Ghostbusters (1984) holds infinite excellent memories for me, it was the first film I saw at the cinema as a very young kid, I remember my eyes being covered during that opening Library scene, and like so many from my generation it was the film to know and watch growing up. Ivan Reitman’s film found magic within the usual formula, one that entertained adults and kids of all ages and managed to stand the test of time, and give so many of its actors timeless careers.
So, the announcement of Ghostbusters: Afterlife was extremely exciting news, and with Jason Reitman involved (quite literally the son of Ivan who directed the original), it was even more so! In truth, I stayed away from spoilers, if you’ve not seen it yet then probably stop reading because it’s been out long enough to not discuss the obvious… the link to the Legacy cast, and the very real tribute this film is to Harold Ramis, and the world of Ghostbusters itself.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife begins with an enjoyable Spielberg-esque sequence in the dark with chases, clear peril and the swishing and thwacking off farm crops with secrets beneath. From there, we head inside an old house and, even through the shadows, we just know this is Egon Spengler and he’s up to something – or at least trying to be. But in reality, of course, actor Harold Ramis died back in 2014 but here he’s initially alive in the shadows of his house. It’s done sensitively though and overall, I’m really pleased with the choices they made for the character. I wonder if the fact he doesn’t speak means they considered what happened in Star Wars and while we all liked the idea there, it was clearly CGI talking.
Moving back to Afterlife, this early ‘passing’ sets off what follows because his ‘soul’ is also taken by what we have to assume is something to do with Gozer, the antagonist from ’84, represented of a Terror Dog formed in smoke and those classic hands through the chair (a la Sigourney-style), and with it Egon is killed. So, like Ramis in real life, Spengler has now officially departed this world. His death means that his family are informed but Egon is estranged from his family for many years. All we know to begin with is that he suddenly left one day and wasn’t present during his daughter’s formative years.
This is when we meet Callie (Carrie Coon), and her kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), who head to the town of Summerville to sift through the life of her deceased father. But Callie, a struggling single Mum, isn’t really interested in her father due to his absence from her life. All she wants to do is sign the papers, sell the house, take the rent cheque and money and get the hell out of there but the past, and what’s being kept in Summerville, has other plans for her and the family.
For me, as well as a beautiful, poignant and genuinely touching finale, the absolute stand-out star of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is Mckenna Grace as Phoebe. She’s a 12-year-old Science-loving geek with a wicked personality and has a depth of character beyond many others of her age. Whilst occasionally emulating a few looks and delivery styles of Ramis, she’s also very much Phoebe and is part of everything good in the film. I think of the likes of Natalie Portman in Leon, or Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver when it comes to talent to look out for. And it’s great to have a young, intelligent girl on screen who isn’t just there for the sake of it, she’s on all the right paths to being a fully-fledged Ghostbuster through the film and isn’t afraid to stand tall amongst the legacy.
Another positive is Paul Rudd’s teacher Mr Grooberson, who is a fine addition to the franchise. His natural comedy talent effortlessly comes through and strikes up a good relationship with Callie (Coon), as a real connection to the adults in the story. Wolfhard is well-placed as well and while he isn’t as central to the progression of the GB world, he’s a smart talent and works well with his (slight) love interest Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) as helpful souls on the world to eventual ghost fighting. Logan Kim as Podcast is an entertaining and funny addition, who holds an innocence that’s both charming and fits in perfectly with Phoebe’s more geeky, rational nature. There were also real shivers of delight and love for seeing Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd back in their outfits for a huge moment.
Director Jason Reitman has openly said this is a nostalgia trip and that’s what makes it a little different to other requel’s of late. While the over-arching story is played out smartly, the key elements in the middle of everything are verbatim to the 1984 original, and so that component (which is vital, let’s be honest) doesn’t quite pull you in as deeply as it could. And, as much as I love the Stay Puft fun, it’s a clear emptiness in the wider scheme and felt like a bit of an easy cash-in, despite the love I had for their very dark intentions beneath the ‘cute’ white, fluffy surface.
Have no doubt though, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is superbly made, it looks great and so much affection and dedication has gone in to making sure this new outing wasn’t just for the sake of it. It’s definitely a massive nostalgia trip but achieved in a positive and touching way, and Mckenna Grace’s character development means her growth isn’t lost beneath the touching conclusion. Bring the family, grab the popcorn and enjoy the ride back in Ecto-1!
The ‘Making Of’ is delightful. You get to really understand the depths of getting this film right, and the intentions of not only Jason Reitman but everyone involved. There’s so much knowledge here, surprises and real insight that it’s impossible not to be as excited as they all were to make it, oh to be in that car, let alone the GB Universe!
There’s the deleted ‘Is It Ever Too Late?’ scene they could have kept, and I don’t always think that, as it links the post-credit scene and makes sense, so I’m unsure what the decision was on that one as it’s just over a minute. There’s also this lot:
- We Got One! Easter Eggs Revealed
- Ghostbusters: A Look Back
- A Look Ahead
- Bringing Ecto-1 Back to Life
- The Gearhead’s Guide to Ghostbusters Gadgets
- Special Effects: The Ghosts of Afterlife
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and on Digital from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment – Order now: https://amzn.to/3u9xK3R
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