We live in a society that is obsessed with pop culture. Surprisingly, with shorter attention spans thanks to the small high-tech computers in our pockets, trends come and go seemingly in a cyclical manner each decade. Fashion, choice in music (and the device to listen on), and media all have their initial run, fade to black and make their grand reappearance as if it never left and we as fans never forgot about its existence in the first place. Hollywood loves good old-fashioned reboots or reimagining’s as an executive may put it of some of the most popular intellectual property that has dazzled fans across the globe. Jurassic Park, Blade Runner, Star Wars (an argument can be made that it’s all one story but, come on, The Force Awakens is literally A New Hope) and just about every Batman and Superman iteration and the list goes on and on.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is drenched in nostalgia and reliving the past success of a franchise. I mean, the original 1984 classic gave so much to pop culture with several iconic moments from the film, sooner or later a new film was bound to be inevitable, right? Well, in 2016 an all-female led team (and Chris Hemsworth) in gender swapping roles came out to a thunderous disappointment from fans that didn’t take it well (I liked it, its charming and well-cast).
That said, when the son of the director of the original Jason Reitman presents a script for a new story, ears perk up – you have my attention. Written by Reitman and Gil Kenan and directed by Jason Reitman, Afterlifefeels very much its own story, standing on its own two feet but very much attached to the world we all know and love. Even if you’re not big on Ghostbusters whatsoever, hearing the song, seeing the Ecto-1, the jumpsuits and the Marshmallow Man wreak havoc on Manhattan is enough to draw interest.
Picking up 32 years after the events of Ghostbusters II, the daughter of Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) Callie (Carrie Coon) gets evicted from her home with her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) moving to Egon’s farm Callie inherited in Oklahoma. Phoebe quickly makes friends with Podcast (Logan Kim) and their summer schoolteacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) to figure out why the town of Summerville is experiencing earthquakes, yet no fault lines are near the small town.
Looking at Afterlife as a whole, its beat for beat the same in structure as the original. The introduction of characters, exploring their personalities, discovering ghosts and paranormal activity, and coming together with proton blasters to capture them, Zuul taking two captives as sacrifices and stop Gozer together with the aid of a few familiar faces in the end.
Unlike the original, Afterlife takes itself a little more seriously with the events unfolding. Sure, the dry humor is there, now controlled exclusively by Phoebe. Seriously, Phoebe should audition for the captain of Jungle Cruise. Her and Dwayne Johnson’s character would get along swimmingly with the number of puns and dad jokes they can dish back and forth. It’s very much Phoebe’s story – channeling her grandfather in style and brains.
Ghostbusters has always centered around family. Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston (Ernie Hudson), Egon and Ray (Dan Aykroyd) being the most unlikely of friends that became a family through hunting ghosts that its nearly impossible to think otherwise. That same sense of family is felt through Afterlife from Jason Reitman taking the baton from his father (the only real logical choice to continue this story) to the four unlikely new busters including Trevor’s love interest Lucky (Celeste O’Connor). The added diversity in the four make this continuation appealing – allowing anyone to feel like they can catch a Slimer or a Muncher (voiced by Josh Gad) and stop Gozer (Olivia Wilde).
Nostalgia will determine Afterlife’s success. Reitman throws easter eggs at you in every scene banking that it will tug on heartstrings to bring back memories of his father’s work. While the nostalgia is necessary to a degree, the entire plot relies on nostalgia a little more than it should. The trailer alone shows everything the first film had that would get anyone hyped up to go see this film. Fan or not of the original, who doesn’t want to see tiny versions of Marshmallow Man wreaking havoc in in the baking goods isle of a Walmart and them discovering smores.
Performances from the main cast are solid with real chemistry coming from the core group but the standout is Mckenna Grace. Wolfhard has been popping up everywhere since breaking out with Stranger Things and takes the supporting role again. The worlds sexiest man alive aka the ageless wonder Paul Rudd brings the comedic relief but doesn’t overdo the comedy – finding a happy medium between comedy and drama. Besides the performances, the special effects got a huge upgrade – Ghostbusters effects while ambitious and groundbreaking for 1984 don’t age all too well (mostly Zuul) but here every effect is polished and cleaned up, even Zuul.
Getting past the same plot structure shouldn’t be too big a problem for fans of the franchise, the younger cast embody the meaning of being a Ghostbuster – coming together regardless of differences to save the world. With a lot of puns and dad jokes to make light of the situation. Good thing Gozer is gullible, otherwise Summerville and the Spangler family would fade into obscurity. Afterlife is a fun thrill ride that sometimes takes the darker more emotional route when it should be lighthearted and comedic. Not saying it’s a bad thing but the tones shift between the two throughout the 2-hour runtime. Relying too heavily on nostalgia, Afterlife continues the story while paying homage to what came before it.
Written By: Gil Kenan & Jason Reitman
Directed By: Jason Reitman
Music By: Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: Eric Steelberg
Starring: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor
Release Date: November 19, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
My Score: 3.5 out of 5
Based On: Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis & Ivan Reitman