Ever since the pandemic took hold of the world in 2020, it has been said on many, many occasions that we are living in unprecedented and unusual times. And never has that been truer than this week, with the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife – an event so unusual, I NEVER thought we would ever see it.

Why is it unusual? Because in many ways the existence of this particular film is somewhat of a fever dream. It is something which has been oft-discussed and endlessly teased, but up until now it has always been just out of reach.

For those not quite familiar with this movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is effectively ‘Ghostbusters 3’. It is a belated sequel to 1984’s Ghostbusters (and sort of Ghostbusters 2), and features various actors from the original movies, who briefly reprise their legacy characters.   

Ghostbusters: Afterlife ignores the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters reboot (aka Ghostbusters: Answer the Call) and instead uses the first two movies as its foundations. So, while this is technically the fourth Ghostbusters movie overall, it is the third instalment in terms of the original storyline.  

Now, its whole existence is something which feels somewhat strange, because for years the prospect of a continuation of those original films seemed rather unlikely. For various reasons ‘Ghostbusters 3’ could never get off the ground, and after years of trying with no success, Sony Pictures abandoned all attempts completely and in 2016 rebooted the franchise instead.

But Sony’s attempt to disconnect from the original films and restart the series did not go as planned. Despite largely positive reviews from critics (including me!), the reboot was hit by a huge amount of online negativity and this caused significant problems.  

A dedicated campaign by online trolls to derail the film, in conjunction with the targeted online abuse of star Leslie Jones, created an overwhelming amount of negative feeling. This in turn transformed the movie’s release into a PR nightmare and sullied the whole experience.

Regardless of the successes or failures of the project itself, the attention surrounding the reboot was too hostile, and for Sony it was completely unmanageable. As such, the 2016 movie came and went, and it was back to the drawing board for the studio.

And that’s when the seemingly unthinkable happened. Jason Reitman (son of original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman) stepped forward.

Reitman met with Sony to discuss a possible way to push ahead with the series, which could sidestep the negativity caused by the reboot, and appease some of the die-hard fans who wanted a continuation of the old films. More importantly, he could make a version of ‘Ghostbusters 3’ happen.

Reitman’s plan was to introduce a new cast of characters, while at the same time bring back most of the key players from the earlier movies. This project would work as both a restart and a sequel to the original films, and essentially become the seemingly impossible ‘Ghostbusters 3’ that fans had long called for.

And that’s where we are now. We have a new Ghostbusters movie in cinemas. It is opening while the world is still working its way through the pandemic, but after decades of false starts and rumours, it’s finally here.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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Now before I dive headfirst into what this new instalment is all about, I must make it clear that I really enjoyed the 2016 reboot and I would have happily watched another entry in that series. While I am equally as happy to see Ghostbusters: Afterlife now in cinemas, and bringing back legacy characters (albeit in small roles), I really wish it was coming out under slightly different circumstances.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife exists because the reboot failed. The reboot failed because it was surrounded by online abuse, negativity, and a very specific and targeted campaign of hate, which never gave it a fair chance.

For years I wanted to see a continuation of the original films. But I would have liked it to happen irrespective of what went on with the reboot, and I did not want that film to fail in order for this one to happen.

But anyway, with all that said, it is time to move on. And that means focusing on this new movie, which as already discussed picks up decades after what came before.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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In this latest film, it has been 30 years since the last ghost sighting. Within this time, the Ghostbusters have long retired and their legacy has all but faded away.

But when a single mother and her two children relocate to a rundown farmhouse in Oklahoma, the children soon discover they share a connection with these long-forgotten Ghostbusters. And this connection may have something to do with a worrying, spook-filled mystery, they soon find themselves in the midst of.

With supernatural occurrences on the rise, and their family at the centre of a potential apocalypse, can the children solve the mystery or will they need help? And more importantly, if they do require assistance, who are they gonna call?

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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Ghostbusters: Afterlife stars Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, and J.K. Simmons, with special appearances from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts. The movie was released in UK cinemas today, followed by an opening in the US ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend.

If you’re a Ghostbusters fan, then I’m pretty sure you have got your tickets already or are planning a trip to your local cinema as soon as possible. If not, then you should probably get your butt into gear, because this is Ghostbusters movie you won’t want to miss.

After years of speculation, all of that negativity a few years back, and various calls for Bill Murray to agree to strap on a proton pack one more time, they’ve done it. They’ve finally done it. The crazy bastards have managed to bring everything together for a movie that is a triumph.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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I loved every minute of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It entertained me, it delighted me, and twice it reduced me to tears.

