Six years after the release of the Ghostbusters reboot, the film’s director Paul Feig breaks down the online reaction and how the film was received.
Ghostbusters director Paul Feig reflects on the movie’s controversy six years later. Released in 2016, Ghostbusters, later titled Ghostbusters: Answer the Call on home video, rebooted the iconic film franchise with a female cast in the lead roles with Kirsten Wiig, Mellisa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. The movie was one of many in a string of reboots Hollywood became obsessed with in the wake of Batman Begins, yet unlike the reboot of Robocop or Karate Kid, which were also both revivals of beloved ’80s films, the discussion around Ghostbusters was much nastier.
The film’s trailer quickly became the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history and the film’s marketing buildup carried with it a wave of online harassment. The movie premiered on July 15, 2016, with a $46 million dollar opening weekend. While the film did gross $229.1 million worldwide it was seen as a box office disappointment as the film carried a budget of $144 million and with marketing cost, would have had to gross $300 million to be a hit. Plans for a sequel were scrapped and Sony instead opted for a legacy sequel approach with Ghostbusters: Afterlife which was released in 2021.
In an interview with THR, Ghostbusters director Paul Feig discussed the controversy surrounding the film. He believes had the film been released earlier or even later it may not have had such feverous discourse, but the film’s release coincided with a very tense time in America’s history as it opened just five months before the 2016 President Election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Feig did say a lot of online discussions hit him hard as he had a good relationship with the internet before but compared the experience to being bullied in school. Feig said:
“That a lot of people have a lot of passionate opinions and the internet allows them to directly express those opinions to you. It was a tense time in our nation’s history, and I think we got caught in the middle of that. Had it been a few years earlier or later, I don’t know if it would’ve hit like that. It was hard to absorb — and quite an assault for me because I’d always had such a lovely relationship with the internet. It just took me back to grade school and bullies. The bummer is that all we did was try to make a movie to make people laugh. Suddenly it became political, and it escalated out of control.”
Feig is certainly right in the timing of Ghostbusters release. The movie was announced to be in development in August 2014, the same month the online harassment campaign Gamergate started taking place, where most if not all the harassment was targeting women. The cast was announced in 2015 and many were hating the movie before they saw even one second of footage, with Trump complaining about women being Ghostbusters as a way to benefit his future presidential campaign. Releasing during an election year, and not just any election year but one between the possibility of the first female president and someone who used misogyny as a tool of his campaign, put what was just another studio comedy into a culture war item for various individuals.
The 2016 Ghostbusters films live as an interesting artifact for both film and in the larger Ghostbusters franchise. Some took issue with the fact that the film disregarded the continuity of the original film, something Ghostbusters: Afterlife decided to go full in on. Yet the 2016 film stuck closer to the irreverent comedy of the original film, and in many ways is more true to the spirit of that film than Ghostbusters: Afterlife is with all its references. Despite Sony’s attempts to try to forget the film happened, even not including it as part of the Ghostbusters franchise home video box-set, the film not only exists but the 2016 Ghostbusters likely has its own passionate fan group that will appreciate the movie more as time goes on.
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