Movie Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor

Plot: Following the death of her absent father, Callie moves her family out to the remote town of Summerville to inherit his farm. Whilst there, her children Trevor and Phoebe dig into their grandfather’s past as a Ghostbuster.

Review: I had some reservations about this movie. The trailers has not grabbed me and the nostalgia train was running low on steam. We’ve had the video game and the 2016 movie, but they seemed to think we’d be content cycling through the greatest hits over and over again. Slimer, Hellhounds and Stay Puft get dangled in front of us rather than anything new, and characters without personality. So I wasn’t going to get my hopes up for another prod of the dead horse that the franchise now resembled.

If there’s one thing this movie does quite well, as it turns out, is strike a great balance between paying homage to the originals and give the fans something to cheer for, and introducing a new, interesting group of characters who have their own stories to tell. We’ll be spoiling things from this point on, as far as the trailers have revealed, so watch out for that. We do find out what happened to the original team, and this includes a continuation of their story to a point, but this is very much a movie about other people. One thing that doesn’t come across well in the marketing is that our lead character is Phoebe (Grace), a very gifted and coded autistic child who picks up Egon Spengler’s work following his death in the prolouge.

The way Harold Ramis’ character is incorporated into the movie is quite tasteful. During the opening scene his face is obscured by shadows or off camera, and his odd but purposeful behaviour sows the seeds of mystery that his granddaughter will soon follow. Phoebe, meanwhile, befriends fellow oddball ‘Podcast’ (Kim) and they’re taken under the wing of their science teacher and massive nerd Gary (Rudd). At home, her mother Callie (Coon) is struggling to keep a roof over their heads and her brother Trevor (Wolfhard) is pre-occupied romancing local girl Lucky (O’Connor). The way some of these characters come together as a team feels very natural, and the dialogue helps ground these characters in the colourful world of the Ghostbusters.

They also don’t force the introduction of the iconic Ghostbusters elements. The classic boilersuits, Ecto 1, the PKE meter, etc., get paced out and brought it with minimal fanfare. Rather, the script puts the whole squad together bit by bit as we build to the big finale. Speaking of the finale, we see the return of the original villain Gozer, now played by an uncredited Olivia Wilde but it feels like the stakes have been raised and the new Ghostbusters are not prepared to deal with a threat of this scale yet. There’s a solid link to the original film, as this new setting has a strong connection to a setting from the original and addresses a plot hole left open.

Where I feel the script missteps in the timing of Venkman, Stanz and Zeddemore. The turn up at the 11th hour to help save the day and then just hang around until the end. I think I’d rather see them arrive earlier, provide some initial support and then get benched while the new blood solve the situation. It’s not going to change much, just shift the emphasis onto Phoebe and her team.

We’d also like to see some new ghost designs. ‘Muncher’ is the only real new creature, with another two popping up as set dressing. Towards the end there’s opportunity for a bunch of new spooks to be wrecking havoc through Summerville, so we’re a bit disappointed on that front.

This is a really solid return to a beloved childhood franchise. It certainly sits with the original two. A great script and believable characters elevates this above any other attempt to breathe life into this world.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN