After an extra year of waiting, 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' is finally here. Since 'Ghostbusters II' was released in 1989, fans had already been waiting over 30 years for a third film, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the long-awaited threequel was pushed back a whole twelve months. Now, the movie is finally out in theaters. But is 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' worth watching?
'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' takes place in 2021, 32 years after 'Ghostbusters II', which was released and set in 1989. One of the original four ghostbusters, Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) has since died (echoing the tragic real-life passing of the actor), but has left his estranged daughter and two grandchildren an old farmhouse in Summerville, Oklahoma.
Completely broke, Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) move to Oklahoma to start anew. But soon after they arrive, it becomes apparent that there's something strange in their new neighborhood - and in their basement and barn, too, which just so happens to be all the original ghostbusters equipment, including a rusty Ecto-1.
Summerville is plagued with unexplained earthquakes, while there's some pretty compelling evidence down in the local mines in the form of Gozer and Terror Dog statues (built by insane architect Ivo Shandor in the 1940s, who gets a mention in the original movie and 'Ghostbusters: The Video Game' - he's the guy responsible for trying to bring Gozer into our world).
When Phoebe and Trevor realize that their late grandfather is Egon Spengler, one of the four Ghostbusters who saved New York City in the '80s, and that he's left all of the ghostbusting equipment behind for them to rediscover, they team up with two local children, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky (Celeste O'Conner), and try to find out what's happening down in the mines.
We won't get into any spoilers just yet, but we will say that 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' is definitely worth the wait. Perhaps not the entire 32-year wait since the second movie, but definitely the six years that have passed since the terrible 2016 reboot shattered our confidence in the future of the franchise. That's not to say fans will be disappointed, but this is a film certainly plays it safe.
Everyone is on top form, though, but the real stand-outs are Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, and McKenna Grace. And if you're worried that the film lacks those fleeting moments of horror from the original, you'll be glad to know this isn't the case. But the truth is that it's neither comedy nor horror, and if it wasn't for the countless call-backs to the original, it would feel very much like its own beast.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead for 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife'!
Now that you've been given a fair warning, it's time to go into detail about what makes 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' work and what doesn't do it any real favors. First of all, this long-awaited threequel definitely feels like a 'Ghostbusters' movie. This is a good thing, of course, but perhaps the fact it relies on the entire score from the original film to do so isn't.
That's not to suggest that without it it would have lacked the tone and style - and, of course, the music - of the first film. But it's possible the film lacks the confidence to be a complete departure from 'Ghostbusters' where the score is concerned. On the other hand, those familiar riffs are part of what makes 'Ghostbusters' what it is, and here it doesn't feel at all out of place.
As you'll have already seen in the many trailers, there are countless other call-backs to the 1984 film, too, although they're largely plot-driven, which is refreshing to see. Bar the most obvious line (which is brilliantly delivered here, by the way), there's no real repetition of dialogue, something that legacy sequels can be guilty of, and is the kind of Easter egg that really takes you out of a film.
It's great to see Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) show up, though, even if their cameos are pretty short-lived. Nevertheless, this isn't their movie - it's their legacy. There's also a beautiful scene in which we finally get to see the four originals in the same shot too (yes, all four!).
Thankfully, it's neither awkward nor contrived when they do show up (the same can be said about Annie Potts' Janine Melnitz and Sigourney Weaver's Dana Barrett), while a film dedicated to these characters in their entirety easily could have. Their performances also feel natural, though it does leave a bad taste in your mouth to learn that they had long since parted ways with Egon.
Other returning characters include Gozer the Gozerian, the Terror Dogs and the StayPuft Marshmallow Man. Unfortunately, the dogs definitely lack the nightmarish feel like they did back in 1984, while the StayPuft Marshmallow Man (who was also pretty creepy back then, in a surreal sort of way at least), is relegated to a miniature and multiplied version, no doubt to sell toys.
'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' might be the third entry in the official canon series, but it doesn't quite feel like an extension of those first two films. There are many reasons for this, with the most obvious being that the original four Ghostbusters aren't at the center stage. Fortunately, though, this passing-of-the-torch affair doesn't obnoxiously cry out for an entirely new series of films.
But with that said, it is worth sticking around for an intriguing post-credits scene that teases a possible fourth movie (there's also a mid-credits scene that probably could have been tagged onto the film). In many ways, 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' is best compared to 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' - it's a long-awaited legacy sequel that wields the power of nostalgia and promise.
Related: Will There Be a Ghostbusters 4?
It's fascinating to rediscover the original Ghostbusters with these new characters, and seeing the likes of the Ecto-1 and the OG gang back in action definitely leaves you teary-eyed. There's also plenty of interesting mythology for diehard fans to chew on, even if there's little to no explanation as to why the world has forgotten the pretty unforgettable events of 1984 and 1989.
'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' is definitely worth the watch. If you're a casual fan of the original films who's expecting a modernized blockbuster re-tread designed for new audiences, then perhaps this isn't for you. But if you're a hardcore patron, you'll probably agree that this is a pretty solid entry. And while it doesn't go to great lengths to wow viewers, it does make enough efforts to please.
Verdict: 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' might play things a little safe, but there's plenty in the final act for fans of the original movies. While it suffers from an anti-climax, its new team are easily its biggest takeaway.