Something strange has returned to the neighbourhood. The Ghostbusters franchise. I do have some sympathy for fans of Ghostbusters because it really was a lightning in a bottle film that many believe will never, ever be replicated again, no matter how many attempts. Ghostbusters: Afterlife then was the franchises best shot at reclaiming some honour after a torrent of controversy surrounding 2016’s reboot. Why? Because this film was completely covered in the feeling of passing the torch over. Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman who was, of course, the director of the original ghostbusters has a go a replicating the magic his father achieved. On a personal level, Jason has undoubtedly made his father proud, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is vastly entertaining, especially for the hardcore fans, though the way it goes about homegoing the original film does add a bitter taste to what should be popcorn entertainment.
Unlike the 2016 reboot where the aim seemed to be to flip the script on the original formula, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is both a flip of the script and a homage. The decision to change the leads from adults to children is a decision that leans towards a more family-friendly future for Ghostbusters because let’s face it, several scenes in the original Ghostbusters drew a few awkward winces from parents. I would say that the leads in Ghostbusters: Afterlife are just as engaging as the original cast. Mckenna Grace who plays Egon Spengler’s granddaughter Phoebe carries this film. Her character may be just another, younger Spengler, but I think having her as the lead is just a great testament to how cherished Ramis, Murray, Ackroyd and Hudson were. Mckenna Grace does a terrific job in making this character likeable, one way in which she does this is to have her purposefully tell bad jokes, but because her social awkwardness is set up so brilliantly, it’s never cringy and it’s actually quite adorable.
Now I’d be offending Ghostbusters fans if I were to say that this film does things better than the original, but the fact is there is one thing this film has the advantage on. The evolution of the Ghostbusters equipment is really clever because it takes what we already have and evolve it in a way that feels like the next natural step. For instance, the classic ECTO-1 Cadillac now has a gunner seat equipped to it and you now have an RC Ghost Trap, both of which are made use of in an excellent ghost chase in the ECTO-1. The film is actually pretty good on the whole for taking something we know already and giving us something new, which is ultimately what many fans want to see.
I’d also say that the ghosts are like this. Sure they can’t create something as iconic as say, Slimer, but I think the film has the common sense to know this so they’ll create something similar looking but, again, give us something different. I know there will be some who’ll call the ghost “Blue Slimer” but it has a different enough personality to get audiences interested. Hey, at least we won’t have to sit through special effects that will age badly.
It sounds like a perfect homage, right? But here’s the thing, spotting nostalgia in a film works in a similar fashion to spotting foreshadowing, when we make the connection, it makes us clever and convinces us in our heads that we’re on the same wavelength with the filmmakers. But when it becomes too much and too obvious, it can feel at times cringy and unoriginal, this is where Ghostbusters: Afterlife may lose the joy built up in audiences. As I was walking back home and thinking about the film, I remembered how in 2019’s Doctor Sleep it felt like two films, one original story and one nostalgia trip. That is Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the first half is an original tale of this family reconciliation, and the second half is a journey through memory lane.
Some of the callbacks are admittedly done very well, but other times they are so obvious they become so obvious that it can be overwhelming to keep up with all these little nods and hints. For instance, there is a scene where the kids are in jail after destroying a lot of property in that ghost car chase, Phoebe asks the guard for her phone call and… you already know what the guard says. That’s how in your face the nostalgia is, and sure for most of the in-your-face callbacks you do sit with a smile on your face, but when you talk about it with others, you realise that the film didn’t really need to do that.
You can argue that the majority of hardcore fanbases cling onto the original, the first to boast about their devotion to a series. But where Star Wars or Harry Potter fans can fanboy/girl over several films in the series, Ghostbusters feels too big of a series to just pleasantly reminisce about one film. Ghostbusters: Afterlife changes this. This film is undoubtedly the most personal Jason Reitman has done, and you can tell from the look and the comedy that a great amount of care was taken to make this film feel like the original. The only big letdown is how dependant the film becomes on this trip down Ghostbuster’s memory lane. But hey, at the end of the day this film wanted to give Ghostbusters back to the fans, and it gift-wrapped it to them.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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