Even after almost 40 years, ‘Bustin still makes you feel good.
Directed by Jason Reitman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife revives the world of ghosts, goblins and proton packs once again. After her estranged father passes away, Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) move to a small town to examine what’s left of his estate. However, after she discovers a surprising connection to the original Ghostbusters, Phoebe and her friends unwittingly unleash a spiritual war that has been lying dormant.
After the disastrous response to the 2016 reboot, it goes without saying that the Ghostbusters franchise was in desperate need of a refresh. As the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman has deep, personal ties to the franchise. Having grown up on the set of the original films as a child, Reitman clearly understands the assignment in terms of resurrecting the franchise. Lock in to the history that has already been established. Create a new crop of characters that honours the franchise’s legacy. Offer nostalgia without necessarily being bound by it.
And, for the love of Gozer, get the proper blessing from the original crew.
In doing so, the response to Afterlife was far more positive from fans who felt cheated with the 2016 reboot. (Though, let’s be serious, much of the backlash towards that film began even before its release by men who weren’t satisfied with the gender swap of its cast. But I digress…) Reitman’s affection for the series was palpable onscreen. Newcomers Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace all brought their own unique charm to the franchise. Viewers spoke fondly about how it made them ‘feel like a kid’ again, especially when Venkman and Co. eventually make their appearance.
Without question, the franchise’s torch was being passed.
Though, what’s fascinating about the fans’ acceptance of Afterlife is how different the film actually is when compared to the previous films. Forgetting the inclusion of Wolfhard for a moment, the storytelling itself already feels more like Stranger Things than it does the madcap comedy of Ghostbusters. Long sprawling takes across the American Midwest mixed with very little ‘ghost action’ until the 3rd act creates a very different narrative feel. (Remember, the Ghostbusters are already busting ghosts in the first scene of the original film…) However, even with this dramatic change in tone, the updated version still feels authentic to the legacy that’s already been established. As such, the film works surprisingly well.
By changing locations and having a younger crew, the series also acknowledges the fact that this once beloved franchise is ready to start over in the new millennium. But, in a lot of ways, that’s easier said than done. A lot has changed over the past four decades, such as the way in which Western culture views the paranormal . With a much heavier emphasis on empirical science and physical proof, the concept of belief in the spiritual realm has a greater level of skepticism in the West today. This cultural shift is not lost in Afterlife, especially considering how much time has passed since the events of New York. In this film, the realities of the paranormal feel far more like distant echoes of a less ‘mature’ era. (For instance, although there have always been people who didn’t believe in this cinematic world, this is certainly the first time where members of the ‘Busters needed to be convinced themselves.)
Even so, Afterlife leans into the notion that there are always things in the world that we don’t understand. Though often seen as mutually exclusive, this franchise allows a partnership between science and the paranormal to build together. One doesn’t need to abandon their reliance on scientific fact to believe that there’s something more. For a generation who are simply focused on what’s in front of them, belief in the paranormal changes the way they understand the world. The scientifically minded Phoebe becomes more deeply connected to her family history. Once alienated for his ideas, ‘Podcast’ feels validated and finds a purpose. Even Finn begins to experience something deeper in his life.
In Afterlife, the discovery of the paranormal gives them something to live for today.
For at-home viewing, the film still looks great, especially in high definition. (In fact, the film’s sun-drenched colour palette looks surprisingly good. However, if special features are your fancy, the disc is somewhat light on the extras. While ‘We Got One!’ is a fun look back at the film’s Easter eggs, the rest of the features leans heavily on the gadgets and technology as opposed to any of the film’s particular ‘secrets’. (Honestly, a film like this deserves a director’s commentary, yet that is noticeably lacking here.)
So, while the features on the disc may be far from ‘special’, Ghostbusters: Afterlife remains worth a spin. With a deep affection for the franchise, this is a sequel that feels like it’s being told out of love for a legacy long forgotten. Despite the fact that many had left it for dead, Afterlife proves that this franchise still has life left in it.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available on 4K, Blu-ray and VOD on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022.