Ghostbusters makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of hilarious new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original franchise took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This summer, they’re here to save the world!
It's unfortunate when it becomes difficult to discuss a movie without also addressing the controversy surrounding it. Most recently, Nate Parker's 'The Birth of a Nation' has resurfaced some disconcerting news about its director. But months before that, Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' came under fire and was almost instantly detested by fans of the original 1984 comedy classic. Even before anyone saw a single frame of it, the internet uproar targeted the concept of an all-female cast replacing the beloved characters originally played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. While some voices rightly shared concern over remaking a treasured 80s favorite — which this is — others expressed some rather alarming outrage of seeing women don the iconic jumpsuits and proton packs. It would seem the controversy could be viewed as somewhat emblematic our current political situation. But instead of diving into that rabbit hole, I find it more interesting the filmmakers used those dissenting voices as part of the film's humor, further bringing up questions of the filmmakers possibly fueling the debate with accusations of misogyny — which many are.
In either case — and frankly, more importantly for this review — the point is that Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold ('The Heat') cleverly addressed and ingeniously dismissed those concerns with jokes, most of which are at the expense of the female cast. When a book about the paranormal threatens her tenure at Columbia University, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is forced to confront her co-author and former friend Dr. Abigail Yates (Melissa McCarthy). But after the two begrudgingly work together and record evidence for the existence of ghosts, their video goes viral, instantly making them and fellow engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) celebrities. Thus begins a series of astutely-aware wisecracks from silly online comments targeting our heroes' gender ("Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghost.") and assumed incompetence (Bill Murray delivers a hilarious cameo as famed paranormal debunker Dr. Martin Heiss). However, we soon find out the ladies are not only skilled and highly intelligent, but they are also hilarious with one witty line after another, generating a lively, energetic camaraderie that then animates the rest of the film with their infectious humor.
Granted, Wiig and McCarthy immediately settle into familiar ground with quirks and personality traits reminiscent of past performances. Wiig plays the jittery, fearful uptight geek with doe eyes that beg for the approval of others, but a willing pratfall clown who's repeatedly slimed during her spectral encounters. Meanwhile, McCarthy is the overly self-assured and tenacious intellectual who's continuously surprised when others don't see that as a virtue. As they demonstrated in Feig's 'Bridesmaids,' the two ladies make a fantastic comedy duo, playing to each other's insecurities with pithy remarks not meant to demean but boost each other's confidence as the plot progresses. And yet, the real standout is McKinnon as the delightfully odd and eccentric egghead Holtzmann, a role wholly original and unique that it's now impossible to imagine anyone else doing it justice. Leslie Jones as the team's fourth member and NYC history buff Patty Tolan sadly doesn't bring anything new to the table, mostly relying on her usual tactics of screaming, which sadly drags some of the humorous pacing to an SNL sketch halt.
And that only reminds of the other controversy attached to this production: the promotional campaign for 'Ghostbusters: Answer the Call,' as it is officially titled, left fans expecting the absolute worse. Thankfully, the film is better and smarter than trailers led us to believe. Feig and Dippold demonstrate the best course for remaking a beloved holy grail — by reimaging the entire plot with contemporary influences while staying true to the central core theme, rather than simply rehashing what's already been done. A case in point would have to be the surprise performance of Chris Hemsworth as the team's attractive but inept and dimwitted receptionist Kevin. His portrayal is not only a clever reversal of gender roles, but a funny gag that pays dividends throughout thanks to the Australian actor exposing and flexing his comedic chops. Admittedly, the story's villain, played by comedy writer Neil Casey, leaves a disappointing sour note to the proceedings, but the filmmakers and other cast members more than make up for this two-dimensional stereotype.
And just to make clear, Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' doesn't come anywhere close to Ivan Reitman's original classic. But it also doesn't ruin anyone's childhood, as so many fetishizing nostalgists wish to complain. Ultimately, the remake is on par with the 1989 sequel, which is not an entirely bad thing, as both films can be enjoyed as funny, easy-going popcorn pieces.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Ghostbusters: Answer the Call' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, but the double-layered Region Free, UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a pair of Region A locked, BD50 discs. One sits on a center spindle while the other on the opposing panel, but of more interest is the fact that one of those Blu-rays contains a 3D version of the movie, which apparently is exclusive to this UHD release.
All three discs are packaged inside a black, slightly thicker than normal keepcase with a glossy slipcover. Both cuts of the film are available on the Ultra HD and the standard Blu-ray while the 3D BD only contains the 116-minute theatrical version. The unrated, 134-minute extended cut comes with several new scenes and different jokes from those seen in theaters. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background. The 3D disc commences with a skippable promo before switching to a 3D interactive menu with music.
The conductors of metaphysical examination break through the barrier into the Ultra HD dimension with a fine-looking and largely satisfying HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, boasting several admirable moments along with a few slightly less satisfying areas. On the whole, the results are excellent, showing a nice uptick in resolution and definition. Individual bricks of buildings can be counted and minor damage from age along the walls is plainly visible. The lettering of signs, bottles and books are resolute while the tiny exposed wires of Holtzmann's proton packs are slightly sharper and more distinct than its BD counterpart. Viewers can also better make out negligible blemishes and pores in the lifelike facial complexions, as well as the threading and stitching of the team's jumpsuit uniforms.
