HEAVY SPOILERS for Ghostbusters: Afterlife!
When I was a kid, I damn near wore out the VCR watching my favorite movies over and over again. Their were a few classics in particular that I just couldn’t get enough of: Raiders of The Lost Ark, Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II. These were the films that defined my love for movies. Actually, these four movies have more in common than you might think. The first entries in their respective franchise are unquestionably modern masterpieces. You’d have damn difficult time arguing that Raiders and Ghostbusters don’t belong on any list of the best movies ever made. The next installment in both series, Temple of Doom and Ghostebusters II were both unfairly characterized as unworthy follow ups to their predecessors.
I was always under the impression that each film in the original Indiana Jones Trilogy was beloved by critics and fans alike. It wasn’t until I really began to get into film around high school, that I began to hear that some critics and fans considered Temple of Doom to be the “bad“ film in the trilogy. It was the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for the original Indiana Jones Trilogy. Hell, I even think Kingdom of The Crystal Skull is better than people give it credit for, despite it’s glaring flaws (But that’s a whole other article).
I understand where certain criticisms are coming from a little bit more with Ghostbusters II, than I do with Temple of Doom. SOME of the criticism leveled at Temple of Doom are fair, but ONLY SOME. Regarding the other film series in question, I completely love Ghostbusters II. Obviously it doesn’t hit the stratospheric heights of it’s predecessor, but it’s a more than worthy follow up to the original classic.
Now onto the main event! Ghostbusters: Afterlife…
Like Indiana Jones, rumors of a third Ghostbusters film had been circulating for years. Rumors and talk of a third film, continued almost constantly from Ghostbusters II, to Afterlife. There seemed a lot of back-and-forth, stop-and-go from people involved in the production. Often saying things like “It’s on! We’re finally making the third one.”|only for things to stall out, and whatever potential version of Ghostbusters 3 that was in development at that time, was dead. It would go back-and-forth like that for years, Dan Akroyd was always the most vocal about his desire for a third movie, with Bill Murray almost always the biggest hold out. In a perfect world we’d be on Ghostbusters 5 by now.
The Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones films were my gateway into my love of movies. As my two favorite movie franchises, I desperately wanted to see a third installment in the Ghostbusters series and a fourth Indiana Jones movie. This was way before the Internet was used as widely as it is now. There weren’t things like YouTube, where there are countless channels to news about the cool new science fiction, fantasy, or comic book films in development. Back in those days, I read movie magazines if I wanted to follow what’s was going on in the world of genre filmmaking. I remember being at Blockbuster Video in the late 90’s (Fuck, I’m old) and picking up a magazine called Cinescape, because it had an article on the status of a fourth Indiana Jones movie. From then I was hooked. I would read articles about which awesome films that were potentially getting sequels, which adaptations of beloved works of fiction we’re going to be put on the big screen? Which famous actor has been cast as the next big superhero? What interesting projects were coming down the pipeline from genres that I love? Rumors of another Ghostbusters movie was a frequent topic of discussion. I got into all of this stuff because of my research into the next installments in Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones. For better or for worse, it took a long damn time, but I finally got my wish.
If you follow my work, if you’ve read my articles or listened to my podcast, you may have noticed that I love stories with supernatural elements at play. Ghosts, vampires, demons, gods, werewolves, and on, and on, and on. It was the first two Ghostbusters films and the subsequent animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, that made me fall in love with that type of story. That’s why I’ve always loved movies shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, or The Conjuring series.
The buzz around Ghostbusters: Afterlife was very positive, the marketing was solid, so I was looking forward to seeing this new film. I’m pleased to say that Ghostbusters: Afterlife did not disappoint. It manages to work as both a soft reboot and legitimate Ghostbusters III.
First off, moving the story’s setting from the grit and grittiness of New York to small town middle America, is a great way to pull the audience out of their comfort zone, without alienating them. In the first two Ghostbusters films especially, the first one, New York City is almost a character in itself, in those films. Ghostbusters is one of the great New York movies. So, Seeing the Ecto-1 doing donuts in a wheat field or finding iconic pieces of Ghostbusters equipment or tech, like a ghost-trap, and putting them in the last place you’d expect to see them like an old farmhouse, is a great way to remind the audience why we love this stuff. It’s like taking away everything from the original films for a moment, and showing us that this stuff is fun and cool and awesome, no matter where you see it or find it. It’s special in and of itself. Something like the old PKE Meter, makes you remember why you wanted your own when you were a kid. I was surprised how much fun it was to simply to see the classic Ghostbusters toys onscreen again (along with a fun modification here and there).
Everything kicks off with harrowing, tense, and a little bit scary opening, that immediately gets you excited for what you’re about to watch. It’s takes place on the farm Igon’s family will soon inherit and what begins as a cool chase scene, just great job of showing the audience that he gone wasn’t out here for nothing. She had a very very important reason to come to this remote small town. You could even say he kind of saves the world and sacrifices himself in the process. The opening has some great callbacks to the original films and sets up some interesting stuff that becomes important later in the movie.
