When there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Sony. Specifically to release the very first Ghostbusters trailer. Thankfully for fans of New York City’s premier paranormal experts, that’s exactly what they did on Thursday morning. While it may come as a shock to some that this is our first look at the film before it releases on July 15, 2016, I say better late than never.
The trailer begins by paying homage to the films that came before it in the franchise, opening over shots of New York City as on-screen text reminds us that “30 years ago, four scientists saved New York City,” and telling us that a new generation of paranormal protectors will come to the city’s rescue again. Except this time, it’s three scientists and a subway worker, but we’ll get to that in a moment. We then see a shot of graffiti of the Ghostbusters logo spray-painted on a subway station wall, marking the second reference to the previous films and its iconography in under a minute. It won’t be the last.
Later, we even see a shot of what appears to be the classic Hook & Ladder 8 Firehouse—though clever winks and nods to the previous films, these instances could confuse viewers who think this means the film takes place in the same universe as the originals. It’s an interesting decision by the marketing team, designed to evoke nostalgia for the 1984 and 1989 films, but one that seems at odds with the filmmakers’ assertions that this, in fact, won’t take place in that same continuity. But, I digress.
What we do see in the new trailer is our first good look at the four hilarious women who make up the new Ghostbusters. Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a particle physicist with an expertise in quantum physics and a penchant for getting covered in projectile-vomited ectoplasmic goo; Kate McKinnon is Jillian Holtzmann, a nuclear engineer/mad scientist who crafts the gang’s ghostbustin’ gear and spooks her colleagues with silly wigs; Melissa McCarthy is Abby Yates, a paranormal expert who wants to get to the bottom of the city’s sudden infestation of otherworldly spirits, and someone who is in desperate need of a chiropractor by the trailer’s end; and Leslie Jones plays Patty Tolan, a take-no-prisoners MTA employee who joins the gang because she knows New York City better than anyone else and can get the troupe a car (the brand new Ecto-1, which you can see below). Well, that and she can literally exorcise a possessed spirit by using the “Power of Patty” to compel them (i.e. slap the ever-loving hell out of them).
While many of the jokes in the trailer land for me and elicit laughs, my favorite moment far and away is when neither Melissa McCarthy nor Kristen Wiig can decide on who is going to spur the group to action. It’s a smaller, quieter moment and it’s more than a little awkward, but it feels honest and raw and real in a very funny way. Also worthy of accolade are the visual effects for the cavalcade of ghosts seen throughout the trailer… Except for that Uncle Sam-on-stilts-looking specter. I don’t much care for him, but that’s not a knock against the visual effects team so much as it is the fact that he genuinely creeps me out.
The new Ecto-1 makes its debut in the trailer, and it’s staying true to its roots. The iconic red-and-white Cadillac hearse is back and ready to cart around a new generation of Ghostbusters. In addition to their sweet whip, we get a first look at the new proton packs in action, and boy howdy do they look good. Almost as good as Chris Hemsworth looks as Boy Janine, a.k.a. Kevin, the new receptionist. Whether or not these proton packs can cross streams, however, remains to be seen.
Who Ya Gonna Call? The Fans!
On Wednesday, I attended a special screening of the trailer for diehard Ghostbusters fans from around the country. A marquee outside the theater read “Welcome Ghostheads / Who You Gonna Call?” That phrase would sound derogatory in any other context, but with so many men and women dressed from head to toe in khaki jumpsuits, toting homemade proton packs it was hard not to crack a smile.
Waiting inside a small dining room, journalists and amateur Ghostbusters milled about, sipping on coffee and munching on scones. Two ‘busters inspected the proton pack props on display, nodding in approval at their authenticity. At that precise moment, Ray Parker Jr.’s seminal theme song came over the speakers, and everything seemed right in the world.
When we filed into the theater, it was revealed that fans had flown in from across the country just to be among the first in the world to view the trailer. These men and women are members of various Ghostbusters clubs, which function much like the 501st Legion does for Star Wars fans, focusing on creating screen-accurate costumes and using them for philanthrophic endeavors like visiting children’s hospitals. Their enthusiasm was palpable when Ghosbusters producer Ivan Reitman took the stage, prompting a standing ovation and chants of “I-van! I-van! I-van!” Also receiving a standing ovation was Ghostbusters director Paul Feig, who introduced the clip and confessed that he was more than a little nervous. Thankfully, his fears were unfounded because when the trailer ended, the audience burst into applause and began chanting, “One more time! One more time!” And so they played it once more.
Afterwards, Reitman and Feig were joined by Ghostbusters writer Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks & Recreation) for an audience Q&A.
One audience member brought up the elephant in the room, namely the negative response that the film has received from some fans who complained that the cast was entirely female. So how do the filmmakers address the decision to use an all-female cast?
“We don’t,” Feig said quite simply, prompting a round of applause from the crowd. “I wanted the four funniest people,” he continued. “Ghostbusters are for everybody.”
“There’s no issue of gender,” Reitman said of the cast. “There’s something unique and starling about those four together that contributes to what was so special about the first movie.”
Dippold noted that the script was fairly genderless, meaning that you could swap males in for each of the main roles and it would be virtually unaffected. However, she’s glad that they didn’t because she truly believes these are the four funniest people that could play the roles. Based on what I saw in the trailer and what I’ve read in interviews, I’m inclined to agree.
Fans were also delighted to see old favorites like Slimer return to the big screen, and Feig was quick to agree. “You can’t do Ghostbusters without Slimer,” Feig joked when a fan mentioned the puckish green ghost in the Q&A.
Reitman revealed that when Dan Aykroyd was originally outlining and preparing the treatment for Ghostbusters, it was intended to be a vehicle for John Belushi and him. However, Belushi’s passing obviously changed those plans. According to Reitman, though, Slimer was colloquially referred to as the “Belushi ghost.” They didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with him, but they knew he was going to be eating all the time. Reitman was just as shocked as anyone that Slimer went on to become one of the franchise’s breakout characters.
When pressed about what kind of music we can expect, Feig said, “You’re definitely going to hear the Ghostbusters song,” referring to Ray Parker Jr.’s infectious earworm, “as well as some original ones.”
Composer Teddy Shapiro, who worked with Feig on Spy, is “doing an amazing Ghostbusters theme,” Feig said. “I want it to be big, spooky, gothic, cool.”
When asked about improvisation on set, writer Katie Dippold said that having a cast of talented comedians and improvisers makes it a lot easier, especially ones who have worked together before. She also revealed that she and Feig have a system of Post-It notes on which Dippold will furiously scribble alt lines and new jokes during the shooting process, then slip them to Feig for his consideration. The result is a collaborative, evolving process of screenwriting and filmmaking.
“Harold Ramis used to say, ‘The last draft of the script is written on the set,'” Reitman reflected. Judging on what we’ve seen in this first trailer, it’s a draft that should make both the filmmakers and Ghostbusters fans very happy.
Stay tuned later today for a breakdown of the trailer, as well as additional highlights from yesterday’s fan screening, on Nerdist News with Jessica Chobot.
What did you think of the trailer? Any Easter Eggs you spotted that we missed? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Images: Sony / Dan Casey