'Ghostbusters 3' raises the question: should the '80s be left alone?
Image Credit: Everett CollectionIf we’re to believe today’s big news, then Bill Murray may very well be sitting at home at this very moment in front of a fireplace with a cup of Swiss Miss and the script for Ghostbusters 3. That’s a pretty exciting thought…for about five minutes. Then the inevitable concerns arise — concerns like, is this really a good idea? Do we really want to check back in with Dr. Venkman, Dr. Stantz, and Egon after all these years? What if they’re…well, what if they’re not funny anymore? Wouldn’t it be better if we let certain cherished memories stay pure and untarnished?
Movie lovers of a certain age have had to grapple with these thorny questions a lot lately. I’m talking about folks like myself who spent way too much time in darkened multiplexes during the ’80s. Recently we’ve seen Indiana Jones dusted off and yanked out of a mothballed crate just so he could battle Boris and Natasha-style Russkies, piggyback on a motorcycle with Shia LaBeouf, and try to hunt down some preposterous crystal knickknack left behind by space aliens. Space aliens!! Come on!
We’ve seen splashy new incarnations of Reagan-era horror chestnuts like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Piranha. They’ve been recast, rebooted, and, in the last case, even tarted up with 3-D. But did any of them improve on the original? Jerry O’Connell’s severed manhood aside, I’d argue no. And I’d take it a step further: They probably tainted my memories of the originals, at least a little. I know these movies aren’t really made for me — or for the folks who were at the scene of the crime the first time around. The new target demo is teens and twentysomethings who either aren’t familiar with the originals, or don’t consider them sacred texts. But Hollywood’s been defiling the vault for so long now that it’s time we finally cried “Uncle!”
A while back, I reviewed the DVD of the new Karate Kid in EW and said I liked it (I actually did). I got a lot of heat from letter writers protesting that Ralph Macchio’s Daniel-san was better than Will Smith’s kid. And you know what, they may be right. But the thing I loved was the passion of the objections. It made me realize that I’m not alone — that in remaking beloved ’80s properties Hollywood is touching a sensitive nerve for a lot of people, even if Jackie Chan’s Miyagi got me choked up.
The fact is, most ’80s remakes aren’t great or are entirely unnecessary. Or both. Take Tron. The original Tron wasn’t a great movie, but it probably should have been left alone. Why? Because even if the original wasn’t a masterpiece, it had snowballed into something significant and seminal for a lot of people over the past couple decades. It had become a nerd touchstone — a lovably flawed harbinger of things to come, the ghost of special f/x future. I mean, have you seen the photos of that dude who wore that Tron get-up at Comic Con a while back (at least, I hope he was at Comic Con)? People don’t dress up in futuristic luminescent sci-fi gear and walk outside the house like that because they don’t care.
A lot of folks who grew up with The A-Team loved it…even if most of them would admit, when pressed, that it wasn’t a terribly good show. And guess what? It was turned into a not terribly good movie! Congratulations, Hollywood! Keep aiming high! I loved the original Clash of the Titans. I mean loved it! The feta-cheese f/x, the Kraken, Olivier as Zeus, Ursula Andress in her gauzy diaphanous gown, all of it. But I felt like I was walking to the gallows when I went to see the remake. It was just another sacred scrap of my youth that was being stolen, repackaged and resold so someone else could get rich. Studios don’t care much about fans like me (and I suspect some of you reading this). If they did, we wouldn’t be assaulted with Terminator: Salvation, Wall Street 2, and all of the other titles now inching through the pipeline like The Thing, Footloose, Red Dawn, and RoboCop. I love the original versions of all of those movies. They mean something to me. Especially John Carpenter’s The Thing. So believe me when I say that I hope — I pray — that these remakes are good. I’m not rooting to be disappointed. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting to be.
Einstein famously said that the definition of stupidity (or was it insanity?) was making the same mistake over and over again and expecting different results. That means I’m either stupid or insane to keep going to these ’80s remakes hoping they’ll be as good as they were the first time around. So far, Tinseltown’s batting average with me has been pretty low. But deep down, I know I’ll keep repeating the same mistake hoping for a different result.
What about you? What do you think of all of the ’80s remakes? Have there been any that you’ve loved? And what do you think about the idea of Ghostbusters 3?