Oct 30, 2015

[Movies] Ghostbusters II (1989)

Last week's review of the original Ghostbusters movie inevitably leads to today's post. You know I do like reviewing franchises all at once after all - it helps give my blogging a little semblance of focus here and there.

Ghostbusters II was the inevitable sequel of the surprisingly successful supernatural comedy. After all, the 80's was a time rich with quite a number of trilogies and other franchise hopefuls. At the time the big Hollywood dream was to have a 3-pictures deal, right?

But the time period also ended up creating the impression that sequels tend to be bad, and I can't blame folks for this statement. You have to admit, when movies become pretty much "formulaic" in their construction as they try to repeat the success of whichever first movie by repeating elements in the subsequent movies. This is why the Jurassic Park movies always seem to include young protagonists.

Sometimes it all works out for the best and sometimes it doesn't.

Synopsis: Ghostbusters II is the supernatural comedy sequel directed by Ivan Reitman. The screenplay was written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd and was the eighth highest grossing movie of 1989.

The movie starts on a rather somber note - the Ghostbusters have been forcibly disbanded by the city government due to the property damage they caused in their ghost hunting efforts. They have been specifically banned from investigating supernatural matters, and thus our four heroes are now doing whatever they can to make ends meet. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who was somewhat romantically involved with Peter (Bill Murray) in the prior movie, had moved on to another relationship. Now a divorced single mother, she's found new life in her career as an art restorer at the Manhattan Museum of Art.

However her current project involves a rather disturbing portrait of Vigo the Carpathian of Moldavia. A series of strange incidents begin to occur now that the portrait is in New York, including a time when her son Oscar's baby carriage is moved by unknown forces and ends up in the middle of a busy intersection. Naturally Dana tries to reach out to the Ghostbusters for help, and they attempt "subtle" inquiries despite the city ban. At the same time, Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), Dana's colleague, has fallen under the sway of the supernatural force behind the painting, and Vigo requires a child for him to inhabit in order to return to life.

Now the best thing about the Ghostbusters was, well, them fighting ghosts. Seeing them on their various cases is where a lot of the appeal of the group lies and deciding to start the sequel with them forced by the city to stop what they were doing seemed a little silly. I mean seriously, they managed to stop the city of bring destroyed by a giant marshmallow mascot and yet now they doubt the value in supernatural investigations? It just felt a little off, even with the unnecessary 5 year jump forward from the last movie.

And because they start things apart, we end up going through a sort of "let's get the band back together" routine that wasted narrative time. Instead of jumping straight into the action and maybe providing a greater threat for them to face, we have to go through a build-up that felt like a second origin story of sorts.

There's still a lot of good comedy to be had and clever moments here and there, but on the whole the decision to separate them for the first part of the movie hurt things more than helped. Sure it could have been a somewhat edgier springboard for the story had things been executed well, but the internal logic provided by the movie felt a little short.

Don't get me wrong - I still enjoyed this movie a lot and I think I remember more of this movie versus the first one because of the big Statue of Liberty sequence alone. They really explored some of the properties of ectoplasmic slime and Vigo did make for quite the compelling villain. But in the end it was just okay and had a lot of the problems that we find in different sequels. There's hard balance to maintain in taking good elements from the first movie while introducing new ideas because it's a sequel.

Ghostbusters II isn't an amazing movie on its own, but it's a decent enough movie when you look at the overall scale of sequels. The excitement for the movie helped push its box office success but not enough to encourage a third movie - at least not until recently. Thus the movie gets 3 creepy ghosts creeping out of the sewers out of a possible 5.

Happy Halloween folks!

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