Yes, this stone-cold reviewer, who is practically dead inside, got a little sniffly in the cinema – and I wasn’t alone. Other members of the audience were emotional too, with one person in particular shouting out the phrase “F**k, yeah!”, when a crowd-pleasing moment took place on screen.   

Why were we all so invested in this picture? Because myself, and countless others have lived with this franchise for decades and seeing it treated so well, with a story that delivers such an emotional payoff, has been worth all the bumps along the way.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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Now, I should make it clear that while Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a sequel to the previous films, and does include past cast members, don’t go into this film expecting to see Murray and Co. front and centre. They’re here, but only in small doses, and they are not the focus of this picture.

This movie is largely about setting up a new generation of Ghostbusters, with a younger cast taking up the mantle. The newbies include Mckenna Grace, who takes on the role of Phoebe Spengler, and Finn Wolfhard who plays her brother, Trevor.

These two actors are accompanied by Logan Kim as Phoebe’s friend, Podcast, and Celeste O’Connor who takes on the role of Lucky. Together, these four are essentially the Egon, Peter, Ray, and Winston of this movie.

Joining them in supporting roles are Paul Rudd, who brings some laughs as Phoebe’s summer-school teacher, Mr. Grooberson, and Carrie Coon who plays Phoebe and Trevor’s mom, Callie Spengler. These two are the authoritative figures in the movie, and also become key players in the storyline.

From the younger cast members to the more established actors, everyone in this film is great. This is a strong casting, with Mckenna Grace in particular being the standout star.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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Grace is essentially the lead of the film, with so much of the story focused around her character. She is the audience’s way into the Ghostbusters mythology, and also the centre point for much of the story.

For any young actor, putting a big blockbuster on their shoulders is a big ask. When it’s a movie with as much baggage and expectations as the Ghostbusters series has, it’s almost a thankless job.

Yet Grace not only copes with everything thrown at her, she takes it all in her stride. In the process, she delivers a strong, interesting character, who is destined to become everyone’s favourite new Ghostbuster.

I have no idea if this movie is going to get a sequel, but if it does, then I can’t wait to see her back. I expect she’s signed up for multiple pictures, as is the norm these days, but if not, then Sony need to get her on speed dial, or ‘DM’ her, or whatever it is people do these days.

She’s a real talent. She’s the driving force of this movie, and also the heart.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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But while Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe is the heart of the film, she’s not the only heart. This film is also centred around an important part of the franchise: Egon Spengler.

Egon was one of the main characters in the original movie, and this is something which isn’t ignored in this picture. While actor Harold Ramis sadly passed away in 2014, Jason Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan find a way to pay tribute to him, and ensure Ramis’ contribution to the series doesn’t go unnoticed.  

The legacy of the series also doesn’t go unnoticed, with Ghostbusters: Afterlife included various references to the ’84 film, as well as other nods here and there (including a reference to the old Kenner toyline). Pretty much all of the iconic elements are included, perhaps with only one real exception.

There’s no Slimer in this movie; although there is a new ghost called Muncher, who is essentially Slimer Mark II. As for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, he is now a collection of mini-Stay Puft Marshmallow Men, who are kind of cute, and kids will love them.

In fact, I expect kids will love everything about this movie. From its Stranger Things-inspired cast, to its gruesome ghouls, it’s endless supply of gags (this movie is very funny), and its slightly creepy overtones.

Sure, the movie is a little frightening in places, but in just the right way for youngsters. There’s enough lightness to balance out the more macabre elements of the film, so it shouldn’t induce any nightmares.

However, I expect it’ll be the older members of the audience who will get the biggest kick out of this picture. Seeing a long-standing plot line revisited, doing it so well, and finding just the right way to bring back the old cast, is pure magic.

Like the 2018 version of Halloween and this year’s Candyman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife successfully manages to walk that fine line which pays homage to the past, while also doing something new. This film is an introduction for newbies, a respectful handshake to fans, and also a total blast from start to finish.

And as far as the finish goes, this movie includes two end credit scenes, both of which are worth sticking around for. The second in particular hints at where this series could go next, and if it does head in this direction, it would be a good thing indeed.

Image: ©Sony Pictures
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I can’t quite believe I’m typing out these words, but Ghostbusters: Afterlife has managed to deliver something which can appease a very vocal fanbase, while also creating a new start for the franchise. It is fun, action-packed, loaded with nostalgia, and incredibly likeable.

Most important of all, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a love letter to this entire franchise. It tips its hat in all the best places, and just feels right.

I loved this movie. As someone who watches the original film almost every Halloween, who grew up on episodes of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and who always has time for Extreme Ghostbusters, the 2016 reboot, and everything in between, I am very happy with this new movie.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a winner. As a life-long GB fan, I can’t wait to watch it again.

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