After the social media storm that surrounded Ghostbusters (2016), I admit I was incredibly skeptical when it was announced that a sequel was being released this year. Ghostbusters: Afterlife, however, is the best kind of sequel and a worthy tribute to the original story.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a complete departure from the first three entries into this franchise, in that it told a much darker, grittier, and more grounded story. Whereas the previous Ghostbusters movies had focused on the comedic aspects of interactions between humans and the paranormal (with varying levels of success). Ghostbusters: Afterlife, however, focused much more on relationships and families forged in adversity.
It’s impossible to talk about Ghostbusters: Afterlife without talking about the exceptional performances of the child actors. Mckenna Grace especially was a revelation in her role as Phoebe. Her character’s reference to the American school system as “state sponsored work camp for delinquents” was such a perfect character moment, and shows how much Grace understood the assignment. She has established herself in previous movies including Gifted and I, Tonya. This, however, was Grace’s best performance to date and the heart she brought to this role was a revelation.
Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame also brought his signature talent to his role as Trevor. Newcomer Logan Kim fit right into this group as the lovable Podcast. Celeste O’Connor too, playing Lucky, the daughter of the town’s sheriff and Trevor’s love interest rounded out this new generation of Ghostbusters very nicely. The chemistry between all of these young actors was absolutely unmistakable.
Paul Rudd was the most Paul Rudd character he’s played recently, and as always, played it to perfection. The Baskin Robbins ice cream reference was a nice shoutout to Rudd’s Marvel role as Ant-Man. Strictly speaking, his character of Gary Grooberson, the middle school science teacher, was far from necessary to the story. It’s always a pleasant ride when Rudd shows up in a movie, however the movie turning him into a hell dog was certainly…a choice.
It wouldn’t be a Ghostbusters movie, however, without the awful treatment of women. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this came in the form of Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon), Egon Spengler’s (Harold Ramis) estranged daughter and mother to Phoebe and Trevor. There are so many moments where she’s dismissed by peers, her children, and even herself. It was a sad continuation of how many mothers are portrayed and treated in the media.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife in many ways was the best kind of sequel, and everything a sequel should aspire to be. For starters, it was an absolutely beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Harold Ramis. The effects that were used could have been so cringe, but it was actually very touching to see how they incorporated a CGI Ramis into the story. It was a credit to the franchise that the story was able to stray from its comedy roots, and sit and acknowledge the very real loss of a man beloved by so many.
The best elements of the Ghostbusters franchise were on full display, including the return of Gozer, the Gatekeeper and the Key Master. Gozer received a topical update, and was billed as neither a he nor a she, and we love that the Ghostbusters franchise is able to say no to gender norms. Sadly, there was no return of Sigourney Weaver, and fans will certainly have missed her presence, and a chance to see her treated well in a Ghostbusters movie. The incorporation of the original Ghostbusters was done in such an organic way that is a lesson for all movies wanting to callback to previous parts of their properties.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was also the most Jewish Ghostbusters entry, and called to mind Marvel’s Moon Knight, a Jewish hero facing off against Egyptian gods. The fact that every person has the divine within them was also acknowledged in the movie, which is an incredibly Jewish concept. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) finally answering Gozer’s question “Are you a god” with a “Yes” was the most Jewish answer that could have been given.
Unfortunately, there were also the worst elements of the original entries that were called back as well. Dan Aykroyd is a man stuck living in the wrong time, and was given the opportunity to wax poetic about how much better the world was under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The choice to essentially eliminate references to both Ghostbusters 2 and Ghostbusters (2016) was a very telling choice. The ending of Ghostbusters: Afterlife was also a Marvel-esque third act light show, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a worthy sequel to an original story that is so rare that is so rare to find in a world of endless sequels and remakes. Although there seemed to be plenty of setup for an entire new cinematic universe, perhaps now that a definitive, heartfelt Ghostbusters movie has been made, this franchise can finally rest in peace.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in theatres now.