This review will contain spoilers and will have spoilers from ‘Spider-man No Way Home’ and the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.
I don’t have a strong opinion on ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ now that I’ve finally seen it. After waiting 30 years for a third sequel to Ghostbusters, this ain’t it. I wasn’t expecting it to be. That would have had to have happened in the 90s. A sequel would be one prominently featuring the original characters that we love. ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ is at best a nod to the original movies. I was still hyped to see this movie though because I am a massive Ghostbusters fan. That hype only increased with the rave reviews and positivity surrounding it from people who watched the movie and asking each other “Did you cry?”.
To answer that question. No. No, I didn’t. The film didn’t grip me emotionally in the way ‘Spider-man No Way Home‘ did and didn’t devastate me the way ‘James Bond No Time To Die‘ did. I almost wondered if something was wrong with me as I watch this new Ghostbusters movie. Shouldn’t I be crying now? I should be feeling something more here, right? Why am I not liking this movie more? While I did like this movie the answer to why I didn’t like it more is that it’s a soft reboot. It reintroduces aspects from the original movie with new characters that are fun but not entirely gripping. I like the setting, I like the idea of a grandchild trying to connect with a grandparent she never knew, but the nostalgia aspects of the movie didn’t stir me. The plot and ending of the film are fairly similar to the first Ghostbusters movie, only with less going on in between the nostalgia driven parts. Even at the end when the movie gives you everything you could have hoped for it still feels very much to be fan service rather than service to the story.
So where does this fail in my eyes where other movies driven by nostalgia succeed? Take for example ‘Star Wars The Force Awakens’. While it hits the same story beats as ‘A New Hope‘ and contains a lot of nods to the visual look of the original trilogy, it still feels fresh and new. It includes Han Solo and has him deeply involved with the overall plot of the film. Some people weren’t overly happy though, mainly because it doesn’t give us Luke, Han and Leia on screen together at the same time. Mark Hamill notes that he expected Luke to show up near the end to save the day. On the one hand you have this as an example of a soft reboot driven by nostalgia. JJ Abrams had the unenviable position of making the choice to not have the core original trilogy characters sharing a scene together because he felt it distracted too much from the rest of the movie.
On the other hand you have ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ which gives us the imagery we as fans have been waiting so long for. Yet, it feels like a moment in a film rather than a bigger piece of the film. How does it serve the rest of the film’s story other than to distract from the growth of newer characters? Yes, it’s great to see but it feels out of place.
The film that handled our nostalgic expectations best was of course ‘Spiderman No Way Home‘. Here they had their cake ate it too. Instead of giving us just a moment with heroes suddenly showing up to save the day at the last moment you have them as an integral part of the third act. This then lays the groundwork for a far more satisfying “save the day!” ending that doesn’t feel shoved in or out of place and actually serves the story and the journey of the main character.
My main problem with the overall story of ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ is that it’s based on the idea that Egon ran away from his family and the other Ghostbusters to spend years living as a hermit in order to save the world. I just don’t buy it for that character. Instead of spending years raising his daughter he spends years alone. Instead of asking the other Ghostbusters for help or even explaining what he was up to he’d rather just leave and ditch everyone like that? I don’t buy it. And then to make it worse the other Ghostbusters didn’t believe him? A work colleague for years and they don’t even try to give him the benefit of the doubt to go see this underground temple? Also, since when did Egon have a family? Going by the age of his daughter that would mean that Egon had her before the first movie. So in the first two movies we saw him in he was married with kids but living at the firehouse with Ray and Peter? Yes, I know this is the same Egon who tried to drill a hole through his head but that was a line, a bit, a piece of comedy in the film. The character we saw in the first two movies doesn’t resemble the picture that is painted of him in this movie. I’m almost getting Luke Skywalker The Last Jedi vibes here with Egon isolating himself like Luke did and those that knew him not having a kind word to say.
Speaking of problems, why is Gozer now catchable? In the first movie they couldn’t even get Gozer with the proton packs, but here isn’t no problem to hold onto her. They also just go ahead and start crossing the streams without a second though; the thing that caused a massive explosion years ago that could have potentially killed them. Add to the fact that the purpose of crossing the streams was to close the doorway to Gozer’s temple. But here there is no temple which means it’s potentially even more dangerous to do that because the energy isn’t going into a temple to reverse it’s appearance.
And why Gozer again? With the plethora of villains they could have taken from the animated series why do a de-powered Gozer? I guess I should know the answer. Nostalgia. Look at the trivia page on IMDB and 90% of the trivia there is pointing out what in Afterlife relates to or is connected to or is an easter egg of the original movie. Yes, the twinky and candy bar. I got it. I got it guys.
The consensus seems to be if you didn’t like the 2016 movie then you’ll like this one and if you did like the 2016 movie then you won’t like this one. I fall into the category of not really liking either. I like it more than the 2016 movie and overall, it’s fine, well made, gives fans what they want, I would definitely watch a sequel, but it’s ultimately unmemorable for a film that really should be memorable.
Here’s how I rank the movies:
Favorite quote: “On a personal note, I thought that we had busted up for good. I mean, it wasn’t working for me. My friends didn’t think so, and I know yours didn’t.”