Warning: Contains spoilers!
It takes a lot to get me into a movie theatre these days. I never liked the experience in normal times and with the threat of COVID still lurking I have no desire to sit in a compact space with with unknown people for 2 hours. But this is Ghostbusters, so I was sufficiently compelled.
The movie itself takes many cues from the original 1984 movie, including story beats and the Elmer Bernstein-inspired score. What many people call overt nostalgia, I find an exceptional immersion in the
world of the Ghostbusters, albeit one established by the first two films and one we haven't seen in 32 years. But don't expect this movie to be a rehash of the boys in grey tackling some great big bad on the streets of New York City. No, in fact this is an adventure about a group of young protagonists who discover for themselves what happened all those years ago--and must stop it again. The tumultuous (in a good way) final act crosses the proverbial streams and is very much a spectacle that some fans, including myself, have wanted since 1989.
Here are the "Top 5" for Ghostbusters: Afterlife
1) Spores, Molds and Fungus. The movie is foremost about Egon Spengler and moreover a tribute to the late Harold Ramis. Having fled to Summerville, Oklahoma with a plan to save the world, Egon laid all the appropriate traps, but died before he could avert the return of Gozer. The story then turns to his estranged daughter and her two kids who must then learn about their "dirt farmer" grandfather and ultimately his life as a Ghostbuster. This adds a new element to the late Dr. Spengler as he apparently already had a family at the time of the original Ghostbusters movie.
2) Let's Run Some Red Lights. Egon established quite the base at the old farm, including an underground lab packed with bustin' equipment. But the most iconic of this aging arsenal is the 1959 Cadillac ambulance, the Ecto-1. Front and center in this movie, we get to see the embattled Ecto-1 do everything from high speed chases to jump over a ditch just like the General Lee. Now equipped with a gunner seat and deployable RC car, Ecto-1 reminded me of all the things that I'd seen on the Real Ghostbusters animated series--or when I played with the Kenner Ecto-1 toy.
3) Shit That Will Turn You White. There weren't a lot of one-off ghost scares in Afterlife as this was mostly focused on the return of Gozer, but there was a unique cameo in the form of the Bug-Eyed Ghost (yes, from the 80's toy line), the suicidal mini Stay Puft Marshmallow men and the new metal-eating ghost called Muncher. Unfortunately, Slimer makes no cameo. A miner ghost inspired by the first movie's taxi cab ghost is seen in a diner and Gozer itself received a CGI upgrade, but is completely true to form. Vinz Clortho and Zulu are at Gozer's side and, like the original, must find hosts to complete their Keymaster/Gatekeeper duties. The story adds to the mythology of the original movie, as well. We learn that the metals used to build 55 Central Park West (Dana's building in the first movie) came from Ivo Shandor's mine right in Summerville. Shandor, leader of the Gozer cult, fashioned the mine as a temple to Gozer. And Gozer's return has been forecasted and even aligns with past world events including the Tunguska blast of 1909, World War 2 in 1945, and the events of the first movie in 1984. 2021 is listed, as well as another future date that is obscured...
4) Are You A God? Okay, so the money shot in this movie is the final act. When it seems Gozer has gotten the better of these teenage Ghostbusting wannabe's, the ghost of Egon Spengler (in what could possibly be the best ever use of CGI of an actual deceased person) helps his granddaughter and then his former friends defeat the Sumerian god once again. I never thought I'd see a live action movie with all four Ghostbusters back in action, but there they were--albeit with ghost Egon. After the Goze is defeated, we see ghost Egon meet his family and reconcile with his former colleagues. Earlier in the movie, we learned the ultimate fate of the Ghostbusters, which took place some time after the second movie. With a lack of ghosts to bust, the Ghostbuster's business folded. Seemingly obsessed with the coming apocalypse, Egon stole the Ecto-1 and a bunch of equipment to prevent the return of Gozer on his own. Ray went back to his 'Ray's Occult' bookstore, Peter went back into teaching (marketing) and Winston became a businessman (and rich). Janine and Egon stayed in touch, but the other Ghostbusters resented him for abandoning the group.
5) We Got the Tools! We Got the Talent! Ghostbusters: Afterlife has two end credit scenes--one with Peter and Dana Barrett doing the "pair of wavy lines" psychic test and one with Winston and Janine. A few moments earlier in the film, we saw the Ecto-1 heading into New York City (with the Ray Parker Jr. theme blaring for the first time in the movie) and in this final scene we see Winston apparently buying back the old firehouse and escorting Ecto-1 home. Down in the basement though lurks a possible harbinger with a glowing red light on the old ghost containment unit. Sequel anyone? Absolutely. It's easy to see Egon's granddaughter, Phoebe, and comedic relief slash Ray Stantz stand-in Podcast as new Ghostbusters. Even Lucky (the Sheriff's daughter) and Trevor (Egon's grandson and Ecto driver played by Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard) as candidates worthy of joining the team. Or if Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson are willing to suit up for another run, I don't think anyone would object. And no I got no vibes of "old fogies" at all. Sure, they're older and Dan's a little huskier, but who cares? Let them be mentors to these new kids. It's not unlike Extreme Ghostbusters in that way--heck, this whole movie had a tinge of that animated series (Egon mentors a group of kids years after the Ghostbusters have gone out of business). Every franchise apparently needs a "showrunner" nowadays and if director Jason Reitman fulfills that role alongside the Ghost Corps team, the Ghostbusters are in good hands.
Was it worth journeying into a theatre? Absolutely--it was the best kind of nostalgia trip! If I could, I'd strap on a proton pack the way I did in the late 80's. It wouldn't fit and I'd look pretty strange wielding a plastic neutrona wand with a foam proton blast, but imagine how much that thing would be worth today! Okay, who's kidding who? No one ever used that foam proton blast. (YES, HAVE SOME. 9/10)