Since the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, I don’t think it’d be hyperbole to say that there’s been something of a development in the way films present nostalgia. I don’t know if it’s a good thing for the medium of film, but it has certainly been good for the wallets of film studio executives wishing to keep up on their copyright of an old IP. Sure, that’s a cynical way of looking at it, but the numbers don’t lie: nostalgia sells. Put in some recognizable names and a property that hasn’t been touched since the mid-1990s, and watch as the money starts to pile and pile into your bank account.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” follows the immediate aftermath of the unfortunate passing of one Egon Spengler, seemingly destitute on a farm in the middle of Oklahoma. This leaves single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, teenaged Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and the eclectic Phoebe (McKenna Grace) to inherit the old house that Egon once called a home of sorts. Seeing as they’ve been evicted from their New York apartment, the trio has to make the rickety farmhouse in the middle of nowhere work. Since their escapades in the 80s, Ray (Dan Aykroyd) has a struggling bookshop, Peter (Bill Murray) is a professor of sales and Winston (Ernie Hudson) has made himself a financial empire. Though the old firehouse has been made into a Starbucks, pieces of the old Ghostbuster equipment keep popping up in this seemingly unimportant farm, and the trio, in addition to the aptly-named Podcast (Logan Kim), Trevor’s crush Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and seismologist Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) find that there’s something wrong with the old mine outside of town …
If you like the old Ghostbusters movies, I can almost guarantee that you are going to like this picture. It’s packed to the brim with references and easter eggs that are just obvious enough that the general audience is going to pick up just about everything in a viewing or two. Where I find fault with this is that the film seems more preoccupied with reminding us about the movies in the past than actually making a truly good film in the first place. I’m not going to say that this is a bad film, it’s quite the opposite, but where we could’ve had something really interesting, we get more of a retelling of the original story that doesn’t exactly have the same spirit (pun absolutely intended) of the old films. This is a series that made the Statue of Liberty destroy a museum, and you’re telling me that we don’t have any better ideas than making the same movie again? I find that hard to believe. I’m not going to go out and say that this is a problem that is exclusive to this movie, but I am most certainly going to say it again: I wish this film had more room to be its own story, unhampered by the weight of the old films.
Jason Reitman was given some very big shoes to fill, and I’d say that he made the better move in making a film like this, seeing as his father Ivan’s original “Ghostbusters” is pretty much as far as you can get from Jason’s style of filmmaking. All in all, it’s good for a trip down memory lane, but I can’t say it’s much more than that.