My wife and I just watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I thought it was worth seeing, but you might want to wait for the price to drop. My wife liked it more than I did.
As should be clear from the trailers, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not a traditional sequel to the original Ghostbusters movie. It’s not the same kind of story told the same way. If Ghostbusters was the first Star Wars movie, then Afterlife is Rogue One. It’s a different story in the same world.
This story begins with a mother and her two kids inheriting an old farmhouse just outside the small town of Summerville. Exploring the farm, the kids and their friends stumble across a bunch of mysterious objects left behind by the previous owner. Those of us who were fans of the original movie (i.e. pretty much everyone who sees this movie) will recognize these mysterious objects as tools of the ghostbusting trade. Discovering how and why these ghostbusting tools got to be there is the subject of the rest of the movie.
That’s not an easy task for the protagonists. It’s been more than three decades since the setting of the original Ghostbusters movie, and the ghostly events in Manhattan are just distant history as far as the film’s youthful cast is concerned, so they have to get clues by talking to their school science teacher and watching YouTube clips of the news coverage — taken straight from the original Ghostbusters movie. (Wisely, the filmmakers seem to have excised Ghostbusters II from history.)
With its small-town setting, young protagonists, and easy-going pace, the best parts of Ghostbusters: Afterlife play like an extended bonus episode of Stranger Things set against the Ghostbusters mythos, and who wouldn’t want to see that? (It doesn’t hurt that Finn Wolfhard from ST plays one of the kids.)
And there’s something really great about seeing all that ghostbusting equipment again. The props have been gently re-imagined, and watching the kids discover them…the way they’re filmed…they all feel so real. Even a wacky prop like the P.K.E. meter, with it’s silly pop-out antennas, somehow feels like a functioning piece of technology. The proton packs look like heavily-used but lovingly-maintained industrial tools, and they still make that same great sound.
The movie includes a fair amount of fan service, so it should come as no surprise that several original Ghostbusters cast members make brief appearances. Unfortunately, they bring along some of the irreverent spirit of the first movie, which kind of clashes with the more heart-felt tone of this one. Afterlife is by no means a “gritty reboot,” but it does take the characters and their emotions seriously enough that you would care if something bad happened to one of them. It feels like they’re in danger, and you never felt that way about Bill Murray in the first movie.
The ending also feels rushed. The early parts of the movie meandered past some interesting ideas and introduced a few subplots, but when the main conflict is resolved, the movie just ends, with little in the way of epilogue to show us how anything else turned out.
Nevertheless, the story was pretty coherent, the effects have all been updated without being unrecognizable, and it was fun to watch.