Is “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” A Worthy Sequel?
Since 1984, children everywhere have dreamed of being a Ghostbuster. Their minds are open to wonder and imagination as they pretend to capture spooks, specters, and ghosts with improvised or official toy proton packs at places where kids gather across the world. The plot of Ghostbusters: Afterlife takes a handful of points from the original classic but makes the kids be the heroes of the story. The result of this childhood fantasy rendered on-screen leaves much to be desired if you are not a member of the fandom or have grown out of it.
Ignoring the events of Paul Feig’s disappointing 2016 reboot, Afterlife returns to the continuity established by the Ivan Reitman-directed entries of the series. The film sees struggling single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her precocious children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) evicted from their apartment and relocated to the spooky Oklahoma farm they inherited from Callie’s estranged, recently deceased father. The family’s arrival in their new town coincides with the occurrence of unusual earthquakes and the appearance of pesky apparitions. Exploring their new surroundings, Phoebe and Trevor discover their new home is connected to the legendary Ghostbusters and they must utilize the Ecto-1 and proton packs laying around the farm to save the world from the impending apocalypse.
The strongest aspect of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the delightful performances by Wolfhard and Grace as the brother and sister who answer the call. Wolfhard is amusingly awkward as he stumbles through the usual teenage tribulations. Grace brings the most laughs as a condescending child genius who explores clues and connects dots about the supernatural occurrences with her science teacher Gary, played by reigning Sexiest Man Alive Paul Rudd, and new friend Podcast, played by Logan Kim who also delivers solid laughs.
As with previous Ghostbusters films, Afterlife parades stunning state-of-the-art visual effects that are thrilling to look at, but neither the effects nor the performances of the young cast make up for the film’s obvious flaws. The story, co-written by Ivan’s son and the director Jason Reitman (Up in Air), starts strong but is derailed by inconsistent pacing, forced nostalgia, and rehashed material, some of it clumsily shoehorned in. While an improvement over the much-derided 2016 entry, Afterlife does not aim to be much better. It continues the trend of remaking films that are still part of the same canon the film is remaking. All the Easter eggs and callbacks to earlier Ghostbusters media are no substitute for trying something new that honors the spirit of original films.
If a sequel is not fresh and reverent to its source, then why bother?
Die-hard fans and children will overlook the flaws, and that’s okay. It’s also okay for films to be made for receptive family audiences. As evidenced by the box office totals so far, it’s working. It has been a mutually beneficial transaction between the audiences and Sony Pictures. As long as there is a market for more Ghostbusters, they will keep making movies and merchandise. From a business standpoint, it could be argued that Jason Reitman has the best interests of the Ghostbusters franchise in mind.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife will undoubtedly open some youngsters to wonder and imagination as they see their ghostbusting fantasies come to life on the big screen. A potential positive is that the film will spark creativity and inquisitiveness within them, inspiring a new generation of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists. One day, they will be making our lives better with the services and goods they provide. For the uninitiated or uninterested, the movie is just another Hollywood money grab.