Ghostbusters: Afterlife Brings Us Back to the Movie Going Experience
Sometimes Fan Service is A Good Thing
Once upon a time, long long ago, in a place far far away, there was this moment when a movie came out, there was this feeling of anticipation, of desire, of wanting to see a movie up there on the big screen in surround sound in all of its glory. You would count down the days for that Friday to come to see the big premiere release of that film. But then, something changed. Politics changed, technology changed, a pandemic changed, people's interests changed, and movies changed for the worst. Movies changed as they began to bend to some faddish societal experimental reconfiguration. The movie-going public was not amused and rejected it in great numbers. What was once guaranteed box-office gold was met with box-office derision and ambivalence. Would this become our movie-going future? You would have placed your bet and said yes. But a funny thing happened on the way to the CinemaScope. There was this movie called Ghostbusters: Afterlife and it restored our faith in the movie-going revival.
First, I will begin by saying that there are two camps of audiences who are going to see this film. The first camp would be the original die-hard Ghostbusters fandom and the second camp would be the fan-going movie public, your average Joe’s and Jane’s. Perhaps there is a third camp and these are mainly those who found the 2016 version as a stand-out cinematic tour-de-force. I say this because judging by some early reviews by critics on rotten tomatoes, They seem to have a hard-on against Ghostbuster: Afterlife while bestowing the virtues of the 2016 version. They would be wrong, however. It’s more of a forgiveness letter to the fans for the 2016 version while thanking them for sticking around long enough for this film to be seen. As we cleanse our memory palette of the 2016 version, we welcome Ghostbusters: Afterlife. So, what does it offers?
Dor starters, we have new characters in the play; Mckenna Grace as Phoebe, Carrie Coon as Callie, Paul Rudd as Grooberson, Finn Wolfhard as Trevor, Celeste O’Connor as Lucky, and Logan Kim as Podcast. These new characters are served up well in this iteration. They are likable and they do a good job of not alienating the core fan base. The director, Jason Reitman, organically places the focus of the film on Phoebe without having to bludgeon the audience over the head with some sort of agenda. In fact, all of the females in this film come with their own set of dynamics that isn’t heavy-handed. They define who they are without denigrating or putting down any men. This has become a rarity in films these days Although, not having or giving any mention to who Trevor and Phoebe’s father is is an issue. The absentee father is an overused Hollywood trope that’s become problematic and absurd. With that being said, the film overall serves up the right notes as Jason Reitman orchestrates this little opus of a film.
On a separate note though, the film leaves out what the trailer had offered up. The scene where Phoebe is pelted with food from a group of girls is strategically missing. I suspect this was cut out because it may have been perceived as a bunch of mean girls bullying a girl with certain social limitations. The other footage of note is where Paul Rudd’s character asks Phoebe what her name was is also excised from the film. Maybe they wanted to keep the mystery of who Phoebe is from him a little longer?
This film really does invoke the movie-going experience and you definitely feel it.
The film is about your long-lost friend that you haven’t seen in a while. The engine of this film is McKenna Grace. She is the daughter to Callie, the sister to Trevor, and the granddaughter to Egon Spengler. She does a lot of the heavy lifting in carrying the movie. She does it without little effort but she has done it before as the wunderkind in the 2017 film, Gifted, alongside Chris Evans. In that film, she played a 7-year-old.
The rest of the cast does an amiable job of supporting her in the effort, especially Podcast. With him pairing up with Phoebe, you can visualize a sequel with both of them reprising their roles. In fact, he compliments her in this newfound partnership. Once again, Jason makes their introduction organically. Podcast recognizes something in her that doesn’t scare him off. He embraces the quirks.
I did want a little more of Paul Rudd’s character though. While the Walmart scenes were okay, he left a lot of meat on the bone character development-wise. I can say the same for Annie Potts’ Janine. Seems as if they didn’t give her enough to do or say and there were so many unanswered questions about what her character had been up to since the original. What happened between her and Egon, why wasn’t she the mother of Callie, why did she follow Egon to some Podunk town? Who is Callie’s mother? Why didn’t Janine give any more details about Egon? Are we to assume that whatever relationship they had, was rekindled since she was conveniently there at his house in the middle of nowhere?
I won’t deduct anything away from this but perhaps a follow-up is in order should there be a sequel. Another point should also be addressed, how did Phoebe know about which switch turns on the proton pack? How did Podcast figure out the controls of the remote ghost capture car? How did she get back up to the top after sliding down a pole to Egon’s secret lab? Still, no point deductions yet.
The action kicks in as we go on this ride of reinvigorating the Ghostbuster franchise. We get to see the symbols from the original Ghostbuster outing, Gozer, played by an unrecognizable Olivia Wilde, the demon minion dogs, zombies, and streaks of lights darting in and out around the town. I will give Jason Reitman a bit of some extra credit by turning old effects and props around into some refreshingly video-enhanced creations. I would categorize it as taking old stale bread and making it warm and fresh again.
It was also good to see Ecto 1 as well. Although I will take some points away with this observation. When Trevor was driving it, wasn’t it odd that the motor to that old vehicle ran as quiet as a mouse? The muffler has no signs of oxidation from being stored in an open-air barn. There was no smoke coming from the exhaust. Why didn’t the car need a ring job from being dried out over the years? Since they didn’t have any money to speak of, how and where did he get the parts? Even the gas in the tank was old, surely he had to remove the tank and get that fix.
When the car flew up in the air, yeah, that was a big no-no for a 15-year-old driving it with no experience handling a vehicle of that size. A car would have t be moving pretty fast to fly that far in the air and a 15-year-old with no experience sends the wrong message. Yeah, some major point deductions.
When they are battling the demon though, the film rights itself when the surviving Ghostbusters finally make their appearance. It was no surprise but it was great to see them. Venkman seemed to have aged the hardest. What Jason does here gives us that moment that Star Wars: The Force Awakens failed to do, give us our heroes in one scene. Jason hits us in the fells. He brings it home with the spectral image of a deceased Egon assisting his granddaughter in holding the proton gun trying to eviscerate Gozer. Venkman and company turn to their right to see Egon battling alongside them. The effect was really good. It was good to see all of them together and at the same time bittersweet to witness.
The battle ends, Egon turns to his former teammates as they say the things that they should have said when he was alive. As you watched this though, you couldn’t help but wonder if this was Bill Murray speaking from the heart to Harold Ramis? Was he really being heartfelt since it was him who held up the making of another Ghostbuster film? Egon also gets some closure with Callie. Earlier she had found a wall of photographs of her growing up that were in Egon’s lab. When Egon finally let himself go, you had to feel like he was also saying goodbye to the fans as well. This was a love letter for all of those fans who still believed in Ghostbuster the original. The fans that believed in Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore, the Ghostbusters.
Three and a half out of five stars.