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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

'Ghostbusters: Afterlife': A Middling, Nostalgia-Fueled Sequel

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Of all the films of the 1980s, very few have had such a long-lasting cultural impact as 1984's Ghostbusters. From the iconic logo, to the catchy theme song, to the memorable dialogue and characters, this film has managed to stand the test of time, and has been beloved by many for decades now. I distinctly remember watching it for the first time when I was a teenager, and finding it to be both a hilarious comedy, and just a fun movie in general. I've always liked it quite a bit, but because I was a little older when I first watched it, I don't have the same sense of nostalgia for it that some do. Regardless, I've always been quite fond of it, so when it was announced that a new Ghostbusters film was coming out, I couldn't help but be a little excited. However, I couldn't help but be a bit conflicted when I saw the first trailer, as it looked to have a radically different tone from the original film. Still, I decided to stay optimistic and hope that the film would at least serve as a decent continuation of the franchise. While I can say that it succeeds in doing the latter, I still find myself conflicted on how I feel about the film as a whole. Ghostbusters: Afterlife may honor the original film fairly well, but it finds itself caught between wanting to cater to fans, and fitting into the mold of current blockbusters.

Before we go any further, let's just address the elephant in the room. Yes, there are several callbacks and easter eggs throughout this film. The film does have quite a bit of fan service, and if I'm being honest, I wasn't mad at a lot of it. Some of it comes across rather cheesy or gauche, but I'd be lying if I said that some of them didn't bring a smile to my face. I won't go into to the aspects of this that I found to be highly questionable, as that would go headlong into spoiler territory, but let's just say that certain choices made in the third act felt a bit pandering, and kind of took me out of the movie. I'm sure that quite a few people won't take issue with this, and that they will actually like these choices, but it just rubbed me the wrong way, and I feel that they undermine a lot of what comes before it. Again, I can't get into specifics without spoiling anything, but this was easily one of my biggest issues with the film.

One of my biggest concerns with the film going into it was that its more serious tone would come across heavy-handed and maybe a bit too reverent. While it definitely does treat certain moments with much more seriousness than it should, it actually didn't feel like it was as much of a clash as I feared it would be. The film is largely trying to be its own thing, which makes its approach go down a bit smoother. It does feel a bit off when you think of it as a direct sequel to the first two Ghostbusters films, but it's not as bad as it could have been. It's clear that the film is trying to be more in line with other big-budget films, rather than try to adhere to the humorous tone of the original film. There aren't nearly as many laughs as the original, and what jokes we do get are pretty hit or miss. I get why they took this approach, but I do wish that the humor was stronger here.

The film definitely feels like it's taking some cues from films like E.T., The Goonies, and Gremlins, and serves as a blast of 80s nostalgia. In fact, nostalgia is the lifeblood of this film. Between the aforementioned fan service, and the obsession the film has with the past, it truly feels that this film hinges on this. It definitely feels deliberate, and even excessive at times. Despite this, it is needed due to this being such a large part of the narrative, and is such a driving force in Jason Reitman's approach to the film. For Reitman, this is a chance to both continue a successful franchise, and to continue what his father, Ivan Reitman, started. It feels like he took this very seriously, and it reflects in the finished product. It does feel like he could have lightened up a little bit in some areas, but I do have to say he does a decent job here.

As far as the screenplay goes, it mostly achieves what it sets out to, but it's nothing to get too excited about either. It mostly goes in the direction you would expect it to, and doesn't break any new ground or anything, but it's not bad. Honestly, my biggest gripes with it lie in the film's third act, and the slightly uneven tone, as I said above. But there is one specific detail that I haven't discussed that just got under my skin. That detail being that there is a character in this movie named Podcast. Now, let me clear, this at no fault of Logan Kim, the young actor who plays him. In fact, Kim is quite funny, and makes the best of the character. My issue is with the fact that he is a key supporting role, and he is only referred to as Podcast. This is because the character, you guessed it, has a podcast where he talks about strange occurrences and tales of the supernatural. If this was just a character trait, I probably wouldn't have thought much about it, but the fact that he is just known as "Podcast" feels like a hat on a hat type of joke. There's no real reason for this choice, and it just feels out of place and like the film is trying to connect to modern audiences, but doesn't quite know how. I may be overreacting, but I cannot stress how much this bothered me.

I did appreciate that the film does have a good cast, and while no one is delivering an Oscar-worthy performance or anything, they all do a decent job. McKenna Grace gives the standout performance in my opinion, and is kind of the de facto lead. She does a great job of playing the child genius aspect of the character without it feeling like a caricature, and brings a sense of honesty to the role. The other younger actors in the film are also pretty good, and are used rather well. As for the rest of the cast, I'm convinced that Carrie Coon is good in anything, and Paul Rudd just does his usual schtick, but he's so charming that I didn't mind it. I also just love when Bokeem Woodbine shows up in anything, so I was delighted to see him here. Again, this is no one's finest hour or anything, but it's still a pretty decent cast all things considered.

Your enjoyment of this film will likely be tied to your feelings of the original Ghostbusters film. If you are a huge fan of it, and consider it a stone cold classic, you will probably love this film. If you're like me and like it well enough, but don't quite have the same nostalgia for it as others do, you'll probably be more critical of it. I do think the film is fairly good for the first two acts, but the third act just feels a bit out of place for the film to be fully cohesive. I'm definitely mixed on this one, as there are some things I liked, but the film's flaws are pretty blatant and hard to ignore. I will say that this is nowhere near as bad as I was afraid it would be, and if nothing else, this was at least somewhat fun to watch. This is a sequel that will please die-hard fans, but will likely leave other viewers a bit cold.

Rating: 2.5/5

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