Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021): A Fun, Nostalgic Ride
Back in 1984, Ghostbusters hit theaters with massive success as a sci-fi comedy, raking in the dough and critical acclaim. They gave us a less-than-stellar sequel in 1989, and then the franchise was respectfully put to bed. Which then led Sony to attempt a reboot of the franchise in 2016, with a massive outcry from portions of the fandom. In 2021, another Ghostbusters sequel was greenlit in the form of Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021).
Callie (played by Carrie Coon) is a single mother of her two children, Phoebe (played by McKenna Grace) and Trevor (played by Finn Wolfhard). They are left broke and are evicted from their apartment in New York. This forces them to travel to a farmhouse Callie’s absentee father owned in the middle of Oklahoma. Once there, strange, unexplained earthquakes occur, leading Phoebe to find summer-school teacher and scientist Mr. Grooberson (played by Paul Rudd). These earthquakes, along with odd events happening at the farmhouse, lead Phoebe to discover that her neglectful grandfather was a Ghostbuster. Combining this new discovery with paranormal occurrences happening more frequently, she and Trevor realize that the Sumerian god, Gozer, whom her grandfather defeated decades earlier, has returned and is trying to conquer Earth. It’s up to Phoebe, Trevor, and their friends to stop Gozer before the apocalypse is unleashed upon the world.
Honestly, this was a fun film. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, as the visuals were top notch. There was an elegant mixture of both practical and CG effects, such as when Mr. Grooberson is being chased through the walmart by a demon, that demon was mostly practical. Which is impressive since it probably would’ve been easier to make it in post production. But they also harken back to the golden days of the OG Ghostbusters, with the beams from the proton packs being exactly the same as they were back in 1984, only cleaner.
I gotta say, 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife feels awfully similar to that of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens: banking more on nostalgia and fan service rather than trying something new. However, the fan service doesn’t hinder the story one bit. Although, I do believe they made a smart choice playing it safe with the story, given how many weren’t pleased with 2016’s Ghostbusters. They do give a few decent new ideas to the story at least to make the sequel not a direct copycat of the original, like trying to trap Gozer inside of the farmhouse ghost trap rather than send her back to her dimension. I was also taken aback by what seemed to be some pretty stupid character decisions, like Grooberson releasing one of Gozer’s demons from a ghosttrap knowing full well there was possibly a dangerous ghost inside. However, we would not have had the events of the film if this happened.
Despite the predictability of the story, there were still a few memorable moments, twists, and additions that felt earned. Such as a gunner seat on the Ecto-1 and having a 12 year old live out the gamer fantasy we all would love to do. Heck they were even able to bring back the OG squad and still make it feel natural. When both the OG and new Ghostbusters unite to fight Gozer, the cast embraces the absurd nature of the climax, and even bring in some great callbacks from their first confrontation with Gozer in 1984. They even got an uncanny valley CGI Harold Ramis to show up, even though he passed away in 2014. Although it was a little creepy how well the CG looked like the late Ghostbuster, he still managed to rip our hearts out of our chests with a heartwarming goodbye to his friends and family; even acting as a tribute to the comedy legend once the credits rolled.
I do have to say this, there were FAR too many jokes in this film. It seemed everyone, even the socially awkward Phoebe, had to make a joke with every line. Even though Phoebe’s quirks and bad sense of humor were beneficial to her character, it was difficult to feel the tension with all the jokes being made. Not to say all of them weren’t funny, as Bill Murray and the rest of the original Ghostbusters were just themselves and even brought a few great callbacks, such as Dan Akyroyd being asked if he’s a god. The biggest offender of this was Podcast (played by Logan Kim). He was a fine character, but he became a little annoying too fast with him trying to out-quip everyone else.
This is a film that is a perfect getaway from reality for a couple hours. There were a few great moments, such as the Ramis tribute, but the story felt like a lost copy of the original 1984 Ghostbusters. That’s not something I’m complaining about, though. The cast gave fun performances, it seemed like they were having the time of their lives creating this sequel, even if MANY of the jokes felt forced to undercut a lot of the tension. But is it as good as the 1984 classic? No it isn’t. But is it better than the 2016 reboot attempt? Well...I’ll leave that answer up to you.