‘Ghostbusters’ Isn’t a Comedy Anymore Thanks to ‘80s Toys
Beloved franchise/petty argument generator Ghostbusters has a new movie coming out this year, and the new trailer looks side-splittingly hilar-- no wait, it’s oddly serious and sincere. Despite the fact that it’s a sequel to one of the most famous movie comedies of all time, the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife seems to have swapped-out humor for the kind of nostalgia-heavy reverence of reboots like The Force Awakens and Jurassic World. Which is objectively strange because Ghostbusters was, you know, a comedy. Like, imagine if, in 20 years, we get an earnest, wistful sequel to The Hangover, in which a group of scrappy teenagers stumble upon Zack Galifianakis’ old roofies.
But in a way, it makes total sense that this is where the franchise ended up. Sure, the first film was crammed full of (sometimes uncomfortably blowjob-focused) jokes, but for a generation of kids who were too young for the original when it came out in ‘84, their exposure to the Ghostbusters came through the cartoon series and, most importantly, the toys.
The first movie was a surprise blockbuster, and the tidal wave of merchandising tie-ins didn’t come until later. The toys hit stores in 1986 and were marketed, not just to fans of the movie but to a whole new audience of impressionable kids. The wildly successful toyline didn’t just include action figures but also a wide assortment of proton packs and ghost-traps for kids to role-play that they were imprisoning the souls of their deceased elders.
These toys weren’t encouraging children to dress up and act like late ‘70s improv comics; they were for kids to imagine their own epic Ghostbusting adventures completely devoid of schtick. And clearly, the new movie, judging from the trailers at least, is tapping into that aspect of Ghostbusters more than any other; hence the lopsided focus on the joy of discovering the Ghostbusters’ old gadgets. And pointedly, the Ecto-1 boasts features that the Kenner Ecto-1 toy had, which we never actually saw in any of the movies.
It’s totally fair to criticize Afterlife for its weirdly serious vibe, especially when the 2016 reboot, which was flawed but arguably very funny, is now being cast aside like Dana Barrett’s boyfriend with the ridiculous hair. But for a large number of people, this was how we first experienced Ghostbusters, as something that felt incredibly important and epic, not just an extended late-night comedy sketch or a throwback to the ghost-based comedies of the 1940s. Using that over-reverence as the premise for a new Ghostbusters might end up making for a worse Ghostbusters movie (or not, who the hell even knows at this point), but it’s no less valid considering that's how it was sold to so many of us.
Top Image: Sony