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Film Review: Ghostbusters - Afterlife

25 November 21 words: Kieran Burt

The overly-nostalgic return to the Ghostbusters franchise fails to step out from beneath the original film’s shadow...

Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace
Running time: 125 minutes

Nostalgia is a very strong force – especially when the previous work that a film is being nostalgic for is as loved as Ghostbusters. However, when a film leans too hard into nostalgia, it can be overtaken with reverence and failing to put forward new ideas. That’s where Ghostbusters: Afterlife finds itself, with a lot of the film being based on the love of the original Ghostbusters, which by this point is over forty years old. 

That’s the core problem with Afterlife. It places too much of its narrative focus on nostalgic sequences, instead of coming up with an original take on the franchise. Many sequences are clearly evocative of the first film, and this one comes up with an unnecessary reason as to have the same villains in it as the 1984 film. While this may be interpreted as a love letter to the original, when it includes so many of the elements of it, audiences are left to wonder why they don’t just watch the initial release instead. The original is the only film in this series to receive such praise, with the sequel and 2016 reboot both forgotten – though ignoring the existence of the latter is a wise move.

This film leans much more into the horror tone of the world than the comedy. Paul Rudd gives a few chuckles here and there, but that is the extent that the comedy reaches. However, the scares that this film gives are genuine, with minimal usage of jump scares. This is a welcome sight, as jump scares are cheap, whereas building up tension in a scene is harder to pull off effectively. Comedy and horror are two tones that are hard to balance, so the film sticking with one over the other is an appropriate decision.

This film leans too hard into the nostalgia of the first, to the point where it wheels out the original cast, who have quite visibly aged out of their roles

The stand out performances are the two child actors, Mckenna Grace who plays Phoebe, and Logan Kim, who plays Podcast. Phoebe is presented as an inquisitive 12-year-old, with a strong love for science, but someone who finds it hard to show emotion. Podcast, on the other hand, is a more lively kid, with his love for podcasting and hip phrases taking front and centre. While they can get annoying occasionally, for the most part they are endearing characters. 

Paul Rudd, who plays Mr Grooberson, is as charming as ever and gives a great performance throughout. The romance he has with Carrie Coon is convincing and authentic, with the two bonding throughout the film. Trevor and Phoebe's classmate – the film not giving her a name is quite disappointing for a secondary character – is full of the awkward tics that a teen learning how to date would give. However, their relationship progresses too fast and without the proper time given to it. 

Overall, this film leans too hard into the nostalgia of the first, to the point where it wheels out the original cast, who have quite visibly aged out of their roles. But the tone for this film wisely leans more into the horror aspect of the franchise, instead of attempting to juggle both horror and comedy, and the majority of the cast give good performances, with Logan Kim’s being the most memorable. A final note is that the film gives a touching tribute to Harold Ramis, giving him a fitting end in a franchise he was pivotal to building. 

Did you know? The iconic ghost Slimer does not appear in the movie, as director Jason Reitman objected to how he became the series’ mascot. “Something happened to Slimer over the years that people started thinking of him as the dalmatian of the firehouse,” he told IGN. “The original Slimer was an angry dude and very scary.” He is replaced by a new ghost called Muncher who is based on Slimer’s design.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in cinemas now

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