Huge confession, I actually have never seen the original Ghostbusters (1984), or the 1989 sequel, from beginning to end, which is something that I’m embarrassed to admit. That’s not to say that I have no clue as to what they are about thanks to watching bits and pieces of it via television airings and YouTube videos. I’m also very familiar with the famous theme song and quotable lines such as “don’t cross the streams!” and “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES!” The one Ghostbusters film, however, that I did unfortunately watch was the 2016 reboot titled simply Ghostbusters. In my opinion, it wasn’t the completely terrible film that the internet made out to be, but it was indeed a mediocre piece of cinema that didn’t need a reboot. Thanks to the internet reception and poor box office returns of Ghostbusters 2016, we now have a new installment in the franchise that’s a continuation of the first two films called Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Even though I’m not a Ghostbusters enthusiast compared to others, I was actually looking forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife film for many reasons. For starters, it’s not set in New York City, which allows it to explore different areas in the franchise and features a new cast of characters that we can grow to appreciate and love compared to the original cast. Did this live up to the standard of original two, or at the very least is better than the 2016 reboot? As usual, let’s find out.
Set a little over twenty years after the second film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon), her son Trevor Spengler (Finn Wolfhard), and her daughter Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace), who have recently been evicted from their home. At the same time, Callie’s father passes away and her and her kids must go to his farmhouse to collect a few things and possibly stay for the long term in Summerville, Oklahoma. Summerville is basically what you’d expect from a typical midwestern town, however of late they’ve been experiencing random earthquakes despite the fact the town isn’t on any fault line or anything that would make it shake on a daily basis. Trying to get adjusted to the town, Trevor gets a job at a local diner where he befriends a girl named Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Phoebe enrolls in a summer science class at the local middle school led by seismologist Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd). At the farmhouse Phoebe (who describes herself as somewhat of a scientist) starts noticing some paranormal activity despite the fact she’s a ghost skeptic. She even finds a ghost trap used by her grandfather, which she brings to her science class to show off to her friend Podcast (Logan Kim). Gary takes notice of this and starts geeking out because he is a huge fan of the Ghostbusters from the 1980s, and explains how that ghost trap was used by them. Curious of what’s inside, the three decide to open it. Upon doing so, a ghost pops out and starts flying towards a strange mountain holding deep secrets, and ends up being the catalyst for the mysterious events happening in this town.
After watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the one thing I can say with full confidence is that I prefer this much more than the recent reboot. In fact, this film weakens the justification of the reboot to where my opinion of it as a reason for making a movie has dropped significantly. Unfortunately, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is far from being flawless. I’ll get into more within the review, but let’s just say that it suffers from what most sequels have been doing lately that’s somewhat getting on my nerves, which is fan service.
Even though I don’t have the nostalgia compared to others when it comes the Ghostbusters, I understand why people love it. It’s funny, it had a sense of charm, and it had amazing effects for a film released in the 1980s. It’s pretty hard to try and top that, but I will give Ghostbusters: Afterlife credit for trying compared to the 2016 attempt. In retrospect, it’s hard to make a great film where its predecessor was released decades before the latest installment. Some films were close but were still very well made, like Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Some were just plain mediocre, such as Coming 2 America. Ghostbusters: Afterlife falls in the middle where it doesn’t have the charm compared to the original as I would imagine, but it does have entertaining elements in it that kids who haven’t been exposed to the original will thoroughly enjoy. In fact, I was having a fun time seeing the kids in the film trying to figure out the mystery of what’s going on in this town and how to solve it. It felt like a great throwback to the 1980s films that Steven Spielberg used to make but without the gimmick of setting in it in the decade. That was something that I appreciated.
While I don’t have the precious memories of watching Ghostbusters growing up, I am familiar with the references and lines as I mentioned in my introduction. That’s why, when Ghostbusters: Afterlife got to the third act, I started to predict what was going to happen because it starts doing what most sequels are starting to do these days, which is deliver on fan service. I don’t mind fan service if it’s very subtle and adds to the story in a way that’s not distracting. But when the deus ex machina in the film happened, I just knew that it was going to be nothing but pandering to the fans at that point. It bothered me because I saw it coming a mile away due to some foreshadowing earlier in the film and in the trailer itself. Some might not be bothered by this, but it felt distracting and, like I said, pandering for those who loved seeing familiar characters beforehand.
(Mild spoilers for the next paragraph)
That said, despite my displeasure with how Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s third act played out, there were some things I enjoyed that felt respectful to not only to the original films, but to a particular character as well. The character that I’m referring to is Dr. Egon Spengler, played by the late and great Harold Ramis. His character is the catalyst in this film to where he makes a noble sacrifice to protect others including his daughter and grandchildren. Much like Jesus Christ in our own lives, Egon provides guidance and support for his family beyond death in subtle ways that provide further development for the characters. Not only was it a great character moment, but it was a sincere way of providing closure to the character after the actor’s death seven years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if this part of the film would be extremely emotional for the fans due to its sincere approach.
Is Ghostbusters: Afterlife the great squeal that many were hoping? To me it’s not due to how distracting the fan service was, but I know devoted fans will enjoy this regardless. Honestly, though, I should be used to it at this point because it has become the norm with sequels such as the sequel Star Wars trilogy, particularly Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019). If fan service like that doesn’t bother you, then I think you’ll be in for a real treat. Despite my criticisms, if I had the opportunity to watch this again, I definitely would though it would, thogh after completely watching Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2. Maybe, then, my opinion of Ghostbusters: Afterlife might change, and hopefully for the better. Hopefully.