GHOSTBUSTERS, anyone? Well, before we get into that — August saw the debut of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, the first major Hollywood film in twenty years with an all-Asian cast. The film stands at 93% on RottenTomatoes, with critics praising the performances and designs of the film. Commercially, the film earned over eighty-six million dollars thus far and called a step forward for representation in Hollywood.

I had no intention of seeing this film.

Ghostbusters
Image courtesy of REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS Wait, wait, let me explain

Before I’m gunned down, I fully recognize that this film is important for Asian-Americans, and representation in general, in Hollywood. The box office and acclaim are signs that times are ready to change, and hopefully, we’ll continue to see more films with non-white casts. However, I have my own reasons for not wanting to see it.

  1. I don’t like romantic comedies (rom-com)
  2. After reading the plot online, I thought it was cliche.
  3. I have issues with the controversy over the film’s Chinese-heavy portrayal of Singapore.

My reasons have nothing to do with the cast or representation (in Hollywood) – but are matters of personal preference and objective criticism. I have no intention of bashing a film without trying to understand the whole of what it is first. You see, I’ve lived through that experience already in 2016, with a film called GHOSTBUSTERS.

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To Recap GHOSTBUSTERS…

In order to explain the connection between these very different films, I need to state my history with GHOSTBUSTERS. This franchise is nearer to my heart than any other. It was the first thing I can remember obsessing over as a child; I bought everything I could, and even had my grandmother make me a homemade Peter Venkman outfit for Halloween.

Ghostbusters
This was my dream bedroom. Image courtesy of StrangeKidsClub.com

I still buy things like GB LEGO sets, and hearing the theme still sets my head bopping. So when I heard talk of an all-female version of the film, I was intrigued. I felt, with a good cast and story, the film had plenty of potential. I learned who the cast was, and felt confident the film was worth my time.

The first trailer hit and quickly became one of Youtube’s most hated videos. Some argued the backlash was due to exhaustion of reboots, while others claimed many of the negative criticism was misogynistic. The views quickly became polarized — fans of the film hated the original film, while critics hated women in film.

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I experienced the divided reaction personally at the Big Apple Comic-Con in New York. I spoke with different fans — one was not excited by the trailer but was still willing to try the film. Two others railed against the film, criticizing everything from the new GB uniforms, to not filming in New York, and simply not liking the new cast.

I was stunned to see so much negativity floating around my beloved franchise. It only got worse, as cast member Leslie Jones experienced horrible Twitter abuse. I still kept my stance and encouraged people to at least see the movie before lambasting it. Eventually, the release came, and I put my faith to the test.

My Reaction

I knew that I couldn’t let my nostalgia blind me, nor could I simply hate changes the film made. So, I sat down with as open a mind as possible and… I thought the movie was okay. However, I did feel there were issues. In my mind, the biggest shot against the film is that it largely retells the story of the original film.

I’d felt this was the worst approach to take because it ultimately makes the story feeling empty. I wanted to see a new story, not simply remember moments from the first film. At the same time, the film also eliminated a subtle element from the first movie. The original Ghostbusters struggled to finance their business, eventually being forced to take out mortgages on Ray’s childhood home.

This touch spoke on the difficulties of starting your own business, and also made the cast feel like underdogs. The new film glossed over this step, which took away a great deal of the impact the first film had. That also added to the second biggest problem of the film — it felt too safe.

The film seemed to take a step from STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, by hitting familiar plot points with a new cast. However, STAR WARS advanced the overall plot of the franchise and developed new and old characters along the way. GHOSTBUSTERS simply retold the story with new characters and ignored any option to advance the previous story. Still, with all these critiques, there are things I enjoy about the film.

Kate McKinnon gave a star-making performance, and the action and gadgets were greatly enhanced from previous films. The humor was also good, even if not all of the jokes hit perfectly. So while I wasn’t blown away, I left the theatre satisfied.

Being Critical For the Future

My experience with GHOSTBUSTERS taught me how easy our love for something can make us fight for it. At the same time, it also showed me that quick, impulsive, angry words only make a problem worse. Since that day, I learned to be more careful about how I think about a film. Obviously, we form our earliest opinions from trailers and the like. They may give us an inkling of a film, but they aren’t enough for us to judge them on. We need to give a story a fair chance because angrily reacting to glimpses only makes things worse.

Just because I like or dislike a film doesn’t mean someone else will, and they aren’t necessarily wrong for disagreeing. In fact, listening to them can be the only way to learn. GHOSTBUSTERS may not have worked, but it showed us aspects that succeeded and failed. Change is wrought with failure, and misfires are going to happen on the way to a successful female action comedy.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS may be a cliche romantic comedy (to me), but it can lead to other, deeper films for Asian-Americans and other cultures to explore. That growth is dependent on us being constructively critical, not hateful, and filmmakers taking those critiques into effect. So please, give films a chance, but be constructive about what you don’t like. It’s the only way things will get better.

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