One area of complaint, however, has to do with the several instances of aliasing, which are glaringly evident throughout. This likely may have something to do with the fact that this 4K presentation was upconverted from a 2K digital intermediate, or it's due to the film being shot on the Arri Alexa XT camera system with a max 3K resolution. Either way, the video artifacts can be seen along the sharpest edges of buildings and the chrome trim of various vehicles. A couple times, it even rears its ugly head faintly in some of the ghostbusting equipment, but thankfully, it doesn't happen often.
On a better and more positive note, this UHD version still remains the better presentation, in spite of its one drawback. The 2:40:1 image is significantly brighter with true-to-life whites that sparkle in every scene, and specular highlights along metallic edges, the clouds in the sky and the team's equipment pop with realism. The improved dynamic range is most appreciated whenever ghosts make an appearance. Certain spots of their corporeal bodies glow with rich intensity, giving them a cartoonish yet phantasmagoric look. Black levels, unfortunately, could be a tad stronger, looking somewhat drab and flat in many daylight sequences. On the other hand, things improved dramatically in the second half, especially during the final showdown taking place at night. Shadows are deep and penetrating without sacrificing minor details, providing the image with a beautifully cinematic appeal and a three-dimensional quality.
Plus, it appears the source may have been color graded to take advantage of the wider gamut because the overall palette is noticeably richer with primaries, in particular, looking more vibrant than the Blu-ray. However, it's the ghosts which truly bring on the light show, coming in a variety of shades, from soft pinkish hues and glimmering magentas to luminous blues and dazzling greens. Their glow even radiates and lights other areas of the picture, which adds a nice, weirdly surreal touch to their presence. I, especially, loved that we can see a distinct difference between the abundance of colors while the whites shine with vigorous energy.
On the 3D front, the video does equally well and should, for the most part, satisfy fans of the format. However, the 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode falls short of the best conversions we've seen on Blu-ray. The the problem is that parallax is not convincing with much of the picture looking a bit flat or with little depth perception, and this is most apparent when characters are stationary and chatting. Action sequences, on the other hand, pay off with a great deal of depth and separation between various objects. Ghosts hover and move within the frame with appreciable roundness and realistic distance from the background, creating an excellent sense of three-dimensional space. Several pop-up gimmicks are brilliantly used throughout, most notably when the ladies fire proton beams wildly, ghosts puke slime on Wiig's Erin and when they angrily charge at the camera, much of which happens in the last half hour of the movie.
It's also worth mentioning that the presentation, in either the Ultra HD, 3D or 2D versions, is not CIH friendly. Many of the special effects intentionally jump out the 2.40:1 frame and into the letterbox mattes, creating a pseudo 3D effect that pays off decently well on the UHD presentation. Added to that, a final rescue mission with Wiig and McCarthy through the ghost portal suddenly switches from 2.40:1 to a 1.85:1 aspect ratio in all three versions.
The ladies of the paranormal also come equipped with an excellent, if somewhat lacking Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which it turns out is exclusive to this Ultra HD version and only available for the extended version.
From the opening moments, the lossless mix immediately engages viewers with a wide and expansive soundstage, as Theodore Shapiro's music spreads across the screen and into the front heights. In fact, the score appears to do a majority of the work, swelling into the rears when the action erupts with subtle bleeds into the ceiling. Imaging feels broad with a great deal of warmth and fidelity, as background activity moves flawlessly between the speakers with distinct clarity and separation in the high and mid ranges. With much of the attention placed on the back and forth banter of the characters, vocals are given top priority and come through cleanly and never lost in the heat of chaos. The low-end adds a palpable, rumbling weight to the action and music, but it never really hits as hard or as demanding as the visuals would imply.
In terms of Atmos, the track will sadly leave audiophiles wanting. Not that it's bad, but that the original design doesn't seem to really make the best use of the object-based format. Certain action sequences occasionally come with a sound effect that moves into the overheads, such as the rock concert where the reptilian demon zooms all over the place. The final showdown in and around the Mercado Hotel also comes with a few amusing bits of screaming ghosts and debris flying above the listener. These moments are decently memorable and nicely add to the visuals. However, they are far and few in between with for large chunks of time shrouded in silence while those same action sequences fail to fully immerse the viewer.
All things considered, it's a strong lossless mix with plenty to enjoy. It should also be mentioned that the 3D Blu-ray comes equipped with the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as the standard 2D Blu-ray, which you can read about here.
All the special features are contained in the standard Blu-ray disc.
While it seems difficult to discuss Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' without also addressing the controversy surrounding it, the film should ultimately be appreciated on its own merits. And the end result is a hilarious remake that does the 1984 original justice while also feeling like an entertaining standalone. Much of this is thanks to Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold's smart take on Ivan Reitman's comedy classic and the hilarious performances of the entire cast.
On the plus side, this Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a good-looking 4K video presentation. Though it doesn't really compare with other UHD titles currently available, it nonetheless offers several noteworthy moments and an appreciable uptick over its Blu-ray counterpart. The movie also arrives with a top-notch Dolby Atmos audio track. Along with the same collection of supplements, the overall package is worth checking out for early adopters and fans.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.