When it comes to science fiction films, I feel like the majority of sequels are as good as, if not better than, the original. Aliens, Back to the Future Part II, and Empire Strikes Back are all spectacular continuations of their iconic predecessors, however the same cannot be said of Ghostbusters II. It appears to have gone down in the history books as not just a bad sequel, but a bad film entirely. It was, and to many it still is, seen as a bland recreation of the original, with much of the criticism being directed at how child-friendly it is in comparison. Looking back at it now, with much of the production information available to the public, these criticisms are not just unsurprising… they’re almost inevitable.
Set 5 years after the events of Ghostbusters, the sequel sees our titular team, now disbanded, as they face off against a resurrected sorcerer and, once again, save New York from certain oblivion. I feel like this aspect of the story really works, and that had it just been this, Ghostbusters II could have been almost perfect. These films are at their best when the characters are riffing off each other, regardless of whether or not they are catching spooks at the time. Some of the franchise’s most iconic lines, like Egon’s ‘epididymis’, and the demand for He-Men come from this very instalment. The set pieces are also a thing of beauty, with the river of slime and Statue of Liberty being particularly well done. It’s these two sets that end up being instrumental in the plot, and they are super fun scenes to watch, regardless of the surrounding context. Yes, they’re utterly ridiculous, but this is Ghostbusters so it kind of goes with the territory. We are also given a wonderful villain this time around with Vigo the Scourge of Carpathia. As a long deceased sorcerer living inside a painting, he shouldn’t be much of a threat, but once you give him a deadly plan and the booming voice of Max Von Sydow, you suddenly wish he would just stay in the painting. His henchman and art curator, Janoz, is also wonderful to watch, and is one of the most consistently praised aspects of the film. It’s clear that he isn’t a threat to anyone and that he was Vigo’s only option, but it’s also clear that Janoz isn’t really here for the world domination. Janoz has fallen in love with one of his art restoration team and will do literally anything to be with her- Dana Barrett.
Dana is now a single mother, having moved on from Venkman and subsequently being abandoned by the baby’s father. This franchise simply would not feel the same without her, but the film slows down drastically whenever we have to witness her, yet again, falling for Venkman who, it’s made clear, is kind of a jerk. Watching these scenes it is abundantly apparent why she left him to begin with. If this was the only romantic pairing I might be willing to give it a pass, however we also have to witness a romance between the Ghostbusters’ secretary Janine and their attorney Louis. It seems to come completely out of nowhere and would not have been missed if it was left on the cutting room floor. It’s especially odd if you’re a fan of the original Ghostbusters, where Janine and Egon show a clear interest in each other. More than that, is the strange need to insert any romantic subplots at all in a film that is targeted towards children at all. These sub-plots are my only issue with this film, as even just calling them sub-plots undermines how large the role they seem to play is.
As was the case for many films in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, an animated children’s show was thrust into development. The Real Ghostbusters, later re-named Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters from series 4 onward, ran for 140 episodes from 1986 to 1991 and followed the continuing adventures of Ray, Pete, Winston, and Egon. The show was a success which led to a spinoff in 1997 titled Extreme Ghostbusters and a toy line from famed manufacturer Mattel. During the show’s early development, a sequel to 1986’s Ghostbusters was already in the works, though it was proving to be a difficult task to make it. As co-creator, Bill Murray’s approval was required to do anything, but he had already moved on to other projects, like 1988’s Scrooged!, while the sequel itself was not seen as a high priority by the head of Columbia Pictures. Following a series of box office flops, the studio soon changed their mind, and because it was seen as a sure-fire way to make money, Ghostbusters II was put into production. During post-production, both the studio and director Ivan Reitman supposedly became concerned that this sequel would not live up to the status of the original. During this time, extensive re-shoots were carried out, replacing scenes that had already been completed and extra scenes were added where the Ghostbusters were in mortal peril- adding a sense of urgency to the unfolding events. Given how popular The Real Ghostbusters was and how worried both the studio and director were, it’s no shock that this film was aimed more towards children. It would mean extra ticket sales, which would mean extra money. Unfortunately, those ticket sales were already being made by the even more family-friendly Honey, I shrunk the Kids, while teenage ticket sales were going to Batman.
Personally, I don’t mind that it’s more child friendly. The special effects, though more like the cartoon, are still excellently done, and the chemistry of the cast is still there. Even the songs on the soundtrack, which are a little outside my zone, still provide a good atmosphere. Where the film lets itself down is its focus on romantic relationships which really affects the pacing. I truly believe that there is a marvellous sequel in here trying to get out but, for what it is, it’s fine. Regardless of the mostly negative opinions, Ghostbusters II will forever hold a small place in my heart.
Until Next Time…