusters sequel because he is actually living one. In the press release where he gives his blessing to Feig’s cast he goes on to say “My great grandfather, Dr. Sam Aykroyd, the original Ghostbuster, was a man who empowered women in his day, and this is a beautiful development in the legacy of our family business.” Aykroyd’s real-life great grandfather was a dentist by trade, but he was also a spiritualist & a paranormal investigator. Ayrkoyd has claimed that his great grandfather would put on séances as a form of entertainment, which is not far from the spirit of the Ghostbusters franchise. Indeed, his family’s interest in the paranormal was passed down to him generationally & served as the basis of the original Ghostbuster’s film: to combine the “real” science of ghosts & spirits with old-fashioned ghost-themed comedies. With the first two installments of Ghostbusters, Aykroyd had achieved his goal of bringing his real-life obsession with the paranormal to the big screen. As he had continued his pursuit of infusing paranormal concepts into his work after the second film, a third installment seems redundant. He’s living Ghostbusters 3 on a daily basis.
The tactic Aykroyd employs to incorporate the paranormal in his professional life is an unlikely one, almost just as unlikely as a giant, city-destroying marshmallow or a painting come to life. He sells vodka. In an ancient (internet-wise) viral commercial for his Crystal Head Vodka, Aykroyd explains his interest in the paranormal while trying to sell you alcohol. He says things like “Since childhood I have been fascinated with the invisible world,” “There is more to life than mere material reality,” and “No one will show us the bodies from Roswell” in the same matter-of-fact tone that made him perfect for his roles in Coneheads & Dragnet. There are hours & hours of interview footage in which Aykroyd expounds upon his belief in the otherworldly like a particularly talkative caller on Coast to Coast AM, but the Crystal Head Vodka commercial is a perfect encapsulation of his worldview in an easily consumable 8min runtime. He’s so cheerful & confident in his explanations of the physical powers of positive thinking and the extraterrestrial origins of thirteen mysterious crystal heads that you can tell he really loves what he’s doing. He even encourages people who don’t share his beliefs to buy his product anyway, saying if nothing else it’s a “a luxury vodka in a cool bottle”. I can get behind that kind of honesty.
In one of his interviews about the possibility of a Ghostbusters 3, Aykroyd claimed “I’m about the future, not the past. I don’t reminisce.” Indeed, his idea of a particle physics themed Ghostbusters did sound like a somewhat fresh take on the franchise, but bringing back the old guard of actors & characters for the project doesn’t exactly sound like treading new ground. In a cinematic climate where reboots are inevitable and a new Ghostbusters will arrive in theaters, justified or not, I think Paul Feig’s approach is the best one possible for the franchise. The recent casting announcement gives the reboot a chance to stand out on its own as a unique work, even if it isn’t based on an original idea. Instead of Aykroyd giving the third installment the Ghost Brothers 2000 treatment, he gets to continue his great grandfather’s work by philosophically expounding on the existence of ghosts & extraterrestrials and filtering water through diamonds for a vodka pure in spirit. This way everyone wins.