(Disc Released: 23/10/14) Given that 2014 marked the thirtieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries respectively of “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II”, Reel Chat gave me the opportunity to re-watch them. This can be something of a perilous exercise – bringing an analytical eye to a movie that carries such personal nostalgic weight for me – but I almost always walk away with an enhanced appreciation for the film in question, be it a newfound recognition of it’s merits or a clearer grasp of it’s shortcomings. Much has been written about “Ghostbusters”; much less about “Ghostbusters II”.
In the years since it’s release, the latter has come to be considered the bastard, redheaded stepchild of the franchise, which includes the highly regarded animated series – “The Real Ghostbusters (1986–1991)”. When discussing “Ghostbusters”, the sequel typically merits an obligatory, passing mention, though often with a discernible tenor of embarrassment; even series director Ivan Reitman offered this vague and somewhat apologetic assessment of the follow-up in Vanity Fair: “It didn’t all come together. We just sort of got off on the wrong foot story-wise on that film.” Other appraisals of “Ghostbusters II” are equally nonspecific. Other than a general consensus that “it wasn’t as good as the original,” I’ve been hard-pressed to find a critique that adequately identifies why, as Vanity Fair notes, it “failed to generate the passionate enthusiasm spurred by the first film”.
Fan apathy is especially perplexing since, upon renewed viewing of the picture, I came away impressed by all the things it got right. The chemistry amongst the talented cast hadn’t waned in the least five years on. Screenwriters Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd conceived a believable low point at which to start the Ghostbusters in their second installment (a direct consequence of the climactic events of the first film), effectively recapturing the joy of watching our hero underdogs launch their unlikely business essentially from scratch again. New obstacles in the romance between Venkman (Bill Murray) and Dana (Sigourney Weaver) are credibly established, fertilising a more emotionally complex love story this time around. Most sequels struggle with incorporating new character arcs for returning protagonists (a pitfall called “sequelitis”), but “Ghostbusters II” handled the matter pretty well. And whereas the first film had its share of one-liners (it was, overall, more situationally funny), the sequel, on the other hand, is full of hilarious, character-specific dialogue exchanges. “Ghostbusters II” doesn’t betray or shame the spirit of its forerunner in any way. It didn’t necessarily build upon the mythology of the first film; it’s no “Aliens (1986)” – few sequels are! It’s hard for me to imagine why there isn’t a little more love for the Ghostbusters’ encore outing.
After the first one, Reitman and writers/stars Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis didn’t want to do another – they felt it was done – a definitive tale. Ghostbusters 2 is the inevitable result of great box office, studio pressure, a successful animated series and, equally as inevitably, it’s yet another example of the Hollywood law of diminishing returns. Reitman’s sequel doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it’s doesn’t even try to – and that’s the biggest problem here. What we have here is a sequel that simply attempts to xerox it’s predecessor – a beloved and successful product.
Now, we all know the best sequels out there are the Empire Strikes Back’s, the Aliens’, the Terminator 2’s etc… follow ups to genuinely great movies that had the balls to say “no, we already did it like that, it’s time to develop and grow.” Ghostbusters 2 is a perfect example of quality writers (and a director) coerced (to a degree) into returning to a franchise they were definitely done with, and essentially phoning the whole thing in. What Reitman delivers is in many ways the same story – the Ghostbusters may be established, but they’re now marginalised, and must again prove themselves in the public eye; Bill Murray’s sly Dr. Peter Venkman attempting to charm (and in this case win back) Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett, now a young mother who (again) finds herself at the centre of the threat; and indeed the said threat is yet another theatrical ancient entity out to destroy New York, with the Ghostbusters clashing against a stupid Mayoral department who only realise their worth when it’s almost too late, before a climax involving a big giant stomping through the city streets… oh, and Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore gets practically nothing to do… again! It’s not that any of this is deal breaking… it’s just lazy.
