Saturday, September 10, 2016

See The Movie..Or Read The Book: "Ghostbusters"

Maybe I should've just seen the lady Ghostbusters movie..I wound up reading 3 books: the junior novelization, the standard novelization..and, perhaps better than either of those - a facsimile of Ghosts From Our Past, the guidebook serving as the catalyst for much of the film's plot.

The only disadvantage to opting out of seeing the film is that I can't say anything about the cast or choices regarding direction, production values and special effects. What I can observe is how earnest the story is. Erin and Abby's friendship is central to everything that happens...but it reminds me of the stuff with the baby in Ghostbusters 2 - actually, it's not as bad, but you can't have a proper screwball comedy romp when you try to add greater meaning to the shenanigans. Erin and Abby's dilemma belongs in a very different comedy, yet I'm aware that without it, this whole thing might resemble a remake of Pixels.

In the junior novel, Erin comes off particularly bipolar - she's looking for any chance to bail one moment, licking radioactive ghost traps the next. The junior novel, I'll bet, resembles the final cut of the film. Nancy Holder, who wrote the adult novel, goes to great lengths to flesh out Erin and Abby's backstory with lots of flashbacks to their salad days as teenagers and college students, eventually chronicling the disintegration of their friendship. That leaves little time for Holder to devote much to fleshing out the best characters: Kevin the receptionist and Jillian Holtzman. Midway into the final 3rd of the novel, she gives Holtzman and Patty Tolan a precious moment to talk about themselves, in a scene reminiscent of a moment between Dan Ackroyd and Ernie Hudson driving across the Brooklyn Bridge in the original film. For the sake of a sequel centering around Holtzman at least, I wish the film was successful enough for the studio to make one.

Other hints of the author taking creative license include an attempt to explain lame gags - the same Chinese food deliveryman, the dangerous radioactive device that gets handed like paperweight, Jennifer Lynch and the Mayor's obsession with keeping up appearances, Erin a popular target for getting slimed/puked on..

Oddly, Holder and Andrew Shaffer - the writer of the Ghosts From Our Past facsimile - invent contradictory accounts of the ghost Erin encountered as a child. Shaffer's account is more farcical and set around Halloween; Holder's account offers background on the old woman ghost and why she would want to haunt Erin. Shaffer and Holder also can't agree on how many hard copies of Ghosts From Our Past were self-published by Erin and Abby before Abby ultimately made it available on Kindle: Holder limits it to two copies, Shaffer implies far more, but never gives an exact number; just enough copies for other characters - debunker Martin Heiss in particular - to discover. These examples of discontinuity are not exclusive to these two; Ozzy Osbourne's cameo has a completely different line of dialogue in the junior novel and in Holder's novel! I prefer "I can't follow THAT!" (junior) to "SHARON!! I'm having another flashback!" (Holder novelization), but in this case, I'll bet the latter is in the final cut.

The guidebook is hilarious...though I wonder why they could make room for John Belushi and Chuthulu, but have no room for likely-to-have-been-seen-and-documented-before Ghostbusters rogues like Slimer, Viggo the Carpathian (whether you like him or not), Gozer the Gozerian, Vince Klortho and Zuul. Why not? This shit had rules? Nerds.

Hands down, the best passage in the guidebook was an Epitaph purportedly from Kevin, still completely at sea, trying to write abouta guidebook he opted out of reading...and trying to see if he can see the movie, instead...

...writing-wise, I think Kevin's my intellectual opposite/counterpart in the fictional world...

At the end of the day, I thought it was all okay...kind-of middle-of-the-road, story-wise. It's a story built on the outline of a plot I've seen before, so the interesting stuff was all the character could fashion a plot around this team never encountering any ghosts at all and still be entertaining...but that's not Ghostbusters...the appeal of this franchise is the blue collar approach to encountering the paranormal - like bug exterminators! It's a deceptively simple dynamic..but they got it half-right! It could've been much worse..

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