1984’s Ghostbusters is a classic. Hell, I’ll do you one better, Ghostbusters is one of the best movies ever made. It a damn near perfect blend of comedy, supernatural thrills, a killer script, and excellent characters. But after that first, perfect film, the franchise has been on a weird journey ever since.
A few months ago, Jason Reitman, son of legendary comedy director Ivan Reitman (director of Ghostbusters 1 & 2), put out a proof of concept teaser trailer for a potential new Ghostbusters film. There wasn’t much to the actual teaser, but it was extremely effective. The stage was set: we see a creepy, old barn with strange disquieting lights and sounds emanating from the rickety building. The camera pans inside the barn where a vehicle is completely obstructed by a car cover. The wind picks up. The front of the car cover starts to flap off. We see the front of an old white jalopy with New York plates . The license plate reads “Ecto-1”. That’s pretty much it. It was a teaser, it didn’t need to be much else. More than anything it was a proof of concept trailer that communicated a very specific tone that this film would be going for. The message was clear: this is NOT the Ghostbusters we saw in 2016. It may have been short, but it was a great teaser. It was atmospheric, it was creepy, it tone. It sent the message that this is a Ghostbusters that’s a little different than what’s come before. You can see what I mean yourself, I have the teaser posted below…
Now months after that original proof of concept teaser, we have the first trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, hitting theaters July 2020. I have to admit I loved this trailer. I can see how some people might have a problem with the shift in tone. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a typical Ghostbusters film. But that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much. If you just watched the first minute of the trailer, you wouldn’t be able tell it’s a Ghostbusters movie. The whole thing has a real Stranger Thing/IT Chapters 1&2 vibe. I haven’t been this excited about the prospect of a new Ghostbusters movie… well, ever! Before we go any further make sure you give it a watch if you haven’t already. Check it out right here:
Ever since I was a kid, Ghostbusters was one of my favorite movies (it still is). I even think Ghostbusters 2 gets a bad rap. It’s a blast and it has some of the funniest moments in the series. My love of film and my interest in what went on behind the scenes, began in the late 90’s. When I was 11 or 12, I remember going to Blockbuster video with my grandmother, and as we waited in line I picked up a magazine called Cinescape. Inside the magazine were stories about the long in development movies that sounded like something out of a dream. A fourth Indiana Jones movie?! Another Star Wars trilogy?! James Cameron’s Spider-Man movie (if you know about that failed project, you’re certainly an old school film junkie like me). Tim Burton was directing a Superman movie starring Nicholas Cage that would include a cameo from Michael Keaton’s Batman?! Holy shit!
On a sidenote, reading that Michael Keaton as Batman would be in a Superman movie, these Qi existing side-by-side, this was the first time I understood the concept of a shared universe. This film that never came to be made me realize that Batman and Superman and I’ll kinds of other heroes interact with each other all the time. I never really understood that until that point. Tim Burtons attempt at making a Superman film is a fascinating story. The late great Jon Schnepp made fantastic documentary about the project called The Death of Superman Lives: What happened? It’s a fascinating look at what might have been. This project came very close to coming to fruition and personally, the more I’ve heard about it and read about it over the years the more fascinated I was by it. I would’ve loved to see this Superman movie. It certainly wouldn’t have been a traditional Superman film by any means and it almost certainly would’ve been quite bizarre but there were some truly fantastic ideas at play. Despite some seemingly odd creative choices, the film as Burton saw it was surprisingly faithful to Superman lore, but with that quirky, off kilter point of view that Burton brings to all his projects. Comic book fans, movie fans, and people who love the idea of what is and what might have been, will love this great documentary.
Anyway, the above mentioned movies had been rumored and talked about for years before I picked up this magazine and they were all stuck in varying degrees of development hell. Only new Indiana Jones and Star Wars films ever saw the light of day. As I flipped through the magazine waiting in line, briefly scanning some of the articles, I was hooked. That was my point of no return. I would now and forever be a movie nerd. It’s important to remember that this was in the 90s, long before the Internet was commonly used. So as a kid, reading about upcoming adaptations and sequels to some of my favorite movies of all time absolutely blew my mind.
