Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a pleasant surprise that brings back everything that audiences loved from the 1984 film Ghostbusters, but suffers from an overreliance on nostalgia at times.
Although the film could be seen as a reboot, it does function as a sequel to the original 80s hit, trying to erase the 2016 reiteration of the franchise that didn't have much of an appeal to audiences. The basic plotline is that the single mother (Carrie Coon) loses her living space and has to move to her father's old, rickety house along with her cliché always-on-his-phone son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and his nerdy, outcasted cliché sister Phoebe (McKenna Grace). After settling into the old, rickety house ripped straight out of Scooby-Doo, the family finds out that there is more to the boring, run-down town than they first thought and eventually find out that the kids' grandfather was none other than Egon Spangler himself (rest in peace Harold Ramis).
Some ghosts are busted, secrets are revealed, and streams are crossed. What the movie relies very heavily on is nostalgia. I am not against a movie not explaining things from their previous films one bit, but having as much nostalgia from a movie that came out almost 30 years ago with no explanation doesn't help reach your target demographic. I would guarantee that many kids and tweens today have zero clue who the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is, as I didn't when I first watched the original Ghostbusters as a kid. As it being a direct sequel to the original movie, it makes sense to have very similar elements to the original, but using those elements for "oohs" and "ahhs" is not how it necessarily has to be. The movie is meant to be spooky and mystical with an underlying bit of mystery to it, which is fine. But using the exact same elements to conclude the mystery doesn't show creativity.
But, what needs to be said is that I did enjoy the movie. The movie tries hard to not take itself too seriously, especially at the end. Ghostbusters exists for the energy that it creates. It's meant to be goofy in nature, and the movie does a good job of balancing the goofiness with scenes that feel tense. The acting was surprisingly good and kept the movie watchable, as each actor had their moments away from the clichés that their characters embodied. Even seeing the sexiest man alive as a love interest actually made sense because of how Paul Rudd played the character. The motivations of the characters felt real thanks to the acting.
Jason Reitman, the director of Afterlife, is known for easy-going, easy to comprehend comedies that have sentimental moments. Without spoiling the ending completely, the movie does end on a very somber and sweet note. Although the ending takes itself as seriously as the end of the first Ghostbusters film, it does bring a satisfying conclusion to the mystery-style premise it built up from the beginning of the movie: how some things happen are just left up to mystery and imagination, but that is what sci-fi is about. For a movie that was supposed to come out in the middle of the pandemic, got pushed back multiple times, and got very little publicity otherwise, it was a solid sequel.
The film industry today, especially the 'unnecessary sequels to movies that didn't need sequels' portion of it, relies on dependability and not too much change from what the original movies provided. In Afterlife, ghosts are trapped in lasers, the ECTO-1 drives around, and Ray Parker Jr's song plays in the credits as it all should.
Although the sequel doesn't take a whole lot of risks, it does provide laughs, spooks, and a story that is just good enough to keep audiences watching – maybe not on the edges of their seats, but watching. It draws heavily on the 1984 film for its plot and 'wow moments,' which at times helps it, but also brings it down. It doesn't feel extremely original, but it does what it set out to accomplish… make money for the studio.
In the end, my rating of this movie is a 6.5/10. If you wanted to see the original story told with a better quality camera and with the kid from Stranger Things, then this is the movie for you. If you loved the 1984 film with a burning passion, this is the movie for you. But, if you are looking for an adventurous new take on a beloved movie franchise that brings you to the edge of your seat and breaks all of your expectations – watch The Empire Strikes Back.