A salute to 2016’s Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, and how it continues to resonate with its fans.
It’s been three years and counting now since the third movie in the Ghostbusters franchise, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, landed in cinemas. It had a bumpy time in the lead up to and during its release, and didn’t bring home the financial returns that its parent studio was hoping for. And yet, as I suspected at the time, this is a film that resonates with, and is important to, a good number of people.
This article then is for them.
Because it’s clear that the film is enjoying a life for many long beyond its cinema release. That it matters to its fans. And there are many reasons to celebrate it. I asked the question on Twitter a day or two back aimed at those who like the film, as to just what it means to them. I got some lovely replies, too, and I’ve tried to incorporate the range of themes into this piece. As such, here’s just a selection of reasons why the film worked for its fans.
It introduced Ghostbusters to a new audience, and made the whole bigger
Let’s start here, because it’s really easy to overlook this one.
When Answer The Call was released in cinemas, it was the first new Ghostbusters film to see the inside of a movie house in over 25 years. With a 12A/PG-13 certificate too, it was accessible to a family audience (particularly a younger audience too, steering clear of gags that needed too much, er, ‘explaining’), and it’s clear that many families enjoyed it. Heck, just getting a new Ghostbusters film over the line was and is a monumental achievement in itself.
But for those who hadn’t seen a Ghostbusters film before, it’s clear as well that it’s worked as a jumping-on point for the franchise. That it’s encouraged people to seek out the other films and enjoy them to. That it honours the films before it, does its own thing, and introduced the series in an accessible way to new eyes.
In short: it made more people feel part of the Ghostbusters audience, and still does.
It introduced the broader world to Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones
Amongst the many strong comedy performances in Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, the brilliant Kate McKinnon was arguably the breakthrough. The excellent Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig already had profile off their hit movie roles by 2016. But for many of us who weren’t watching much US TV, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were more unknown.
But not after Ghostbusters.
The pair’s immense comedy talents found a much broader audience thanks to the film, and the generosity of the quartet at the heart of the film was really something. It felt like an ensemble driven by support rather than competition. Four performers all lifting each other on their shoulders. That remains a joy to see.
The endurance of the lead characters
Abby Yates, Erin Gilbert, Patty Tolan and Jillian Holtzman simply weren’t the kind of characters we’d seen in big special effects comedies in the past. From the moment they appeared they offered something a little different to what else was on cinema screens in summer 2016, and for those who took to them – and there are lots of us who did – they remain a bunch of people it’d be a lot of fun to see on the big screen again. Their conversations felt a little different, they were each had their time to shine, and they complimented each other too.
Also, they come across as four woman that it’d be fun to sit down and have a chat with. They didn’t feel like inaccessible supermodels. Rather, they felt like people who’d be terrific to go to the pub with, and perhaps even a half-decent curry after.
As many have noted: these four, simply, weren’t the kind of heroes that cinema was giving us even three years ago. In many cases, it’s still struggling to do so. Four terrific women, as the heroes of a big Hollywood movie. No romantic subplot. Lots of action. A willingness to poke fun at themselves. And, ultimately, a bunch of friends hanging out, who make mistakes, get some right, and bumble through life like the rest of us (albeit the rest of us don’t have proton packs as a rule).
There’s no point denying that the character of Holtzman remains many people’s favourite. McKinnon is clearly having a ball bringing her to life, and she appears to be – and I’m coming to this shortly – the top choice for Answer The Call cosplayers too.
These characters too clearly mean something to people, too. I asked the aforementioned question on Twitter, and received stories of how people identified with the characters, and felt a personal connection to some of their backstories. The details of the tales I’ve been sent aren’t mine to share, but there’s real depth to how these characters have touched some people. I think that’s brilliant. I think writing a character that matters to someone else is an immense skill that I don’t have. Paul Feig and Katie Dippold clearly do.
Just how much fun is Thor having in this one? Hemsworth gets a small supporting role in the film, and demonstrates his comedy skill and selflessness in performing it. Also: “Mike Hat”.
It’s added, and not taken away
The beauty of Answer The Call is that it’s given the world a slightly different approach to a franchise, without taking away anything that was there before. It separates itself from the narrative of the earlier films that many people love, and thus that’s all left in place.
What’s more, the first two films exist, and still do. Not a frame of them has been altered. There’s still space to explore a further follow-on to those, and I’m excited to see where that narrative leads (I’m coming to that). Not a jot of damage has been done to what was there before, or what follows after.
What’s more, because Answer The Call didn’t do anything with the original characters and left them to be explored elsewhere, the 2016 film by its nature has brought new things in. There’s now a bunch of new characters in the Ghostbusters world waiting for someone to explore. And even if they just get the one outing on screen, the second life they’ve enjoyed in fan art, fandom and comics is ongoing – both officially and unofficially.
Theodore Shapiro’s score is great
In fairness, though, most of Theodore Shapiro’s work is great. I’d also strongly recommend his scores to Captain Underpants and A Simple Favour.
The film means something to a lot of people
And here’s the key ongoing positive ramification of the film.
I’m a regularly attendee of Comic Cons and fan conventions. And I haven’t been to a single one since the film was released where there wasn’t a young girl dressed as a Ghostbuster. Sometimes, young boys too. A smattering of adults as well, but for the minute, I just want to focus on the youngsters. For when chatting to their parents, it’s clear that the film really worked for them. In fact, not just worked, they watched the Ghostbusters on screen and wanted to be them. That there were characters on screen that they could hook into, enjoy and aspire to. To the point where they wanted to dress up as them and go out into the wider world.
How brilliant is that?
The cosplay has been terrific, too. It sounds a small thing, but it’s given fans a film to latch onto as well where the clothes of the characters actually fit, and don’t lead to the need for a jumper as soon as you step out of the door. Anyone can be a Ghostbuster, and lots of people have taken that to heart. That people have been inspired to create their own Ghostbusters: Answer The Call art and stories has been wonderful too. The culture of positive fandom around the film by those who love it has been a joy. Nobody can take that away.
I hear stories too of film clubs for youngsters where people have made their own recreation of the movie, and there’s a part in the film for everyone. I truly think stories like that matter. Long after the film has left cinema screens, it’s still inspiring people. It still feels reachable.
The film has done what films of my childhood did for me. For lots of people, it now lives on the regular rewatch shelf. My own children love the film. It frequently reduces them to loud guffaws, and they ask to watch it again pretty regularly. And you know what? I let them.
For a collection of fans, here’s a film that put good into the world, and continues to do so. That, for me, is something worth celebrating.
Looking ahead, next year we get another new Ghostbusters film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and I for one will be checking it out. Hopefully too, it’ll bring another big bunch of new people into the world of Ghostbusters fandom too.
Personally, I truly hope we get to see the quartet from Answer The Call in another movie. But whether we do or don’t, the one that we got is still clearly resonating. I’m still getting replies to my original Tweet from people talking about how much Answer The Call means to them, and ultimately, how much fun they find it. The stories people are telling about going to see that film, and how it inspired them, are quite brilliant.
That might not make for a good clickbait headline, of course, and it might not be much of a story in the modern day movie world. But I’ll happily bet Mike Hat on the film continuing to spread good into the world…
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