Ghostbusters versus Ghostbusters II: Fight!

Broadcast from 1975 to 1976, Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch teamed up with a gorilla named Tracy to investigate paranormal activities in an old castle—whoops, I meant the other one.

The Ghostbusters game for the 360 and PS3 is an odd contradiction in that it’s well written and  the original voice cast does a great job, but the gameplay itself is tedious and frustrating at times (especially that FUCKING BLACK SLIME MONSTER I’M CURRENTLY STUCK ON GRHAAA!).  But it’s funny and entertaining enough to get me interested in watch the movies again.  Easy enough through Netflix, though I’m not sure why the sequel is available for streaming but the original is not.  Gremlins is the same case.  Why do you vex me Netflix?  But since you have every season of the King of the Hill available on Instant while not they’re not even out of DVD, all is forgiven.

During the first Ghostbusters I noticed a distinct lack of laughing on my part, as well as my wife.  A chuckle here and there, but nothing gut busting (Hey, I used the word busting!).  And then we watched the second movie and found ourselves laughing more.  Wait a minute.  Most sane people would tell you that Ghostbusters II is a pale follow up.  Bill Murray will even punch you in the face if you dare to mention it in his presence.  Yet here we were, enjoying the second one more.  What happened?  I figured that the only thing to do was to take the two movies and lock them in giant steel cage, have them fight it out until one of them dies.  Two movies enter!  One movie leaves!  Then I remembered that films are not alive and cannot engage in fisticuffs, so I decided to gauge them in various categories to see which one fares better objectively.  I mean, arbitrarily.

Doom!

The first movie obviously has to show how the Ghostbusters are formed, their origin and what not, but boy does it takes its sweet time getting there.  First we have to watch Dr. Venkman torture a dude and salaciously hit on a girl with the eightiest of hair.  The progression to actual ghostbusting is slow.  First they have to get fired, then buy the fire station, have Venkman hit on Sigourney Weaver, not do any ghostbusting for a while, and then finally bust a ghost, after which there is lots of ghostbusting.  Sure it takes a while, but it conveys the gradual increase of paranormal activity and gives some dread that things are getting worse.  The apocalyptic musings by Ray and Winston adds to this sense of doom.

In the sequel, the weird stuff starts happening immediately with the runaway pram.  Weird!  But then, the weirdness stops.  Again, the ghosts take a while to show up, even when they eventually do, they’re not really as important as the mood slime.  In fact, do they even bust any ghosts beyond the courtroom scene and the montage?  The rest of the movie is all about investigating the mood slime.  I guess that’s okay, but emotional ectoplasm is not as frightening as ghosts.   Without that creeping dread, Ghostbusters II has less weight.

Winner: Ghostbusters

Bad Guy!

Gozer, as a main adversary, doesn’t really factor until well into the movie.  He’s mentioned a few times but he doesn’t really have a presence until, well, when (s)he’s presented.  However, the movie does a good job with building him up as bad news.  The second movie, with all the origin stuff out of the way, introduces and spends more time developing the villain (“Is Vigo!”).   His painting shows up pretty early, and remains in the background looking all menacing.  This way, we the audience can anticipate what’s coming, but the tradeoff is that when he finally does show up, it’s not as intriguing.  Since Gozer’s form is unknown when he finally appears as a Yugoslav model, the audience can say, “Huh!” because it’s unexpected.  Plus, a guy with magical abilities will never be as powerful as a god.  Steps down in sequels are never good.  However, that painting is ridiculous and is good for some humor.

Winner: Ghostbusters

Fun fact that I learned just now: Max von Sydow was the uncredited voice of Vigo the Carpathian!  Rad!

Minions!

The first movie has a demon dog named Zuul who possesses Sigourney Weaver and makes her act all sexfully.  The sequel has Peter MacNicol doing a bad Chekov impersonation (“Is Vigo!”).  While Zuul is more impressive and scary, I’m going to have to go with Janosz because bad accents are hilarious.

Winner: Ghostbusters II

Frightening!

In between all of Bill Murrary’s deadpan lines, the first movie makes a decent effort at being scary.  There is silliness present; I mean just look the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but it’s also unnerving when the big guy goes from cute to pissed off.  The silliness is only amplified in the sequel.  And pink slime is not scary.  Oooo, pink goo. 

Winner: Ghostbusters

Music!

Cheesy early 80s music is better than cheesy late 80s music, and that’s math.

Winner: Ghostbusters

Comedy!

Whenever a baby is present in a comedy, you know there are going to be lots of jokes about babies, and baby jokes are rarely good.  They’re mom jokes.  Jokes for mom.  But on the other hand, the second movie has Peter MacNicol and his awesome accent.  “Doctor Wenkman, vhy have you came?”  Fantastic.

But here we come back to the realization that I laughed more at the sequel, even though the first movie has better gags and funnier lines.  The points tally shows that the first one is the better movie.  Proven with science, and science does not lie except about climate change.  So why did I enjoy watching the second one more this time?  My new theory is that I watch the first one to death as a kid, and so the sequel, being less familiar, was fresher in my mind.  Objectively, Ghostbusters I is a better made movie, but why do we have to fight?  Why can’t we just enjoy both films and not worry about which is better even though it’s obviously the first one?

Big Winner: Us

About Tim

Tim Bennett works for a publisher of science and technology, amongst other things.
This entry was posted in Projected Pixels and Emulsion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Ghostbusters versus Ghostbusters II: Fight!

  1. Justin says:

    I had a similar Ghostbusters experience not too long ago. One of my all time favorite movies and I hardly laughed. As it turns out, it’s because I’ve been quoting all the best lines from it since 1984 and when something wears a furrow that deep into your brain it’s not funny anymore.

    The AV Club has a regular feature called Better Late Than Never? in which one of the staff who has never experienced some huge cultural touchstone, experiences said touchstone and reviews it from that perspective. Here’s the entry on Ghostbusters: http://www.avclub.com/articles/ghostbusters,35378/

    While I disagree with her on the quality of the film, it’s an interesting exercise. What does this look like to someone that didn’t grow up with it?

  2. Clint says:

    I don’t know, I just finished reading that AV Club article and, while I can maybe agree to disagree on most of her points, she completely lost me when she wrote Back to the Future is a better film than Ghostbusters, that also holds up better without the benefit of nostalgia. That’s a mystifying declaration, and we don’t get the benefit of hearing how she came to that conclusion.

    And the idea that it’s the Bill Murray show and everyone else just fades into the background? I really must have been watching a different movie, whether then or now.

    As for lack of laughter, let’s call it “Holy Grail” syndrome. There was a period in college where one of my dorm-mates watched his copy of that movie every fucking weekend, which got old fast. In fact, for years afterwards I could barely stand hearing it quoted, which was not good when you’re a gamer nerd.

    Now that the contempt of familiarity wore off, though, I can watch and enjoy it again. It’s golden age Monty Python, and well-structured absurdist comedy (as much of an oxymoron as that is). But you probably wouldn’t catch me laughing out loud at any of it. We always say phrases like “I’m laughing on the inside” sarcastically, but I think there’s truth to it as well, like how a good relationship settles down after the initial whirlwind romance into a more lasting love where you don’t need to flamboyantly demonstrate it every day for it to be true.

  3. Tim says:

    I’m trying to come up with some beloved 80s movie that I missed out on so I can perform my own experiment. All I know is that Thundercats turned out to be terrible.

    Transformers: The Movie still holds up though!

  4. Pingback: I Like Moonraker and Other Thoughts on Roger Moore | The Satellite Show

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