After that I made sure to pick up Cinescape magazine every month. I loved reading every article, rumor, and review I could find about cool upcoming sci-fi/fantasy/adventure movies. While reading Cinescape, I learned that another one of my favorite film series was developing a new installment: Ghostbusters 3. Like I said before, I love both Ghostbusters movies and once I started following films like this through magazines like Cinescape, Entertainment Weekly, Empire, and eventually the internet, I always kept an eye out for news about Ghostbusters 3.
Over the next 30 years, it seemed like the movie was perpetually starting and stopping. Clearly there was fan interest and Dan Aykroyd, from the original cast who also wrote the screenplay for the original Ghostbusters, was the main player from the first 2 films that was really fighting to make a Ghostbusters 3. Sadly, arguably the most important Ghostbuster, Bill Murray’s iconic Dr. Peter Venkman, was fairly ambivalent about Ghostbusters 3. He was hot and cold on the project. One minute he would say he’s on board the next minute he would say he wasn’t going to do it. He wasn’t happy with how Ghostbusters 2 turned out and he had a falling out with his longtime friend and costar on Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis. Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away a few years ago, but at least he a Murray buried the hatchet and became friends again before he passed.
The first two Ghostbusters films were cash cows for the movie studio, so over the last 3 decades, Sony had been trying to get the 3rd movie made. Dan Aykroyd and many other writers took cracks at story ideas for Ghostbusters 3. Some of them are actually fairly interesting. There were versions of a Ghostbusters 3 script that involved the original Ghostbusters taking a backseat to a new team or a new generation of Ghostbusters. All of the original Ghostbusters would be a part of the film, but eventually the new team would take center stage. I remember names like Eddie Murphy and Chris Farley being thrown around a lot when rumors of who the next generation of Ghostbusters would be. While that could’ve resulted in a great movie, it never came to pass. I remember another version of the story saw the Ghostbusters going on a journey into Hell. In the script, Hell was described as a nightmarish version of New York, with all of the cities worst attributes dialed up to 11. Endless traffic gridlock, slime covering everything, ghosts and demons everywhere, that sort of thing. If I remember correctly a glimpse of heaven is also seen at one point and it’s the opposite of Hell. It’s like New York, but a perfect, pristine, paradise version of New York, with the mortal New York smack dab in the middle. Another interesting idea that was probably shot down because it was too expensive to create entirely new worlds.
The 2016 film remake of Ghostbusters directed by Paul Feig starring Melissa McCarthy was extremely controversial due to the backlash the film received for its all female cast. I’m sure many people saw this as a gimmick, but most of the attention was on the idea that the fan base hated the movie because it was starring four women. Speaking as a diehard Ghostbusters fan, I think the 2016 Ghostbusters is pretty bad, but it has nothing to do with the fact that all of the Ghostbusters are women. The film didn’t fail because of the gender of the cast, it failed simply because it wasn’t a good movie. In my opinion, the jokes didn’t land, the tone was off, and the film didn’t quite work. I think everyone is pretty much wrong for their part, except for maybe Melissa McCarthy, who I always enjoy. I get what they were trying to do with Kate McKinnon as the crazy, weird, Egon-ish character, but she just came across as annoying. With Leslie Jones, they were trying to go for a blue-collar, non-academic character who really knew the history of the city. She could’ve been a crucial part of the group because everyone else has essentially been working in a lab all their lives. This could’ve worked and I don’t think Leslie Jones was necessarily the problem, but the terrible script that relied on cheap jokes and stereotypes didn’t do her any favors. With better material I think she could’ve done much more with this part. Then there’s Kristen Wiig, and to be honest, I just dislike her performances.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie didn’t fail because of its all female cast, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some truly vile and toxic shit going around the internet about everyone involved in the film. Of course the worst online bile was directed towards the cast in a display of the worst kind of fandom. Surprise, surprise this was mostly on social media. Many of the things that were said about the actresses in this film were disgusting and vicious. I hate cancel culture, I strongly disagree that we need to start watching every little thing we say for fear that it will be taken out of context, but that doesn’t mean we should go around using social media to feed the worst parts of ourselves and espouse our most puerile, hateful ideas. There has to be a happy medium.
