The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Everybody knows that old adage, and for director Jason Reitman that could not be farther from the truth in watching Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The thing is that in the case of this movie, which was helmed by Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman – who directed the original Ghostbusters movie back in 1984 – the adage does not apply in a good way. That is because there is little if anything to like about this movie. Its story is its most problematic concern and will be discussed shortly. The general writing and acting is problematic in its own way to the movie’s presentation and will be addressed a little later. The bonus content (or rather the lack thereof) rounds out the movie’s most prominent concerns. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie. All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopefully the last big screen Ghostbusters iteration for a very long time.
When Columbia Pictures released its take on the Ghostbusters franchise, audiences did indeed answer the call, but not necessarily in the way in which the studio heads had hoped. While some audiences appreciated the movie, the overwhelming majority of audiences and critics panned the movie, and justifiably so. Interestingly enough, the movie was helmed by Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters movie in 1984. It (the 2016 reboot) received a score of 74% from Rotten Tomatoes (along with a 49% audience score), so one would have thought that after the movie’s general failure, studios in general would have had second thoughts about taking on the franchise yet again. Apparently staff at Sony Pictures (and Reitman’s son Jason) did not worry too much about the movie’s response when they decided to make Ghostbusters: Afterlife happen. Sadly, this latest entry in the Ghostbusters franchise is disappointing in its own right. That is due in large part to the story. The story featured in this movie is itself just a reboot of the 1984 movie. Gozer the Gozerian is back to try and take over the world again. This after the original Ghostbusters team destroyed Gozer almost 40 years ago atop a skyscraper in New York City. The difference is that this time, it’s not the original Ghostbusters crew taking on Gozer (though ¾ of the original team does appear in the movie’s end to help deal with the evil Sumerian God – not to give away too much). Rather it is a new, much younger team of Ghostbusters consisting of Egon’s grandson and grand-daughter and their friends. Trevor (Finn Wolfhard – It, Pinocchio, Stranger Things) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace – I, Tonya, Troop Zero, The Handmaid’s Tale) are Egon’s grandchildren. They are joined by Phoebe’s friend “Podcast” (newcomer Logan Kim) and Trevor’s love interest, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor – Freaky, Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You) as they take on Gozer and its minions. The very knowledge that the original Ghostbusters team defeated Gozer so many decades ago makes suspension of disbelief impossible right from this point. This is only the tip of the iceberg, too.
It is clear in watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife that Reitman and the rest of the movie’s creative heads were doing two things here. The first thing they were doing was just a bunch of fan service. From the giant stack of books in Egon’s house in Summerville, to the footage from the original movie that Phoebe watches on her laptop (which is clearly blatant product placement for YouTube) to the use of another giant structure from which Gozer and its forces originate, and more, there is so much fan service happening throughout this story. As if that is not bad enough, the creative heads’ use of young actors was clearly an attempt to satiate those (like this critic) who wanted an Extreme Ghostbusters style movie. Instead, they gave said audiences little more than a teeny bopper flick meant to make older audiences feel nostalgic and younger, pre-teen and teen audiences interested because they thought there was some need to update the movie. Reitman explains in the lone bonus feature in the movie’s home release of how the idea for this story came about, but it does not make the story any more bearable. Only it makes things worse. This will be discussed later. Simply put, this so-called sequel really could have been so much better if those in charge had really taken more time and thought about how it could have succeeded, but sadly it did not reach that level. Instead it ended up just being a shallow re-hashing of the original, much like so many sequels out there from so many franchises. It is just one of the problems that mars the movie’s presentation, too. The collective writing and acting featured throughout the movie brings out its own concerns.
The writing starts out strongly by setting the stage, explaining that Egon had lived in the house and was obviously there facing off against some kind of evil being, but failed to do so, to a point. The thing is that from there, the story is quick to go from that to present day, introducing his family and front loading the story with so much contrivance along the way. Gary’s (Paul Rudd – Ant Man, Ant Man and the Wasp, Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) flirting with Callie (Carrie Coon – Avengers: Infinity War, Gone Girl, The Post) from early on makes it honestly painfully clear that they would take the place of Dana (Sigourney Weaver – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Alien) and Louis (Rick Moranis – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids) as the Gatekeeper and Keymaster. What’s more, their interactions just feel so cheesy and forced in every scene. Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it is painful to watch.
