Nostalgia took a dark turn. After leagues of toxic fanboys on the internet decided to bury Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters reboot before it was even released, the primary reason for which being it starred four women, I had been approaching anything else in the Ghostbusters franchise with caution. Yes, I liked the 2016 Ghostbusters. It was well-cast, charming, spooky and very funny in my opinion. In my opinion, we all should still be apologizing to Paul Feig. Ghostbusters: Afterlife instead, gives fans the lifeless, self-serious and incredibly smug fan service machine they’d all wanted from the very beginning.
Callie (Carrie Coon) is a down-on-her-luck single mother to two precocious children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) who learns her father died, and they need to travel to his house in small town Oklahoma to sort through his belongings. Phoebe and her teacher (Paul Rudd) discover her father was part of a thing that happened in the 1980s where he and a few of his friends saved the world from ghosts, and it looks like it’s about to happen all over again!
I can’t remember the last time I left such a harmless movie feeling so deeply angry. I have no idea how I saw this in a crowded theater where people were clapping when cameos of old cast members would happen, cameos the actors are sleepwalking through, and my screening room was a place where people generally felt into what was happening onscreen. I was personally very bored throughout the majority of the runtime, I kept looking at my watch, yawning and picking apart inaccuracies in the script because I wasn’t interested in what was going on onscreen.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t every Ghostbusters movie up until now a comedy? Afterlife has such a grim, deadly serious tone the entire way through, and has none of the silliness and laughter the other films do. The jokes really don’t fall flat because there are no jokes! The only thing that made me laugh involves a sequence where a bunch of mini Stay Puft marshmallow men become suicidal and cannibalistic. Afterlife takes the supposed lore and mythology of the Ghostbusters film so seriously and so literally, and like it’s sacred text and I feel like we’ve never done that before. It doesn’t capture the spirit of the original since nothing feels light here and everything feels incredibly solemn. The only people who take these movies that seriously are the super fans. You know, the ones who sent Paul Feig death threats.
Mckenna Grace has proven herself to be a very strong young actress, and she’s doing the best with what she has here, but with the mop of curly hair and the glasses, it’s obvious who she’s here to represent in this franchise, and that limits her performance. Finn Wolfhard is doing nothing, nothing except making this film feel even more like Stranger Things than it did already. Carrie Coon, one of my favorite actresses, has very little to do (we don’t even hear her character’s name until about 90 minutes into the movie) and Paul Rudd is there because who doesn’t like Paul Rudd? I’m growing a little tired of him if I’m being honest.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was directed by Jason Reitman, taking over the director’s chair from his father Ivan Reitman. That is the only reason Jason Reitman is here. If the internet is going to try to destroy Ben Platt’s career because nepotism is bad (yes, I’m still angry about this, I will always be angry about this), and yet Jason Reitman, who has never directed a commercial film in his life, taking over this multi-million dollar franchise only because of who his father is, is somehow not a problem to anyone on Twitter or anybody film critics who seem to think nepotism is an appropriate criticism for some, but not for others. This infuriates me, and I can tell you for sure Jason Reitman was a poor choice to direct this film. I’m a big fan of his normally, I think Young Adult and Up in the Air are some of the best character studies of all time. However, this feels icky from the very beginning.
It feels especially icky near the end, where something happens that should land Jason Reitman in director jail for life. This was something that made me gasp, put my hands over my face and shake my head repeatedly. This is something so incredibly harmful, tacky, tasteless and ghoulish, I don’t even know how to describe it, this was so infuriating, and yet nobody on the internet is upset about this? The fact that the pearl-clutching Twitter mob is somehow okay with this disgusting thing just proves how disingenuous the internet can be. Because even though I’m not telling you what happens, you can trust me that it’s not okay, and also that you’ll know it when you see it.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife also expects you to wait around for TWO post credit scenes (like this is a damn Marvel movie) that set up where we could go from here, and let me just say please can we not? Even though this film is pretty much giving its idiotic fanboys everything they want, I can’t sit through another boring, lifeless and soulless Ghostbusters fan service film. This is also a movie where people sit around watching Youtube videos of the events from the original movies, which also feels cheap and lazy. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is two plus hours of Jason Reitman sitting next to you, nudging you in the shoulder and saying “hey, there’s a thing you’ve seen before! Are you understanding my references?!”
When the best thing a film can do is to remind you of how much you loved other films that came before it, and doesn’t have a shot in hell of standing on its own, I think it’s time to admit we have a serious problem here. I think Ghostbusters: Afterlife is bad enough to stop the nostalgia-bomb nature of the culture we’re currently living through, but audiences seem to be eating this up like it’s masterful cinema. And oh, what a horrifying time to be alive.