23rd Nov2021

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver | Written by Jason Reitman, Gil Kenan | Directed by Jason Reitman

A true sequel (we aren’t counting that 2016 debacle) in the Ghostbusters franchise finally arrives, 37 years after Gozer tried to take over New York and 32 years after Vigo tormented our favorite paranormal scientists. After several delays thanks to the pandemic. Jason Reitman, the son of the original film’s director, takes over the fledging franchise and is finally the person to not only “right the ship” but also lead a new group of young Ghostbusters into their own franchise.

The Manhattan Crossrip of ’84 is in the history books and the famous Ghostbusters are no longer anything but a footnote in history. Since a ghost hasn’t been seen in decades, the original Ghostbusters have all gone their separate ways: Ray is running an occult shop, Peter went back to teaching at the university, Winston runs a global media empire and Egon moved to Summerville, Oklahoma in anticipation of the coming apocalypse.

Even though the actor Harold Ramis passed away in 2014, his character of Egon is in the opening minutes of the film and while director Jason Reitman won’t tell anyone how they did it, Ramis’ family did give their blessing for the likeness of Harold to be used. It’s a good thing the Ramis’ family was in favor of seeing their loved one on the movie screen one more time as I’m not sure Afterlife could have succeeded without connecting Egon to his estranged daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace).

After Egon fails to trap a powerful paranormal entity at his farm in Oklahoma, our favorite scientist is killed by the ghoul and passes into the afterlife. Hundreds of miles away, Callie is struggling in finding a job, paying rent and being a single mother to her 15-year old son and her 12-year old genius daughter so when she learns of her estranged father’s passing and the possibility of inheriting a house and money, she decides Summerville might be the change her family needs. After arriving in the small town, Callie realizes the house is falling apart, the farm is literally a dirt farm and there is no money to inherent, just debt.

Egon’s grandchildren do not like uprooting their lives to move to small-town America but they do make an honest attempt to fit into their new surroundings. Trevor finds a job working at a local diner, mostly to try to date a girl, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), while Phoebe forms a bond over science with her summer school teacher, Greg Grooberson (Paul Rudd). Trevor and Phoebe are the highlights of the film and Mckenna Grace’s portrayal of Egon’s quirky, genius of a granddaughter is the breakout role this actress needed. In fact, all the kids are wonderful, including Phoebe’s new friend, Podcast (Logan Kim), as all are of them are portrayed as normal teens and pre-teens that are trying to fit in a new environment.

Without spoiling too much, the mystery of who their grandfather was is slowly reveled throughout the film when Phoebe finds not only a PKE Meter but also the secret underground lab where Egon performed all his research and kept his proton pack from his days as a Ghostbuster. Trevor does his best to help too, when he isn’t working at the diner and attempting to date Lucky, by fixing up a rundown Ecto-1 vehicle that Egon kept in his barn.

Trevor and Phoebe, with the help of Podcast and Greg, realize the frequent earthquakes and tremors in Summerville are linked to the abandoned mine and a secret society created by the town’s founder, Ivo Shando. That name should be familiar with fans of the franchise as he is the architect who built the building in the original film where the Ghostbusters defeated Gozer. After our new team realizes the abandoned mine is the home for Gozer and her minions, they must race to stop the entity from escaping and causing the apocalypse Egon has been predicting for twenty years.

The one issue with Ghostbusters: Afterlife and actually all Ghostbusters films is the lack of ghost-related adventures outside of the main villain. That’s not to say there are not any ghosts here, but for a movie called Ghostbusters: Afterlife I would like to see them actually busting ghosts! Origin films are usually light on action and while there are a few action-oriented scenes, it only whets your appetite for the inevitable sequel. The final act, while similar to the Gozer battle in the original film, has more gravitas and after seeing the team struggle and learn from their predecessors, delivers an ending that will make both old and new fans happy.

It’s obvious that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a love letter to the hardcore fan base and Jason Reitman’s love for the franchise shines throughout the film. This is evident in not only the touching tribute to Harold Ramis but also in connecting the new characters to the original film without being too much of “fan service.” Full disclosure: While I enjoyed the first Ghostbusters film, I am not a big fan of the series. Ghostbusters: Afterlife not only made me appreciate the history of the franchise but it also caused me to be excited for future films and seeing the new cast grow up on the screen. Speaking of the sequels, make sure you stay through the end credits as there is an “after-credits” scene that shows the blueprint for the future.

Final Grade: A- (Great)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the true successor to the classic 1984 Ghostbusters film, both in spirit (no pun intended) and heart. The characters, while giving nods to the past, are original and come across as genuine as the film does a good job of pacing itself in order to give the audience time to learn and eventually care about this new team. Reitman does a good job blending the old and new with just enough nostalgia to keep the fans of the original films happy but also be bold enough to create a future with the new cast. The last act may seem too familiar to the final act in the original film but it has just enough surprises to provide an emotional, heartfelt sendoff to our favorite Ghostbusters while still giving everyone a chance to shine. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a fun-filled, entertaining film and while the it’s not a perfect film, it does a fantastic job reviving this franchise.
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You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music and other podcasting apps. 
You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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