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Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife – “A fun filled, spooky sequel”

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the third film in the series, following the 1984 original and the 1989 sequel. As we all know, the 2016 film was not a sequel and ignored the events of the original two films to reboot the franchise, but it did not find the audience so that was shelved. I still feel it was actually more a reboot of the Ghostbusters cartoon.

Then along came Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman (who directed the original Ghostbusters), with promises of a new film that would honour the legacy of the original characters and build on previous events.

Having just seen the film I can safely say that it does exactly as promised, giving us a fun-filled, spooky sequel. I suppose it could also be classed as a soft reboot. On the whole, it works well and passes the torch to a new generation. It tells a story that people new to the universe can follow while also having lots of moments for fans of the original.

The film tells a solid cohesive story that follows Callie, the grown-up daughter (played by Carrie Coon) of Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) who takes her kids, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), to a small US town after her father died. Phoebe then follows the mystery of why Egon gave up on his family and friends to move to the middle of nowhere. Along the way, she makes new friends, learns of her grandfather’s past and uncovers various Ghostbusters gadgets. Paul Rudd is there as Phoebe’s teacher and Logan Kim play’s her new friend, Podcast, and both are fun in their respective roles. Honestly, Paul Rudd is just always so good to watch.

Mckenna Grace is the standout and gives a superb performance as the highly intelligent kid who is old beyond her years. It could have easily fallen into a cliche character but Grace plays it effortlessly and allows the character to still be a child instead of acting like a grown-up. Her constant use of Dad Jokes to build a rapport with people was a nice touch and, being a father myself, I obviously chuckled at some of them.

What I enjoyed was the fact the film took its time with the story and let the mystery unfold. We spend time with the family and the other characters as they are introduced. I got a good feel for the various characters, the town and the people who lived there so when events built up to cats and dogs living together I was invested! The main story elements do play out as per the original film, but that all fits in with the reasons why Egon moved away so I was down with it.

The main thing this film gets right when compared to the 2016 film is that, like the original, it is first and foremost a supernatural thriller (I admit I did jump in a couple of places and there are some creepy moments) with funny moments that happen naturally between the characters.

Afterlife also gets the effects spot on. There is a great mix of practical and CG effects that work so well. In particular, there is a Terror Dog scene that moves from practical to CG and back again that is blended so smoothly that it is delightful. The proton beams are just like the original as are the various sounds and gadgets.

That brings us nicely to the fan service. It does go all-in on that. As the story does follow one of the original Ghostbusters then that mainly fits well. You would expect to see the Ecto-1, Proton Packs, traps, P.K.E. Meter and a collection of spores, molds and fungus at Egon’s house. The events of the 1984 film took place in this universe so some people still remember what happened in New York. I also like how Paul Rudd’s character recognizes the gadgets and initially thinks they are a cool reproduction. There are also bits of dialogue from the original that crop up, but again, these often fit in with the events happening in the film. “Who you gonna call?” was a phrase before 1984 and is used here in a way that did make me laugh.

Like I said at the top, if you are new to Ghostbusters then many of these callbacks (or memberberries as they seem to be called these days) will pass you by and it will not ruin anything if you do not get it as we are following a main character who is also learning about the Ghostbusters. If you are a fan then there will be plenty of moments when you smile and nod and they just add to what is already a good story.

However, there are some moments that do seem a little too forced and made me feel that they were trying a little too hard when they did not have to. The mini Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men, in particular, feel shoehorned in (while an old painted advert on a wall referenced him in a much better way) and the design of Muncher, while it does have some differences, is basically a Slimer wannabe.

The story itself and the history of the characters therein was enough for most fans of the original and it is a shame they did not take a gamble on a few more new ghosts and monsters. I understand why they did it and it does not spoil the story in any way.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife shows that it is possible to craft a good sequel for an old film. It tells a solid story that respects what has gone before and builds on that. It doesn’t look down on fans of the original, while also welcoming newcomers. It also honoured Harold Ramis in a wonderful way. Definitely worth a watch on the big screen.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in cinemas now.

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