Ghostbusters: Afterlife – Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The idea of bringing this franchise back from the dead was met with immediate concern for those brought up on the original series. In 2016 that’s exactly what they did, but turning it into a female led rethread of an adored classic caused long running fans of the franchise to come out with their pitchforks. Then with the news of yet another ‘reboot’ to hit our screens, it was met with a similarly disapproving response from its fanbase.

Was Ghostbusters: Afterlife going to restore the reputation of a beloved classic, or was it going to join Ghostbusters (2016) as a hollow and lifeless example of cashing in on fan service and nostalgia? This was the main question I had going in.

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After the recent death of her father, Callie (Carrie Coon) inherits only his derelict farm house in the middle of Summerville, Oklahoma. Moving in with her two children Phoebe and Trevor (McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard), they look to set up a new life in the Midwest. It doesn’t take long for Phoebe to realise that the house possesses unnatural natures of the supernatural kind, and after digging deeper, discovers the farm was previously owned by a Ghostbuster, who also happens to be her grandfather.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife takes us on a journey that feels very reminiscent of the original movie that was released back in 1984. But the baton is handed over to a new set of characters, as they will have to uncover the secrets and mysterious activities unearthed by the deceased former Ghostbuster, as a new threat looms within the mines of this remote little town.

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Heading into this movie my biggest concern was how they would pay respects to the original material. Unlike Ghostbusters (2016), this recent entry into the franchise is actually a sequel to the two movies released in the ’80’s. So finding that sweet spot of feeling worthwhile, new and yet still relevant that it will appease the fans, but not just skating solely on nostalgia and having little or nothing to say. With Jason Reitman directing, son of Ivan Reitman (the creator of the original movies), I had the sense that this sequel was in the right hands. Honouring the legacy of his father and restoring this long beloved franchise to its prime form, Ghostbusters: Afterlife feels like the soul has finally found itself back, but into a new body. One that still encapsulates the charm and goofy atmosphere that has kept Ghostbusters a household classic decades later.

The general structure of the film is almost identical to that of the ’84 original, but with certain key changes to its plot and characters. It takes a little while to get going and for the story to find familiar footing, but once it gets there it’s like opening up a time capsule to Ghostbusters more glory days. To some the obvious call-backs and refreshers may seem meandering and emotionally immoderate, but I feel it was handled respectfully and with the right intentions in mind. The right people were behind this sequel and the final project shows that a lot of care has gone into every detail.

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Following up the original cast was never going to be an easy task. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson were responsible for dressing up in the beige overalls decades ago, and turned these otherwise odd and goofy characters into household heroes and some of the most beloved and cherished in all of filmmaking. The kids have a huge role to play in this sequel, but most importantly McKenna Grace’s Phoebe. The embodiment of her grandfather, a misunderstood nerd that struggles to fit in with her surroundings, and perhaps has the most to gain from the relocation. Her brother Trevor seems just as awkward and diffident but is more disillusioned and doubtful of all the ghost stories, but has a strong uplift in the final act of the movie.

Carrie Coon does well with what she’s given and Paul Rudd playing the quirky and quippy science teacher is the right balance of important but not so overwhelming that his appearance overshadows that of the rest of the cast. And if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know there is a couple of surprises in the wings.

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Not everything about Ghostbusters: Afterlife is narratively tight. It suffers from an identity crisis at times (if you’re familiar with the original, you would see why) and pacing is slightly problematic, but the slight change in tone from Ivan’s more comedic direction is a welcoming treat. Whilst there is certainly still a comedy element, it leans more on the dramatic undertones that the original only truly hinted at.

It’s hard to find the right audience to pitch this to. On one hand it’s really for those who’ve grown up with the franchise, and wish to erase the existence of the 2016 reboot, by watching something that feels more in tune with the franchise. But on the other hand, these are the same people that could feel this further dampens the joyous experience of the originals, and glides on its nostalgia alone. Either way having prior knowledge to the film’s that this accompanies, is strongly advised as the heart and soul to this threequel is really in the history that was laid out before it.

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