Anyway, even the villain in 2016’s Ghostbusters sucked. He was boring and uninteresting, especially compared to big bads like the ancient demigod Gozer and Viggo The Carpathian. I have one final point about Ghostbusters 2016, the filmmakers made a huge miscalculation that a lot of people tend to overlook about from the original Ghostbusters films. In the original movies, the jokes come from the characters, not the supernatural threat. The ghosts and the paranormal elements of the movies were never played for laughs. There’s a palpable danger to the situations the Ghostbusters find themselves in. If you take out the comedic moments of the original Ghostbusters, there are some genuinely scary horror moments in there. A good rule to go by for any new Ghostbusters movie to work: The ghosts have to feel dangerous, so the comedy comes from the characters and how they react to the situations they find themselves in.
Now, in Summer 2020 we have Ghostbusters: Afterlife making a go at becoming the first truly successful film in the franchise in 30 years. I was very surprised to see this trailer. I knew that director Jason Reitman had filmed a proof of concept teaser. However, I had no idea a brand new film had actually gone to production with Jason Reitman directing and Paul Rudd starring. So when a full trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife dropped this week, I was very surprised. One of the best things about the trailer was that up until about halfway through, you would never guess in a million years that this is a Ghostbusters movie and I mean that in the best way possible. I loved how unique it felt, so when Ghostbuster elements began to be introduced in the trailer, it’s a genuine surprise.
The story seems to be about family (including Carrie Coon from The Leftovers, Finn Wolfhard Stranger Things) moving to a small Midwestern town when they inherit a piece of farm property from a deceased relative. As the kids begin to explore their new home, they eventually find cash of all the old Ghostbusters equipment. The Proton Packs, The Ghost Trap, even their iconic vehicle The Ecto-1. The kids are the grandchildren of one of the original, unnamed, Ghostbusters (my money’s on Egon). It looks like they’ve stumbled on this equipment just in time because there seems to be some serious paranormal activity creeping up in this small town and the world that hasn’t seen a major paranormal event since Ghostbusters 2 in the 80s. There’s a cool bit in the trailer where the kids bring some of the Ghostbusters equipment to school with them to show their science teacher, wonderfully played by Paul Rudd, hoping to get some answers.
After realizing the Ghostbusters equipment is real, Paul Rudd shows his students some old clips of the original Ghostbusters in action (they look like they’re taken straight out of the original movies, which is a nice detail). Apparently Paul Rudd’s character lived in New York during all that crazy, paranormal shit that went down with Gozer and Viggo back in the 80’s. I think casting Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) are brilliant choices for a take like this. I bet their names come up often when studios discuss casting these types of films. Both actors have proven the can more than deliver It doesn’t seem like they’re making an attempt to re-create a “Bill Murray-type” character. No one plays the lovable wise ass like Murray, but in lesser hands, I could see the filmmaker is trying to make Paul Rudd‘s character into a stand-in for Dr. Peter Venkman. But nobody pulls that off like Bill Murray and any attempt to do it without him will inevitably fall short. Though I doubt he’ll have a large roll in the final film, Bill Murray and the rest of the surviving Ghostbusters, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson (RIP Harold Ramis), are slated to appear in the film as their original characters. . I’ll say it again this looks like a fun supernatural adventure that has some comedy in it, not a comedy about ghosts, which is a very important distinction. I love next generation movies, I’m kind of a sucker for them, especially when they’re done well like Creed for example. So I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on this film. We may finally be getting the Ghostbusters sequel we’ve always wanted.
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