‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a supernatural comedy film directed by Jason Reitman and the fourth film overall in the Ghostbusters franchise. Jason’s father, Ivan Reitman, who directed Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II, serves as a producer on the film. The film stars newcomers Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Celeste O’Connor, and Paul Rudd, while Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver reprise their roles from the original films. Set thirty-two years after the events of the second film, Callie Spengler and her children, Trevor and Phoebe, move to Summerville, Oklahoma so Callie can manage the remains of her father’s estate after he died suddenly of a heart attack. While there Trevor and Phoebe discover their family’s connection to the original Ghostbusters and why their grandfather left his family in New York and relocated to Summerville.

The great thing about a legacy sequel like Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it honors the original films by showing the repercussions of the events in the 80s being explored in the modern day. The kids not knowing a lot about ghosts is believable as many kids today don’t necessarily know a lot about history. They only know what they have been told and even though they can look up these facts they don’t necessarily believe them to be 100% true. This ties into how the media provides half-truths and pushes false narratives to the public to fit their agendas. That coupled with the fact that there hasn’t been a ghost sighting in New York in over 20 years sets the stage for the children being doubtful.

The film does a fantastic job with the use of makeup and effects in designing the ghosts and extradimensional creatures. Small spoiler, Olivia Wilde portrays Gozer the Gozerian and she looks exactly like Slavitza Jovan did in the original film. Another truly phenomenal feat is the return of Harold Ramis. He appears posthumously as Egon Spangler in a ghostly form. This is something I believe many people figured would happen after his untimely passing from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in 2014, but it is handled phenomenally. Normally using CGI to re-create an entire person doesn’t work well as it invokes the uncanny valley but since he is portraying a ghost it is fine. Ramis does not deliver any lines in the film which is sad as it could have been a sweeter moment if they did have them say a little something toward the end. Ramis also appears at the beginning of the film via body doubles but his face is obscured by shadows. This works well as viewers who have seen the original films understand who this character is without the need to see his full face as his other features are highlighted enough to get the point across.

The acting in the film is truly terrific with the stand-out being Mckenna Grace as Phoebe. Her character is presented as somewhere on the spectrum. It is never clearly defined as Asperger’s or Autism but seems somewhere in between. She is very similar to her grandfather and that she loves science and is very pragmatic, but the sweet thing about Phoebe is that even though she sees the world differently, she tries to fit in. She does her best to talk with kids her age even though she’s a lot smarter than them. Finn Wolfhard is also great as Trevor. He is shown as a very reliable kid even though he is only 15 years old. There is a scene at the beginning of the film when they are traveling to Summerville where he is quickly showing fixing up his mom’s car. This makes sense later in the film when he is shown fixing up the Ecto-1. This is a neat way for the director to set up Trevor being good with cars without having to over-explain it to the audience.

The film’s funniest character is Gary Grooberson, portrayed by Paul Rudd. He is the link to the old films as he would have been a teenager when the events of the first two films happened, therefore he knows all about them. He is also a very intelligent geologist and that allows them to connect more with Phoebe than the other kids. It would be great to have him in more of the film. Hopefully, he is signed on for the sequels. Celeste O’Connor also turns in a good performance as Lucky Domingo however she is mostly relegated to Trevor’s love interest. It would have been nice to explore her character more as she is a third-generation resident of Summerville.

The film does have a few negatives tied to when it decides to use nostalgia. The scene where the mini-Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men overtake the Walmart is completely unnecessary and has nothing to do with the plot. It could have been any monster, but this looks as if it was added to have something cute to market like Baby Groot or Grogu. There is also the reusing of the four-legged sexual innuendos, Zuul the Gatekeeper, and Vinz Clortho the Keymaster. They are used exactly as they were in Ghostbusters (1984). Then there is wasting of talented actors for small scenes such as JK Simmons as Ivo Shandor and Bokeem Woodbine as Sheriff Domingo. There are setups for these characters earlier in the film which usually means there were more storylines left on the cutting room floor. The film could’ve shifted some plot elements around to use these characters more. This would give the audience more of a feel of what the people of Summerville are like.

While there are a few story elements that you have to take with a leap of faith, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the sequel many fans have been waiting a long time for and it delivers on many levels. Though it doesn’t totally stick the landing there’s enough nostalgia mixed with fresh ideas that makes this film enjoyable. I give Ghostbusters: Afterlife a Decent 8/10. This story sets many possibilities for the future of the Ghostbusters franchise. Whether the old cast returns for a new adventure or we move forward with this new younger cast is left to be seen.

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