This review may feel like déjà vu to followers of this site, but since most movies of today feel like repeats, that’s quite appropriate. Go to the cinema these days and you’ll face an incessant deluge of repetitiveness; from umpteen superhero offerings to nostalgic remakes or reboots. Aside from Marvel and DC taking up most of the screens, we have extremely poor attempts at reviving old films and franchises – Terminator: Dark Fate, Coming 2 America, Halloween Kills – what the replicated-fuck do we need all these sequels and reboots for? Were the originals not good enough? Have we lost the negatives? Have the studios not made enough dosh this financial year? Ghostbusters: Afterlife is another one of these profit-generating, failed nostalgia-fests, although thankfully, it’s not as dire as the recent Halloween or Home Alone ruinations. With a dedication “For Harold” at the end, not to mention a postmortem rendering of Harold Ramis’ likeness, the finale does kinda make up for everything this film lacks, but make no mistake, sentimentality is all this flick has going for it.
I still don’t know why Ivan Reitman, the director of Ghostbusters I & II, didn’t direct this sequel. His son Jason instead takes the reins but because his style is nothing like his father’s, this film doesn’t resemble the originals. I recall Jason Reitman was laughably called a “visionary” during the social media promotion for this film (which made many people on Twitter slate the trailer and tweet). This movie’s existence is partly down to nepotism, which along with networking and arse-kissing is how Hollywood operates. Jason Reitman has made a few overrated movies including Juno and Up In The Air, but after a few obvious disappointments, it feels like Ghostbusters: Afterlife is here to kick-start his career… “I’m Ivan Reitman’s son you know!”.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind a sequel that a. made sense and b. felt like it fitted in with the original, but like Bill & Ted Face The Music, Ghostbusters: Afterlife starts off with a depressing plot about character Egon Spengler being deceased and his estranged child and one-time co-workers despising him. I have no idea why writers keep stomping over the memories of classics, but this is the only way sequels seem to get made; everything that was once positive and upbeat is obliterated in favour of tacking-on something inferior to a story that was more or less complete.
With nothing new to say, this sequel like many others, opts for replication rather than continuation. Ghostbusters: Afterlife may be set in Summerville, Oklahoma instead of New York City, but its entire plot is a retread of the first and second movie. From the Gatekeeper, the Keymaster, Gozer to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, there’s not much originality here. Very much like Halloween Kills was an inferior Halloween II, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a shite Ghostbusters II. It wishes it was breathing new life into an old-school franchise but this flick simply ends up imitating what we already have. Midway through the film you may think to yourself; why would you get Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon to repeat what Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver did 32 years ago?
With some daft plot about an occultist and Freemason-esque Ivor Shandor and the Shandor Mining Company taking selenium to make girders in Manhattan, we have a nonsensical narrative just so Mckenna Grace can play a mini-Egon and Finn Wolfhard can have every stage of his puberty captured on film. Most, if not all the supporting cast play annoying or forgettable characters (“Podcast” and “Lucky” feel contrived and even cliched) and the quick mocking of conspiracy theorists and “stupid guns” feels like the usual fake-liberal Hollywood trying to feed-off and briefly propagandise topical issues.
Although it’s kinda mentioned, the glaring issue here is that past filmic events have somehow been forgotten by all and sundry. Is it not illogical and downright senseless that a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man and the Statue Of Liberty walking around Manhattan amidst mood-altering pink goo emitting from the subway (which would surely have outshone even the September the 11th attacks) has been erased from everyone’s minds? Not only that but the saviors of these events, the Ghostbusters, are relegated to a retro advert channel on YouTube? Paul Rudd’s character Gary Gooberson seems to be the only bloke who remembers the Ghostbusters and their ghost traps, but town sheriff played by Bokeem Woodbine (who’s around the same age) looks at the particle thrower and says “whatever the hell that is”. When cops pull over the heavily-modified Cadillac Miller-Meteor Sentinel, nobody recognises it as the Ecto-1, in fact no news crew show up when a kid is seen firing a particle beam from its gunner seat and destroying half of the town. This makes as much sense as Rudd’s bland arse being declared the “sexiest man alive”. 🧐
Death, money problems, eviction, and mass amnesia aren’t great starts to a comedy, but then again, the comedy is mediocre at best. Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have created a screenplay with lots of one-liners but almost all of them fail, and along with the happy-happy, child-friendly, wannabe-80’s tone, the whole thing comes across as a TV special rather than a bonafide sequel. With a line about the “Reagan years” being great for business, not to mention a Sumerian god who’s still very European rather than Assyrian, this film and its filmmakers clearly wish it was still the 1980s.
That being said, Reitman Jr’s throwback style is all over the place. The miniature and mischievous Stay-Pufts feel like Gremlins, the ending is straight-up Ghost, and thanks to the art direction and score, most of the film (including a scene where characters discuss their plan via a miniature mock-up) feels like a bootleg Back To The Future. There’s also a reference to the film Cujo when Gooberson runs away from a supernatural threat to his car, but no matter how much Reitman tries, he never evokes the feeling and atmosphere of, err… Ghostbusters!
Speaking of references, there’s umpteen callbacks to the original two movies but done in a nudge-nudge, “this is for the fans” stylee. With the line “Who you gonna call?” spoken by Sheriff Domingo in a Terminator 3 to 6 “I’ll be back” kind of way, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is essentially cringe-inducing lip-service to middle-aged nerds who disliked the third Paul Feig-directed movie. Yes, there’s a fleeting scene where the surviving Ghostbusters Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson) make an appearance but this isn’t a satisfying follow-up by any stretch of the imagination. Ghostbusters: Afterlife seems like it was made just to get the third installment out of people’s heads, and in some way it succeeds. But then again, the gender-swapped threequel only existed to make money from a certain demographic, not to entertain, and this fourth installment does the same thing albeit for the now grown-up male kids from the 1980’s.
Of course, Ghostbusters: Afterlife being better than the 2016 reboot doesn’t make it a good-quality movie. Hell, four colostomy bags strapped to four proton packs would have been superior than that filmic travesty, and the story we’re given here is only marginally better than this idea. Trying to rectify something which was unneeded in the first place feels like such a Hollywood problem. If they stopped hiring famous people’s sprogs, did away with a culture of yes-men, and ceased trying to reboot everything they owned the rights to, we’d have originality in this industry, not Ghostbusters III, IV, and whatever else is in the pipeline. Wouldn’t we rather have the modern equivalent of Ghostbusters, Home Alone, and Halloween rather than throwing heaps of money at hacks who haven’t yet been able to recreate the past? You can’t create magic without talent, and talent only comes about when you allow people to make something from scratch and from the heart. So balls to another unneeded sequel. I couldn’t give two ghostly-fucks if this is better than the last failed relaunch. Remember Hollywood; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and if you broke it don’t…