Ghostbusters: Afterlife – Spoiler Review

Phoebe+%28Grace%29+and+Podcast+%28Kim%29+igniting+the+Ghostbuster+proton+gun.

Image from Columbia Pictures

Phoebe (Grace) and Podcast (Kim) igniting the Ghostbuster proton gun.

Thirty-seven years after ghosts invaded New York, Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) relocated to Summerville, Oklahoma where Gozerian cultist Ivo Shandor’s (J.K. Simmons) mining operations were located. In an attempt to capture the entities protecting Gozer’s (Olivia Wilde) emergence, Egon has a fatal heart attack and dies. Callie (Carrie Coon), Egon’s estranged daughter, and her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace), are evicted from their home and forced to move into Egon’s farm in Summerville. 

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” follows the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” model by remaking the original, but in the freshest way possible. I believe that the film was made too late, but, of course, Harold Ramis has passed away and the visuals that were used to replace him were done very well. They did a really good job with not only his look, but by making his passing be the pivotal centerpiece of the film. Director Jason Reitman recaptures the sense of a 1980’s blockbuster with the film’s look, structure and setting in the town of Summerville. The 2016 version of “Ghostbusters” tainted the brand, but he’s made it new once again, partially succeeding immensely because he’s the perfect person to direct this particular film, having grown up with the Ghostbusters firsthand. His father, Ivan Reitman, directed the two original films, and produced this one alongside him. Completely retconning every decision made in “Ghostbusters II” was a strong decision, but I can’t say they were wrong for doing so. This allowed them to bring back the relationship of Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) in a short, yet delightful end credits scene, recreating the hilarious ESP test scene from the original when Murray is shocking the college students. It also hinted at a continued relationship between Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) and Egon Spengler. This movie is pure fan service, done in all the right ways.

McKenna Grace’s Phoebe perfectly channels herself as a Spengler, with the look, the attitude and the ambition to pursue science. The continued gag of bad jokes was genius. Alongside her, Logan Kim’s “Podcast” was very funny, too. You can’t bust ghosts on your own and make a new team in a subtle way that doesn’t harm the original. Testing out the toys is what made this feel like a nostalgic boost and not an overwhelming copycat. The sound design on both the proton pack laser and Ecto-1 driving through the streets enveloped the theater. Overall, there’s little character development, and mainly Finn Wolfhard and Celeste O’Connor’s subplot and characters felt like they were only there to fill time and to show that busting ghosts requires teamwork.

Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon have outstanding chemistry, even though everyone knows Rudd is always charismatic. I love how they brought back the Gatekeeper and Keymaster to recreate the Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver sequences. There were a lot of homages that distanced themselves just enough to not feel detestable. Paul Rudd has the best scene of the film, right before Vinz Clortho the Keymaster enters his body, and that’s where he rummages through a Walmart and is witness to mini Stay Puft Marshmallow Men committing genocide in funny and inventive ways. Coon’s childhood and disrespecting Egon was always referenced but never shown, so I refused to believe the open Egon slander with Harold Ramis not around to defend his character, but I’m glad it was all there for a reason and the emotion, in the end, hit harder because of it.

Image from Columbia Pictures

Olivia Wilde and J.K. Simmons showed up in nearly unrecognizable cameos. Simmons has a ridiculously small role that I was surprised to see before he is immediately torn in half by Gozer the Gozerian, the non-binary villain from the original film, played by Olivia Wilde. Wilde fit Gozer with perfect physicality and there were amazing visuals added to her. The whole sequence of Gozer appearing is quite similar to the original, but I still loved the callback. They used Gozer much more than they did in the 1984 film, though I can’t complain when there’s more screen time for Olivia Wilde.

Like I said, nostalgia is what drives this movie, and reuniting the entire original cast in the finale to defeat Gozer didn’t feel forced in the slightest. The most forced moment was when the kids all got arrested, and before making their phone call, Bokeem Woodbine’s Sheriff said, “who you gonna call,” but I even liked that. Just getting to see Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and an inserted ghost of Harold Ramis on the big screen was amazing in and of itself. They didn’t appear for a ridiculously long time, and I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying since I saw the film prior to its release and the crowd was going wild, but that shot of all of them in frame looking at Egon is one of the single greatest I’ve seen all year.

The true purpose of this moment was to pay tribute to Harold Ramis. The finale goes for emotion and slam dunks on execution; it nearly got to me. I love how his ghost helped take down Gozer by holding the proton blaster steady for Phoebe while the other three Ghostbusters crossed the streams. The appearance of his character after leaving the Ghostbusters is touching and comes full circle in the end, but it’s made clear that his downfall with his family, with his friends and eventual death is because he decided to go off on his own and to protect the planet by preventing the next coming of Gozer.

I don’t think Jason Reitman ever intended for this to be better than the original, but I can’t go without saying that it comes close. It’s much smaller in scale and doesn’t hit the ground running like the original film. Aside from the fact that this movie takes too long to pick up the pace, the past merges with the present, creating something just as funny as the original, but with today’s visual technology and more emotional beats. The high levels of nostalgia this film embodies is like a blast from the past.

 

Final Grade: B+