At a cinema recently, a group of kids were waiting in line for the latest Disney film, running around unstoppably. As kids do. Upon seeing the giant poster for GHOSTBUSTERS, the forthcoming reboot featuring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, they all got super excited and started running around imitating the busting of said ghosts. As kids do. To them, it’s all awesome. It’s all Ghostbusters. Gender politics and Internet trolls don’t enter into it. Take that, haters.
For the bigger kids, there’s a fun way to justify being equally excited about the new film. No, it’s got nothing to do with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig being at the helm. Or that it’s co-written by Parks and Recreation scribe Katie Dippold. Or that that cast is a group of the finest comedic actors of our generation. No, we have a far more convoluted reason for embracing the new GHOSTBUSTERS wholeheartedly, one that comes straight out of fandom: the Multiverse.
The Multiverse is defined as a “hypothetical set of finite and infinite possible universes, including the universe in which we live.” Comic books and films have been exploring this for the better part of the last century. DC Comics have hung most of their major events off the notion, destroying it completely at times, and reviving it at others. Marvel have done so recently as well. It means in practical terms that you can have more than one version of a character, without destroying the original. You might be able see where we are going with this idea, especially if you are from a world where this article has already been published. On The Unreel Bits.
Bustin’ makes us feel good, but from the first announcement of an all-female cast in the GHOSTBUSTERS reboot, armchair critics have been afraid. It ain’t no ghost they are afraid of, unless you count the massive spectre of the legitimate cultural touchstone of the 1984 original. So we can take comfort in the fact that we will all remember the true Ghostbusters: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, John Belushi and Eddie Murphy.
Well, that would have been the cast if original plans had held fast. But for a twist of fate, those names would have been the “classic” lineup. As fans will know, Aykroyd and Ramis had written parts for Belushi and Candy. The former died before shooting could commence, and the latter could not commit to the project. Having worked with Eddie Murphy on Trading Places, Aykroyd wanted to bring his improvisational abilities to the film. However, the Beverly Hills Cop series was taking off and Murphy was unavailable. As it stands, Aykroyd and Ramis were joined by Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson, and Candy’s role went to Rick Moranis. Yet in the Multiverse somewhere, those four coming together are the “classic” version of Ghostbusters that have never been topped for some.
The idea of other universes and multiple planes of existence have been in Ghostbusters narratives from the beginning. In a very real way, the Multiverse has been a fundamental part of the Ghostbusters mixed media, featuring versions of Ghostbusters teams that were not reflected in any film starring the original cast. The Extreme Ghostbusters was made up of a team recruited by Egon. The new (and extreme, but it was the 90s) Ghostbusters were Kylie Griffin, a genius, expert on the occult, and largely written as a female counterpart to Egon. Eduardo Rivera was a cynical Latino slacker analogue for Venkman. Garrett Miller was a wheelchair-bound young athlete who filled in for Ray, while Roland Jackson was a studious African-American machinery expert. In the comics, it’s even more “extreme”: the Ghostbusters have crossed over with The X-Files, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even Mars Attacks. In 2016, there’s been a series launched called Ghostbusters: Deviations, quite literally delving into the Multiverse by imagining storylines like “what if” the Ghostbusters hadn’t defeated Gozer.
If it really helps you get beyond the fact that there’s a new group of Ghostbusters on the clock, then maybe consider Hypertime for a moment. A subset of the Multiverse, and in various stages of favour at DC Comics, it assumes that every story every told about a character is equally true. To use Batman as an example, it means that you don’t have to throw out Adam West, Michael Keaton or even Christian Bale just because the film and TV versions of Bruce Wayne are currently Ben Affleck and David Mazouz. It rejects the notion that the current version is the only and preferred version of the character, allowing that both Christopher Reeve and Henry Cavill are equally valid versions of Superman. The premise was summed up by Mark Waid in a very simple way: “It’s all real.”
If you need all that to enjoy what looks to be a fun movie, one that could be brilliant or terrible for all we know, then that’s your t-shirt slogan: “It’s all real.” For the rest of us, we’ve already strapped on our proton packs, maybe re-watched the original two Ghostbusters films a couple of times, and are listening to Missy Elliot drop some killer rhymes on the reworked theme, and have already started to think of the most harmless thing. Something we loved from our childhoods. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. GHOSTBUSTERS.
GHOSTBUSTERS hits Australian cinemas on 14 July, and 15 July 2016 in the US, from Sony.