On the same note, Gary’s lack of concern for his students, simply popping in copies of horror movies for the students to watch while he examines earthquake maps in his office simply is not believable. Even less believable is how Phoebe just casually strolls into Gary’s office and talks about it all as the other students sit watching the movies. The pair’s dry, so-called witty banter falls flat and not only there, but throughout the movie. Staying on that note, that none of the students take any interest when she and Podcast bring in an old ghost trap leaves one scratching one’s head just as much. Add in the moment in which Lucky’s dad, who happens to be the town’s police chief (played by Bokime Woodbine – Spiderman: Homecoming, Halo, Fargo) asks Phoebe, ‘Who ya gonna call?” when she declares at the jail (again, not to give away too much) that she gets a phone call is just as cheesy in its delivery and timing. It felt like one more piece of the creative heads’ fan service for those who grew up with the original 1984 Ghostbusters. Audiences cannot help but feel some sympathy for Woodbine, being that it fell on his shoulders, considering how little screen time he got.
From there, Ray’s (Dan Akroyd – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) explanation of how Egon ended up in Oklahoma (which basically tells the story) is so misplaced and contrived in itself. Had this explanation been somehow incorporated more into the movie early on instead of just going from the brief intro to the present might have helped the movie’s presentation more. The story itself of how Egon ended up there is contrived, though. ‘Oh, Egon went crazy ,talked about the end of the world, and that Evo Shandor built another temple in a random spot in America’s heartland’ (roughly translated from Ray’s story) just feels so outlandish. That is especially the case considering again that Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter defeated Gozer in the original movie, so how did Gozer manage to come back? That issue is never explained away as part of the story, either, leaving that massive plot hole wide open. Between everything noted here and so much more, the issues with the story’s writing and the cast’s work interpreting the scripts, there is little to nothing to appreciate from those elements. When their problems are coupled with the issues raised by the movie’s very story, the movie becomes that much less entertaining and engaging. It still is not the last of the movie’s concerns. The bonus content (or rather lack thereof) featured in the movie’s home release rounds out its most important items.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s home release features one bonus feature. The feature is the standard “making of” featurette. It presents interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, beginning with Jason Reitman discussing how the idea for the movie’s story came about. His revelation makes clear that he never had any intent to create a story in the vein of Extreme Ghostbusters, but rather, it was always going to involve younger cast members. To that end, at least it makes it seem like it was not just all about the dollar signs for Reitman. However, all of the blatant product placement (YouTube, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Walmart, etc.) throughout the movie, one might think otherwise. At the same time though, Reitman also admits that he wanted to write a story that was a “love letter” to the original movie. In other words, he openly paid fan service through this story while also making it more youth oriented, even though the original movie was geared toward older audiences and had a certain edge. Neither of those applied here, and that hurt the movie greatly. So again, that led to the movie being just a rehashing of the original Ghostbusters but just more family friendly so to speak. Hearing the comments from Reitman and company as they talk about the movie in the movie’s lone bonus feature does so much to detract from the movie’s engagement and entertainment in its own way. When the revelations in the “making of” featurette are considered along with the shortcomings in the story and its collective writing and acting, the whole makes this latest Ghostbusters installment its own disappointing presentation. One can only hope that seeing all of the movie’s problems, it will be a long time before the franchise will see another installment, even though the grand finale here left the door open for another movie.
Sony Pictures’ latest Ghostbusters iteration, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a disappointing new entry in the storied franchise. It offers little if anything to like for fans of the property who have clear heads. The story featured within is one part fan service and one part teeny bopper flick loaded with unnecessary romance subplots. The mix makes me its own share of problems. The writing and acting makes for its own problems, as little if any of it is believable. The lone bonus feature that comes with the movie’s home release makes for its own share of problems, making the movie even less engaging and entertaining than it was without that item. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife a work that shows the Ghostbusters franchise needs to remain buried for the foreseeable future unless a truly good story is crafted for the next movie.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available now on digital and physical platforms. More information on the movie is available along with all of the latest Ghostbusters news at:
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