A film to be thankful for
It’s been a long time coming, but it was definitely worth the wait. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Ghostbusters: the afterlife, stop reading this review and go see it ASAP because spoilers abound in this review and, more importantly, the movie itself is really, really, fantastic.
Delayed first by the pandemic then by … reasons (mainly related to marketing?), Ghostbusters: the afterlife is the sequel to the original film that we needed. After twenty months of pandemic, elections, civil unrest, public trials, the supply chain and, finally, everything we have dealt with, Ghostbusters: the afterlife captures what was great about the original film and places it back in the 21st century. In fact, can we just agree now that the ghost hunters canon will only include the first movie, the cartoon series, the video game and this movie? (And yes, I know I only really forgot two things on this list, but I’m sticking to it).
But why is this a great movie? Granted, it’s pretty full of plot holes. The main character doesn’t believe in ghosts, until she immediately does with little transition. The characters take things effortlessly, it turns out the right people have the right tools and the right talent, somehow all the ghosts at the end are trapped but the one we don’t want to see sucked into the trap, and so on.
And none of that matters. None of this matters because Ghostbusters: the afterlife is a good movie in its own right. Granted, if the original didn’t exist, a lot of nods and asides either wouldn’t exist or made no sense (the “who are you going to call?” Line was a bit strained as it was, and would have been completely meaningless without the original movie / song to reference). But even other than that, the plot is a solid monster flick. Destruction is approaching, authorities are skeptical until their face is rubbed, and only outsiders can save the world. While not exactly in the “slob vs snob” vein of the 70s Ivan Reitman films, it is certainly close to being the 21st century equivalent. (As much as this trope can be transferred: I’m not entirely sure what slobs or snobs would look like in the strictest sense today – who is the 2021 equivalent of Walter Peck anyway?)
I think this is an important point. Yes, a good movie is enhanced by its connection to its predecessor, but it is important that even if the original ghost hunters never existed, this movie is still worth it because it’s a solid, well-made, entertaining movie.
But it is also more than that. Besides being a great movie in itself, Ghostbusters: the afterlife is a film worthy of standing alongside the original. He captures the spirit (heh) of the first ghost hunters which made the previous film one of the great American films. Both films balance humor, adventure, danger and heart and do so in a way that at least resonates with my generation (although of course I can’t speak for the older or younger generations). Neither movie is too technical – I’d say neither falls into the ‘sci-fi’ category, despite all the gimmicks that shoot left and right at bright, flashy things – and neither films is not judgmental.
More importantly for a distant sequel, Ghostbusters: the afterlife is respectful and appreciates the source material. contrary to Ghost hunters 2, which was essentially a vehicle for Bill Murray, and unlike Ghostbusters answers the call, which was, well, I’m not quite sure what it was. Not a great movie, despite a solid cast and a lot of potential. (But then again, a lot of potential with no real quality can certainly develop a rabid fanbase – just see how Firefly did with his fans …) Ghostbusters: the afterlife is clearly made by and for people who love the first movie and think it’s a story worth telling a new generation. (Ghostbusters answers the call could have been that, and for the record, I would love to see them try something like this again. The idea is good, in this case it was just the execution that did not land well.)
When it comes to telling the story to a new generation, Ghostbusters: the afterlife is neither to bow to an audience it secretly disdains nor to make fun of the aesthetics of an older age. Instead, he brings the best of the past into the present in a way that preserves what’s good then and makes what we have now better.
What you shouldn’t be watching either movie for, of course, is a doctrine of the afterlife. Or ghosts. Or science. Or whatever the film is about nominally. Reasonable people know this. But this is the internet and reasonableness cannot be assumed, so I’ll put it bluntly: if you want to know more about the afterlife and how to get to heaven / avoid hell, read your bible and believe the gospel (there is no other way). If you want to learn more about science, take a physics or biology text. If you want to think hard about the intersection of these two things, read both and talk to thoughtful people. None of ghost hunters films are there to meet all of these needs.
But if you want to have a good time, Ghostbusters: the afterlife is absolutely there for you.
Dr Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man podcast, an Amazon associate (which is linked in this blog) and an associate professoror political science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO