How Ghostbusters: Afterlife Goes Back to the Beginning
Talk about an unexpected return from the grave! Early in 2019, a moody teaser revealed GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE. At the time, the then-untitled GHOSTBUSTERS follow-up was described as the third film in the series that began in 1984 and continued in 1989. How Sony was able to keep this a secret was anybody’s guess, but it was a welcome surprise!
We now know the film is called GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, and that it heralds a back-to-basics approach for the franchise that has taken a number of detours in the 30-plus years since GHOSTBUSTERS II. Here's how the new movie goes back to the franchise's beginning.
It’s a Family Affair
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE is co-written and directed by Jason Reitman. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he’s the two-time Oscar-nominated director of JUNO, UP IN THE AIR and YOUNG ADULT. But that name should also be familiar to fans of the original two GHOSTBUSTERS movies, as he’s the son of series director Ivan Reitman. (In fact, the younger Reitman shows up as a bratty party guest in the sequel.)
That sense of family and community made its way into the movie itself. As the trailer suggests, McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard star as the grandchildren of Egon Spengler. The mother of their characters, played by Carrie Coon, is his estranged daughter. Centering the story around Spengler’s family adds a degree of poignancy. Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the original films and starred as Spengler, died in 2014 at the age of 69. The tone of the trailer is funny and exciting but also bittersweet, and this familial connection could raise it above the feel-good franchise revamp it’s clearly designed to be.
One interesting choice in the new movie is that it appears to wholly ignore the 2016 remake/reboot that is now officially known as GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL. That film, which starred an A-list cast led by Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, caused a minor controversy online and led to a divided fanbase.
While there were certainly nods to the main GHOSTBUSTERS continuity in the 2016 film, with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man making an appearance and a post-credits stinger involving Zuul, this new movie does not seem to be returning the favor. In a scene previewed in the trailer, Paul Rudd (as a dorky science teacher/Ghostbusters super-fan) makes note that the last reported supernatural activity in New York was way back in 1989. If there had been something strange in the neighborhood as recently as 2016, certainly somebody would have remembered, right?
The trailer suggests that Spengler, in retirement, transferred most of the ghosts to the mines underneath a sleepy Oklahoma town. (The farmhouse, eagle-eyed fans online have pointed out, looks a whole lot like a structure from the animated series, "The Real Ghostbusters," in which Spengler played an important role.) This means that the movie can play with iconic ghosts and ghouls from the previous movies; the trailer teases the return of Slimer and one of the devil-dogs from the first film.
Basically, if there’s something weird, and it don’t look good, it could find its way into this movie. Also, even more excitingly, it’s been more or less revealed that all of the surviving original Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson), along with Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts, would be returning in GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE. Hey, they’ve got to crash the torch, after all. Now if they could get Rick Moranis to come back — he has all but retired from acting but will take part in the new HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS movie — that would be really something.
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All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.