The saddest thing about Ghostbusters 2 is that it could have been much, much better. Ivan Reitman and his cast had done it before – they made a truly great supernatural comedy romp that stands the test of time. But you simply can’t replicate that kind of magic in exactly the same way twice, unless you’re very lucky, or have an amazing script and story. So while it’s not quite on par with it’s predecessor, Ghostbusters 2 does a reasonable job of retaining most of the elements that made the first so gratifying. The three leads pick up where they left off, and weaknesses in the script (and an occasional inconsistent tone) are bailed out by Peter MacNicol’s fantastic performance as Janosz.
First and foremost, a sequel can never deliver on the one thing we want most from it – a precise emotional encore of the earlier experience. While it shares some of the same beats as the original, Ghostbusters II still manages to be a hilarious, visually impressive, and immensely enjoyable sequel. This didn’t quite deserve the critical mauling it got on release, although perhaps nostalgia and my love for the franchise leads me to that conclusion. (My Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
THE IMAGE QUALITY
Like its predecessor, the sequel arrives on Blu-ray very admirably, and the results are shocking and extraordinary, amazingly surpassing the first movie in terms of picture quality. Of course, the photography of the talented Michael Chapman is completely different to László Kovács’s grainy style. Here, the movie is far cleaner and sleeker with more depth and dimensionality, and the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is faithful to Chapman’s intentional design. Details in the weathered buildings and the winter clothing of the cast are often razor-sharp. Natural flesh tones in facial complexions are highly revealing, exposing every pore, wrinkle and negligible blemish with distinct clarity and excellent resolution. But is it too clean? Losing some of the original’s charm perhaps?
Presented in a 2:40:1 aspect ratio, the source appears to be in astonishingly great condition, awash with very fine layer of grain that gives the presentation a very-much appreciated film-like appeal. Spot-on, comfortably bright contrast allows for some splendid visibility in the far distance, exposing every bit of background information with superb intelligibility. The screen is littered with lavish, radiant primaries throughout while the softer secondary hues boldly energise, nicely complementing the film’s lighthearted drive. Black levels are opulent with surprisingly deep, penetrating shadows that never ruin the finer details, giving the high-def transfer a welcomed cinematic feel. (Video Rating: 4.5/5)
THE AUDIO QUALITY
The proton-pack-wearing supernatural investigators are back with a highly entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Although upgraded for modern home-theatres, the lossless mix remains, for the most part, faithful to the original stereo design, keeping many of the paranormal activities in the front soundstage. Imaging is wide and rich with a terrifically detailed mid-range and convincing acoustics, delivering a wealth of clarity and warmth from beginning to end. Randy Edelman’s score consistently broadens the soundfield with superb distinction within the orchestration. Like its predecessor, the low-end is impressively weighty and robust for a film of this age, adding some great rumbling effects to the action. With crystal-clear and pristine vocals in the centre, this high-res track perfectly complements the video. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
DIGGING INTO THE SUPPLEMENTS
- Time Is But A Window: Ghostbusters II And Beyond (HD, 16 minutes) — Similar to the previous retrospect on the original film’s Blu-ray, with Reitman, Aykroyd and Boucher, but primarily focused on the sequel and the expectations going into it. Worth a watch.
- Scene Cemetery (HD) — A collection of seven deleted scenes. Fans have been waiting for some of these for years!
- “On Our Own” Music Video by Bobby Brown (SD) — Bobby Brown performs “On Our Own.” I like this song, but the video is your very standard late 80s fare.
- Original Trailers (HD) – A collection of one teaser, and two separate theatrical trailers.
(Special Features Rating: 2.5/5)
HOME VIDEO RELEASES
2005 The Ultimate Collector’s Pack (Re-issue DVD with Ghostbusters)
2016 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
1989 Original Soundtrack Album
BOOKS OF INTEREST
2015 Ghostbusters – The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace
Celebrating 25 years in 2014, ‘Ghostbusters II‘ remains an amusing and fairly entertaining follow-up to the beloved sci-fi comedy classic. It may not quite live up to it’s predecessor, but the movie still delivers some laughs and amazing special effects. Finally on Blu-ray after lengthy delays, the sequel comes with an outstanding audio and video presentation that is a definite upgrade to previous DVD releases. Supplements are sadly light, but at least we finally get a handful of them. (Overall Blu-Ray Disc Rating: 3.5/5)
Written Review by Adam Stolfo