By Colin Hubbell
The newly released “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” opened Nov. 19, marking the fourth entry in the Ghostbusters movie franchise. “Afterlife” serves as a direct sequel to the original movie and 1989 comedy “Ghostbusters 2,” instead of being in continuity with the 2016 reboot.
“Afterlife” follows the story of a down on their luck family forced to move into their now deceased, estranged grandfather’s home once money runs short. Upon moving to the new town, friends are met, and the mystery of the Ghostbusters is slowly revealed. In a world that has forgotten about the Ghostbusters, a new, younger generation takes on the task of defeating the looming threat. The main cast consists of Carrie Coon, as single mother Callie, Mckenna Grace, as the daughter Phoebe, and Finn Wolfhard, as the older brother Trevor.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has all the elements to make a great movie, but manages to drop the ball somewhere halfway through. This is not to say the movie is terrible. There are a lot of redeeming qualities, but the final product is somewhat underwhelming. With that being said, “Afterlife” is a solid Ghostbusters film. At first glance these may seem like two contradictory statements, that is however not the case.
Throughout “Afterlife” you can tell that the people involved in making the movie care about the Ghostbusters brand just as much as their fans. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the director, Jason Reitman, is the son of the original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman. During the movie, the love for the originals can be seen in references, as well as how the film was constructed. The film uses vibrant, bright colors and ghosts rather sparingly, which is more intune to the originals rather than the 2016 reboot. One gripe I had with the 2016 reboot is that it felt like any other flashy CGI blockbuster made by a corporation, only using the property for a money grab. While money is still the driving force in all Hollywood movies, including “Afterlife,” this movie honored what came before, stylistically speaking. Another aspect fans will enjoy is how “Afterlife” builds off the lore from the original movie and has connections to said movie’s villain. All these inclusions are sure to get Ghostbusters fans excited, and makes this movie a solid inclusion in the Ghostbusters franchise. However, I can’t help but think some of these Ghostbuster references came at the expense of making a better film, regardless of IP.
The first half of the movie is rather focused on the family aspect, with Ghostbusters taking a bit of the back seat. From a straight film standpoint, this is where the movie is at its best. However, half way through, the Ghostbusters aspect really ramps up as the third act nears. Unfortunately, from a film standpoint this is where it hits its weak point. The movie seems to forget that it needs a villain if it’s going to be a true Ghostbusters movie. Instead of establishing one early on, it throws a bunch of exposition at you at once to get the movie to the finish line. This can confuse any audience member, especially one who may not know the lore of Ghostbusters as well as others. This change and hurried exposition also drastically changes the pace and stakes of the movie instead of gradually and naturally flowing into a climactic conclusion. Although this is really my only big complaint with the film, it is no small unnoticed problem. It’s effect can be felt through the rest of the movie.
Much like the film as a whole, the ending is very satisfying for those who love Ghostbusters, but ultimately when looking at the movie just as a standalone piece, the payoff does not make a ton of sense narratively.
Coming from a rather casual Ghosbuster’s fan, if I was asked whether or not I like “Ghostbusters: Afterlife my answer would be yes. However, there’s too much holding it back from being a great movie despite the potential it seemed to have. I will probably give the movie a rewatch at some point, but I am not clambering to see it again soon. One thing is for sure, even if you are a Ghostbusters fan and tend to hold the film in a more positive light, this movie does not hold a candle to the first movie in the franchise, but perhaps it was naive to believe it ever could. Even despite the original being a better movie, there’s a sort of nostalgia lens that a lot of people have for the original. Maybe the most audiences could have hoped for was for “Afterlife” to come close to the magic that was the first movie.