Let’s be honest: the Summer 2016 movie season has been underwhelming to say the least. Things got off to a solid enough start the first week of May—the official beginning of the Summer Movie Season—with the release of Marvel/Disney’s swell Captain America: Civil War, but in subsequent weeks, something was off. Relatively safe studio sequel plays like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows failed to perform in line with expectations, and more expensive franchise plays like Alice Through the Looking Glass and Independence Day: Resurgence were out-and-out disasters at the box office and with critics alike, as audiences instead opted to stay home.
Even the movies that did get positive reviews, like The Nice Guys, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and The Shallows, failed to “pop” and flourish into bona fide breakout hits. In fact, the only Summer 2016 films that seem to be unqualified successes are animated films, as Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets are doing gangbusters business at the box office despite lackluster reviews for the latter.
So what gives? Where’s this year’s Trainwreck or Jurassic World? Well, for one, 2016 is unique in that some of the biggest movies of the year opened outside the summer movie season. Deadpool was a smashing success all the way back in February, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—arguably the biggest film of the year—opened in March, as did Disney’s $1 billion-grossing Zootopia, and the near-$1 billion-grossing The Jungle Book opened in April. Audiences were given some of the year’s biggest blockbuster plays while schoolkids were still stressing out about exams, and thus when the time came for studios to unleash their “big guns”, audiences were more discerning. There was no reason to feel compelled to see Independence Day: Resurgence simply because it was summer time and a big, epic spectacle movie was in theaters—we got that back in March!
So in Summer 2016, more than ever, quality mattered, and quality blockbusters have been in short supply. That is until Ghostbusters hit theaters this past weekend. Indeed, a continuation of the Ghostbusters franchise has been in works for years, and while director Paul Feig’s hard reboot faced unfair criticism from angry misogynists/people who felt that this reboot somehow erased the original film from existence, the movie was a sizable success at the box office and, more importantly, it’s good.
Ghostbusters is the ideal summer blockbuster. It’s fun, colorful, entertaining, has just enough heart to get you emotionally invested, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are tremendously funny and have wonderful chemistry, and it’s a joy to watch this band of underdogs save New York City from a ghoulish outbreak. There are so many ways Ghostbusters couldn’t gone wrong—making it “gritty”, making it too cartoony, trying to mimic the paint-by-numbers success of other recent reboots—but Feig deftly avoids most pitfalls, instead forging ahead confidently with a Ghostbusters that is entirely its own thing but has reverence for what came before.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the blockbuster we’ve been waiting for all summer. It’s not overly dramatic to the point of being silly like Independence Day: Resurgence; it’s not too alienating like Warcraft; and it’s not a lazy cash grab like Alice Through the Looking Glass. It’s genuinely fun, genuinely funny, and genuinely gorgeous. Feig and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman take the time to actually make this film a pleasure to look at, conjuring some truly terrifying ghosts and settling on a vibrant but not over-the-top color palette. This is something that’s sorely overlooked with many blockbusters nowadays as everyone’s in a race to be the grittiest, the darkest, the most “real.” But audiences flocks to the movies in the summer to have fun, and that is the abject goal of Ghostbusters—to be fun. And boy does it succeed.
So as we malign Summer 2016 for being underwhelming and, on the whole, pretty terrible, let’s not overlook the fact that Ghostbusters came not a moment too soon. It is, truly, the blockbuster event of the summer, and while the movie’s opening weekend box office was solid though not spectacular, if there’s any justice in the movie world, the pure entertainment factor of the film should give it long legs in the weeks to come. So stop waiting for a movie that’s actually worth turning off Pokemon Go for—it’s here, and its name is Ghostbusters.