MOTW: Could "R.I.P.D." Be a Modern-Day "Ghostbusters?"

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
July 16th, 2013

MOTW: Could "R.I.P.D." Be a Modern-Day "Ghostbusters?"

With so much focus on vampires in the public consciousness, other supernatural creatures such as ghosts have been relegated to the wayside. That's all about to change with the July 2013 release of "R.I.P.D." starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. Like many ghost tales before it, the film is likely destined to be compared to "Ghostbusters," which is considered by many to be the standard-bearer for ghost-related movies. How does "R.I.P.D." compare to "Ghostbusters," and is the upcoming film really just an updated version of the 1984 classic?

"R.I.P.D." stands for the Rest In Peace Department, which is a special, shadowy department of the regular police. It is something of a dead officers' unit in which ghostly ex-cops continue to serve and protect even though they are now deceased. Just like regular police officers, these officers are tasked with protecting living humans, but instead of protecting them from other humans, they protect them from ghosts. It turns out that not all spirits are as benign as the members of the R.I.P.D.; some mean to harm or even kill people. Nick Cruz Walker (Reynolds) is a recently deceased cop who has been assigned to the R.I.P.D. to partner up with a veteran of the supernatural department, Roy Pulsipher (Bridges).

Together, the new partners must arrest souls who have died but haven't moved on to the afterlife, instead choosing to disguise themselves as living people in order to escape judgment. Nick and Roy are responsible for getting them to cross over to the other side, because otherwise, the tunnel that takes people to the afterlife could begin to malfunction. If this tunnel stops working, evil spirits may begin to come back to earth instead of the other way around, which could greatly upset the cosmic balance of the planet. Nick and Roy realize this and work tirelessly to stop the ghosts who would love to see the balance upset.

"Ghostbusters" follows the rise and near-fall of the Ghostbusters, a team of men who investigate supernatural occurrences that involve ghosts. Since these ghosts seem bent on scaring humans and sometimes causing damage to the world around them, they must be stopped. The problem is that most people don't believe in ghosts and think that the Ghostbusters are a scam of sorts. Still, they begin getting semi-steady work catching and containing ghosts until an agent of the Environmental Protection Agency forces them to rerelease all the ghosts they've captured into the world at once, which wreaks havoc on the city. Suddenly, people believe in ghosts and call upon the disgraced Ghostbusters to save their bacon when an otherworldly demon tries to take over the planet.

On the surface, "R.I.P.D." and "Ghostbusters seem to have more differences than similarities. For starters, the heroes of "R.I.P.D." are ghosts themselves, battling other ghosts to try and keep people from dying. In "Ghostbusters," each of the heroes is decidedly human and very much mortal, so they can (and nearly do) die as a result of their battle with the evil spirits. In "R.I.P.D.," Nick and Roy are already dead and don't have as much to fear as the Ghostbusters do. This is especially true of Roy, who has been a veteran of the Rest In Peace Department for many a year and has seen and heard just about everything. He shows no fear and works with the chutzpah of someone who can't be surprised anymore, even by ghosts.

"Ghostbusters" is not a buddy cop movie and really isn't an action movie either, especially when compared to "R.I.P.D." Despite this, the two movies share some very similar elements, which is why they will likely be compared to each other by critics once "R.I.P.D." goes into wide release. The biggest similarity is that the ghosts in each film that must be captured or stopped are part of a much bigger plan to unleash some much more evil spirits onto the planet. These evil spirits intend to take over and either eliminate humans or enslave them.

"R.I.P.D." is not really a modern version of "Ghostbusters," but the two films have enough humor and similar plot points to make them at least comparable. At its heart, "R.I.P.D." is still a cop movie with a supernatural element, whereas "Ghostbusters" is a comedy with a supernatural element. Either way, both are highly enjoyable films. "Ghostbusters" was a huge hit, and "R.I.P.D." may be as well if it lives up to its box-office potential upon its July 19, 2013, release.