Following his death, we see Egon’s daughter, Callie, played by Carrie Coon, along with her teenage son played by Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard, and her younger daughter Phoebe (played by McKenna Grace). The family gets along well enough, but financial issues force Callie to reluctantly move her family to the dilapidated old farm house in the middle of nowhere, that she recently inherited from a father that she never knew.
Out of the entire family, Phoebe’s the most like her grandfather, Egon. She’s intellectually gifted and she loves science. I wouldn’t describe her as socially awkward, but like her grandfather, for lack of a better word, she’s… different. She’s a little introverted, but still self-confident. She’s always the smartest person in the room, but she’s not arrogant or condescending, which are traits too often seen in characters like Phoebe. People in general, but especially kids, don’t embrace people who are different. She’s at that age where she’s just about to become a teenager, but she’s still very much a kid. Her mom, Callie, encourages her to use the move to a new town as an opportunity to make some friends, which she does. She hits it off with a boy everybody calls “Podcast” (because he has a podcast) and finds a mentor of sorts in Paul Rudd’s character (more on that later). I was a big fan of Phoebe in this movie, I really liked this character. Phoebe is the heart of this movie and young McKenna Grace plays the character wonderfully. Grace damn near carries the movie in places and she’s certainly up to the task. She’s definitely an up coming, young actor to keep an eye on.
Then of course, there’s the always delightful Paul Rudd as a seismologist in town investigating geological events in the area, like earthquakes, with seemingly no explanation. He’s working as a substitute teacher to help pay the bills, while he investigates the strange seismic events events taking place in this town. Phoebe is his only student who remotely gives a crap about his research and they quickly develop an easy rapport. This leads to meeting Phoebe’s Mom, Callie and subsequently becomes an increasing presence in the lives of The Spengler family.
Because of the tragic loss of the great Harold Ramis, I was very curious to see how the filmmakers handle his absence. If Phoebe is the heart of the movie, than Ramis’ Egon Spengler is it’s soul. His spirit is felt throughout the movie (both literally and figuratively). Egon Spangler looms large in the story and the lives of the family he never knew. I think they took some great risks by choosing to handle the passing of Harold Ramis and how that would affect the story and his character. I would not be surprised if it divides audiences, with some people loving it and others hating it. Regardless of where you fall on the issue, it’s clear they spent a great deal of time, ef and thought into figuring out the best way to use him. It might turn some people off, but personally it really worked for me. I’m being deliberately vague here because I think it will work better if you see what the movie does with Egon for yourself.
I was genuinely surprised that every (living) member of the original cast was in this movie. It was undeniably thrilling seeing all of the original Ghostbusters, including Bill Murray, light up those proton packs one more time. Hell, I loved seeing Ray’s Occult Bookstore again!
Speaking of Ray’s Occult, there are 2 post-credit scenes in this movie. Both of them focus on letting us know what the characters from the original films have been up to in the decades since we’ve last seen them. One of the scene’s if a conversation between Janine (Annie Potts) and Winston (the great Ernie Hudson), taking place in what appears to be Winston’s office. In their conversation it’s revealed that sometime after Ghostbusters II, Winston went back to college, earning multiple degrees, and subsequently became a very successful businessman. However, in his heart he’ll always be a Ghostbuster first and foremost. He’s made a point to always look out for the guys over the years. Janine playfully reveals that Ray’s bookstore hasn’t been profitable for a long time and she knows that Winston has been quietly paying the rent and keeping Ray’s Occult above water for years. I thought this was a really sweet revelation that showed us exactly how deep the camaraderie was between these men. This is also where Winston expresses that putting on the proton pack and getting to be a Ghostbuster again (during the events of this film) was the best feeling he’s had in years. Despite all of his success, he misses those golden days of fighting alongside his friends as the Ghostbusters. I thought this could be an interesting way to set up a possible sequel, combining members of the original cast and the characters from this new film. Perhaps this new adventure has lit a fire within Winston enough where he’ll use his new money and resources, to finance a new Ghostbusters team? I think that could be really cool and different from what we’ve seen in other films.
The only major criticism or problem I had with this film was it’s villain. One of the things Ghostbusters II does really well is pit the guys against a very different, very scary, and most importantly very NEW threat to go up against. Gozer and Viggo are great big bands that couldn’t be less alike. Where so many other franchises fail by just copying what the first movie did, but just changing a few details, Ghostbusters II was smart enough to give audiences something didn’t see in the first film. A different kind of supernatural evil. Even in the classic, childhood defining Ghostbusters animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, the guys went up against all kinds of supernatural creatures. Werewolves, vampires, Bigfoot, a Jabberwocky, The Devil, and many, many more. It would have been nice to see these new characters face off with a new supernatural threat instead of bringing the exact same villain from the first film. Gozer, The Demon Dogs, The Gatekeeper, The Key Master, they’re all there, playing the same old song.
Despite a few minor flaws, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the sequel that most fans have been waiting for. It’s a fun and inventive movie that hits you with just the right amount of nostalgia. It’s movie about family, the family you’re born with and the family you choose. As a wise man once said “Family don’t end in blood, but it’s doesn’t start there either.” Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a movie about family, the family you’re born with and the family you choose. Highly recommended.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife – B+
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