With “Ghostbusters”, Ivan Reitman was ahead of his time
If there is one thing what defined Ivan Reitman was consistency without repetition.
The director, who died on Saturday at the age of 75, leaves a body of essentially comic works that cross the ages. His films from the 70s and 80s, such as Meatballs and Grooves, were counter-programming from National Lampoon, offering the same raunchy with a screwed-on tighter head. In the 90s kindergarten cop showed what Reitman could do on a large scale, while David allowed him to show maturity. His later work in the 21st century lacked his debauchery, but provided evidence that he could keep pace with a changing world.
But a Reitman movie, 1984 ghost hunters, deserves a different reputation than it has today. His release spawned a multimedia universe that includes cartoons, comics, toys, sequels, and reboots that, bizarrely, worked as a gauge of his personal politics. It’s weird and kinda silly how a single movie with a cartoon ghost gobbling hot dogs sausage led to all of this.
You could argue that ghost hunters is overestimated; it’s a film where none of its characters change or grow, but remain clumsy scoundrels from start to finish. But I think it is better to speak of misunderstanding. From its simple premise – “What if exorcisms were like pest control?” – came a high-concept genre hybrid that paved the way for blockbusters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And within its simple story is a monumental and powerful idea so obvious it’s almost as invisible as a ghost.
On the occasion of Reitman’s death, a revaluation of ghost hunters is late. And in defiance of what the two ghost hunters’is irreducible fans and IP owners want it, time to see ghost hunters for what it is: a science story that overcomes our fear of the unknown.
When ghost hunters open in 1984, the movie industry was changing. A little while before, star wars and its sequels laid the groundwork for a new type of four-quadrant cinema, initiating the “IP-ification” of films. There’s the infamous story of how Kenner, the Star Wars toy maker, sent an empty box for Christmas 1977 because the maker was unprepared for the demand of star wars toys. No one knew how to manage the merchandising business because, before star warsno one was really in the business.
But they were more than toys. star wars itself was high-level science fiction at a time when the science fiction genre was binary: star trek, and all the rest. Its inclusion of space wizards, laser swords and an ancient religion reminiscent of samurai bushido didn’t negate the sweeping, swaggering whimsy that appealed to a wide audience.
The day after star wars came ghost hunters, was born from the mind of comedian Dan Aykroyd (whose genuine interest in the paranormal is part of his own family heritage). Like star wars, Aykroyd envisioned the film as something more complicated, with a futuristic setting on an alien planet. It took a breakfast with Reitman at a Los Angeles restaurant to convince Aykroyd to reorganize and ground the screenplay. Reitman suggested that the film be set in contemporary times on a realistic Earth. New York, even.
It’s no surprise that Reitman would suggest this change, as all of its films have this attribute. In an interview with The audiovisual club Reitman said, “I’ve always believed in populating my movies with characters that we love, that we have warmth for, that have warmth for each other, that we’d like to hang out with, that we imitate in one way or another. . It’s not that they all get along, or that they’re not bad people or people to make fun of. But deep down there is a kind of sweetness.
Despite a plethora of production issues, ghost hunters was a hit when it opened. Following the playbook star wars wrote, ghost hunters found a rabid audience of children who were frightened and captivated by ghosts, and their subsequent destruction by film.
Through ghost hunters, kids learned that they didn’t need fancy lightsabers or Jedi training to conquer their fears. The film’s ensemble of eccentric scientists were authentic portrayals of people who behaved the way they did.
The film’s unique visual language of clumsy bezels and kit-type vacuum cleaners was unmistakably pro-science, or at least old-fashioned craftsmanship. This not only founded the Ghostbusters universe, but made intelligence and sperm a superpower. For kids looking for the boogeyman under their bed, ghost hunters was a challenging DIY superhero story. To fight against the darkness, all you need is the tools and the talent.
Despite his legion of children in the audience, ghost hunters is an adult comedy; many of the problems the characters face stem from personal and professional obstacles that are foreign to children. From his portrayals of legal issues to the New York dating scene, many on ghost hunters does not really appeal to children.
Even the filmmakers have acknowledged how ghost hunters was meant to be. In a 1984 promotional short for theater exhibitors, Aykroyd and Murray begged theater owners to believe their bizarre film would actually sell tickets. In the movie, there’s an eerily prescient line that references how the Ghostbusters’ “franchise rights alone” will make them “rich beyond their wildest dreams.” He feels practically verbalized by Columbia executives. The four Ghostbusters films have grossed $936.9 million.
ghost hunters certainly made those involved rich. Along the way, he revolutionized the way mainstream movies are made. Movies no longer needed to be a genre for an audience. Before ghost huntersfew could imagine a comedy like Grooves have goosebumps Fighting spirit and the merchandising plans of star wars. Now we live in a world where Edgar Wright has a career, clever exists, and Marvel can insist moon knight will be brutal and terrifying and nobody is moved by this idea even if moon knight toys come off the production line.
Ivan Reitman did not repeat himself. His filmography illustrates an artist who followed his own instincts before learning to go with the flow. This is how an artist can direct cannibal girls in 1973 and No strings attached in 2011. But it’s no surprise that his best film isn’t just the one with the strongest legs, but the most influential mind.