The word “fanservice” has been thrown around a lot regarding the release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the newest and actual continuation of the original IP. This is a film that was supposed to release last summer but was held back because of the pandemic.
It’s no secret that most fans were let down by the 2016 reboot, and that’s putting it mildly. The Paul Fieg reboot wasn’t received well because it was unfunny and lazily written; it tried to put a twist on scenes from the original but only came off feeling like a cheap knockoff.
Thankfully, “Afterlife” resurrects a franchise that was nearly killed off five years ago.
The movie is helmed and co-written by Jason Reitman (“Juno”) son of original director-turned-executive producer Ivan Reitman. New faces like Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”) take center stage while the original cast members make appearances.
It’s common for a soft reboot/direct sequel to incorrectly use nostalgia. Recent culprits to that end have been both the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises. “Star Wars” has most recently suffered due to the studio’s agenda, politics and message completely destroying an already incoherent sequel trilogy.
Reitman’s story and film do retread elements from the original 1984 movie but not to re-create moments; he’s specifically expanding on plot elements to show audiences the pattern and behavior of the film’s chief antagonist, which again is Gozer.
Bringing back the original big bad is not in itself a negative thing. While the Sumerian demigod was defeated in 1984, the Ghostbusters merely drove her back into her dimension of origin and she’s been trying to get back to Earth ever since.
This is where the film picks up, using a cold open that is intense and a bit scary without being campy, similar to the first two films. And while "Ghostbusters 2" was a little more family-friendly, this entry walks that proper fine line between horror and comedy elements.
There are legitimate jump scares dotted throughout the film with a great blend of both practical and CG effects. And the humor is just as cleverly written as the scripts for the first two which were penned by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.
Rob Simonsen’s score borrows thematic cues from Elmer Bernstein’s original music while adding in his own finishes which keep this film’s tone in line with the 1984 film.
Grace’s Phoebe, the granddaughter of Ramis’ Egon Spengler, is the main character. Grace’s portrayal borrows traits from her time on “Young Sheldon” in her line delivery while exploring a character arc that mirrors her grandfather’s scientific pursuits.
While this is a passing of the torch, it’s done well, incorporating the original cast in an organic way that fits with the story; they aren’t simply killed off just to make room for the new cast (like in "Star Wars").
The note at the end — “For Harold” — offers a nice sentiment, especially given the film released in the US two days before what would have been Ramis’ 77th birthday. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” isn’t so much a fanservice film as it is a 'thank you' for the fans’ faithfulness through the decades and a sendoff for a dearly loved member of the original team.