The theme of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is moving on. It’s clear what the plan is going forward. Ghostbusters will live on and the audience will skew a tad younger than the previous renditions, and that’s okay. Our new ‘busters, including Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things and Mckenna Grace, playing a brother and sister duo, take up the mantle in a fun, if not completely original, continuation.
Director, Jason Reitman, leaned hard into the charm and spirit of the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. In fact, it can be viewed as a goodbye letter to comedy legend, Harold Ramis, the original ‘buster. If anything, Reitman and the other writers (including Dan Akroyd) borrowed a bit too much. The plot is not only derivative but basically the same as the first film in the franchise. If the series continues, it will have to struggle to find its own voice and a new formula if it wants to stand out.
Story – Gozer – Round 2
A single mom, struggling to keep afloat, inherits a dilapidated old house in the middle of nowhere from her estranged father. This is basically the set formula for any kid-friendly ghost tale. However, this estranged father is none other than Egon Spengler, the brains of the original Ghostbusting trio. It’s a familiar set-up, but the small-town setting is important to the story and adds a charming contrast to the New York setting of the rest of the franchise.
The plot moves along very quickly and leaves little to the imagination. The spooky ghostly presence in the town, centered in the creepy old house, is in plain sight from the start. The movie is primed for the silly adventures and perilous situations that don’t take long to ensue. It’s fun in the first act and stays fun throughout.
The kids seem to be experts at everything they touch right from the start. Phoebe, the awkward little genius, takes after her scientist grandfather. She quickly discovers the old Ghostbusting equipment and whips it into working condition in no time. Trevor, her brother, appears to be a mechanical whiz and fixes up the old Ecto 1 car from the original movies. The nostalgia trip is heavy and personified by Paul Rudd’s character, Mr. Grooberson, who was a kid during the original ghost infestation of New York in the 80’s. His wide-eyed excitement and reckless curiosity cause a chain reaction leading to the release of the notorious Gozer.
Gozer, the same ghostly villain from the original Ghostbusters, returns with a vengeance. It’s an interesting choice to introduce the new generation of ‘busters with the same villain, but it adds to the overall effect of passing the torch from the old guard to the new. In the end, it works. It’s clever in its simplicity.
Characters and Performances – Completely Charming
One of the original Ghostbusters main attractions was the hilarious cast. Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis made the perfect comedic ensemble for the 80’s flick. A new Ghostbusters had to have a killer cast too. They seem to have found a great dynamic. The kids are charming and relatable, even if they’re bordering on Mary Sue. Phoebe is supposedly weird and can’t make friends, but that’s not what we see. She is just a silly genius. Trevor is similarly one-dimensional whose supposed flaws only make him more endearing.
Paul Rudd pretty much steals the show when it comes to the adult cast. His chaotic nostalgia leads to major problems for the small town of Summerville. He’s sarcastic and funny as ever in a role that was likely written just for him. These characters have room to grow in an expanding franchise if Sony decides to expand the Ghostbusters into future media. The cast is aimed at a younger audience for sure, which seems more appropriate for a modern version of this world.
Editing and Pacing – No Time To Waste
Act one of Ghostbusters: Afterlife passes by quickly. It can be a little disorienting for some movies, but considering the audience is likely already familiar with the world, all that’s left to introduce at this point are the characters. We don’t really slow down after the first act though, as things continue to move at a fast pace. The kids especially, as mentioned above, develop into quite the adequate ghostbusting team in the blink of an eye. There isn’t a lot of time left for character development with all the action set pieces that hit one after another once we reach the halfway point. It’s definitely action-packed, but maybe lacking in meaningful moments until the very end.
Those action set pieces, however, benefit greatly from the breakneck pacing. The editing is quick and snappy with the right amount of suspenseful moments to break it up. The experience is similar to that of a big superhero movie. There is clearly a large amount of inspiration from the MCU titles when it comes to action and editing, as well as tone.
Cinematography and Sound – Loud and Proud
One of the major accomplishments of this movie is the excellent CGI. The many ghosts and monsters in Ghostbusters: Afterlife are vivid and truly impressive. It’s hard to beat the charm of the practical effects of the 80’s film, but they were able to get so much more creative here. The variety of creatures rendered in the movie meant a lot of skilled artists had to contribute to the final product. Many of the monsters took inspiration from Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. In fact, some are exactly the same monsters with an updated look, and it works beautifully.
On top of shooting for heavy CGI scenes, the camera team, lead by DP Eric Steelberg, had some amazing cinematic shots. There’s a brightness to the film that adds to the sunshiny feeling of childlike nostalgia. They do a good job of skirting around the scenes that could be truly scary and take the edges off for the younger audience without losing the bite.
Right from the start, the sound design is a huge piece. The intense orchestral music is punctuated by loud effects meant to make you jump right out of your seat. It’s the intense cacophony of sounds that brings this film together as a whole experience. The soul and emotions of any good movie start with a precise soundscape that compliments the rest of the film, and this one pulled it together.