Nearly 40 years after the first Ghostbusters premiered in theaters, a third movie in the franchise has finally arrived! It has been a long, rocky road to get to where we are now, with the project being in development hell for nearly two decades, matched with the casts’ hesitancy to return, along with the passing of Harold Ramis (who played Egon Spengler), it seemed that a third Ghostbusters would never get off the ground. The closest we have come was 2016’s female-led reboot which seemed to distance fans and divide critics. Now, a true sequel has come in the form of Ghostbusters: Afterlife! Afterlife is directed by Jason Reitman, who you may know as the director of films such as Juno, Up in the Air, and Jennifer’s Body. Yet what makes this special is that he is the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, which makes it feel like a passing of the torch. Ivan seems to appreciate his father’s work enough to continue the legacy as he visited the set of the original 1984 film as a kid. The touch is noticeable, but what it comes down to is more of the same story, yet for a new generation of Ghostbusters fans.
While Afterlife is more or less a true sequel to the 80s films, it comes off as somewhat of a reboot. The original cast makes appearances here and there to deliver the fan service, yet its focus is on an entirely new cast of characters, mainly the likes of Carrie Coon as single mother, Callie, Finn Wolfhard as her teenage son Trevor, and McKenna Grace as her science-obsessed daughter, Phoebe, who serves as a role model for girls everywhere, as they relocate to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention, they may or may not have a connection to the original team. Though it makes for a better time than the reboot before it, which was fine on its own terms as a stand-alone film if one were to separate it from the pack. Don’t worry! You won’t get crude humor or in-your-face woke messages. What you will get are plenty of easter eggs and references that have been handpicked from the Reitmans, enough to get fans smiling. Ghostbusters fans will indeed enjoy all the little nods to the 1984 film and may even get a sense of glee at its mix of practical and CG effects, including a spectacular climax that is out-of-this-world amazing! All of it is enough to make up for fan service that is basically there just to exist.
When it comes to sequels that are the same as their original counterparts, one film I like to use as example is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While it had more of the same plot devices as the 1977 film, its fan services and appearances feel earned. It was a breath of fresh air to revisit that world and embrace these characters we loved as they went on their journey. The references in Ghostbusters: Afterlife are more of a quick hello/goodbye from a friend we haven’t seen in a while that we barely even talk to. Even when it serves as a tribute to the late Harold Ramis, it just does not feel as powerful or compelling as it tries to be.
One of Afterlife‘s highlights, besides its visual effects, is the always-reliable Paul Rudd as middle-school science teacher Mr. Grooberson, who also has a knowledge of seismology. In a movie that relies on child-friendly humor, he helps to add to the many laughs this movie dishes out; his running joke being mostly showing 80’s horror movies to his group of students. There is a scene in a supermarket where Grooberson has a scuffle with some sadistic mini-stay-puft marshmallow men (meant to sell toys, no doubt?) and a run-in with a demon dog from the original Ghostbusters that got the biggest laugh out of me!
As a fan of the 1984 film, I enjoyed Afterlife in the right doses. Though, just like Jurassic Park, no matter how fresh you try to make the material, it is really hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, or in this case, a ghost in a proton pack once it’s been released.