Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally hit the theatres, after having been pushed back many times, like a large number of movies during the pandemic.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air), Ivan Reitman’s son, who directed the first two Ghostbusters in 1984 and 1989. The movie is a direct sequel of the 1989 second opus and does not take the 2016 female-led reboot into consideration in its story.
The movie focuses on the story of Egon Spengler’s grandchildren, Phoebe and Trevor, played by Mckenna Grace (Gifted, The Handmaid’s Tale) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things, IT). When they move into Egon Spengler’s old farmhouse with their mother after his death, they discover that paranormal activity is very much present and that their grandfather was trying to contain the threat, on his own.
I’ve seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife twice already. The first time was during a press screening, and the second time during the premiere in Paris at Le Grand Rex, the largest cinema in Europe, in the presence of Jason Reitman and his screenwriter Gil Kenan. My first thought as I was leaving the screening room the first time was ‘’Wow, the kids really carried the movie’’, which is quite surprising considering the fact that none of the two original Ghostbusters had kids as main or even secondary characters (sorry Baby Oscar Barrett). Mckenna Grace is absolutely fantastic as the quirky, brave, and genius scientist 12 years old girl, and her comedic timing was just on point. Watching her on-screen, I kept thinking ‘’Of course Egon would have a grandkid just like this!’’.
From start to finish, the movie is a beautiful tribute to Harold Ramis who passed away in 2014. But I just wasn’t quite sure about the rhythm of the movie. I didn’t know if Jason Reitman had found his own beat quite yet, or if on the contrary, the story I had just watched was precisely the one he wanted to tell. For a second, I even thought that the best part of Ghostbusters: Afterlife was the nostalgia. But just for a second.
However, as a die-hard fan of the two original Ghostbusters, it felt like Jason Reitman knew what fans were waiting for: yes, nostalgia, but also renewal. A new story, without ever erasing the old one. Paying tribute to the past and focusing on the future. The scenes are full of references from the ’80s, the sets are filled with props from the original Ghostbusters team, and some lines directly refer to the initial films. If Ghostbusters is set to become an actual franchise, with multiple movies to come (and it sure feels like this is Sony’s plan so far), Ghostbusters: Afterlife introduced it the right way. Reitman gave so much to the early fans, but he also made sure that new fans were being created along the way with the next generations. In short, anyone can identify or feel close to this movie.
Now, watching it the second time, I wanted to try my best to keep my journalistic neutrality regarding what I was going to hear or see in the theatre. To be completely honest, this neutrality disappeared real quick when I heard 1200 true lovers and hardcore fans of Ghostbusters, literally exploding with joy and applauding at least 10 times during the movie. Jason Reitman must have done something right. And the sentiment is reinforced when even the youngest children in the room, from 5 to 12 years old, who obviously didn’t grow up in the ’80s and with this nostalgia, felt as cheerful as their parents who brought them to the cinema to watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I was sitting next to a father who brought his young boy, no more than 8 years old, to watch the movie, and behind me was another dad with his 4 children. First of all, these two fathers had in common that they actually grew up watching Ghostbusters in theaters in 1984 and 1989. Second of all, their love for Ghostbusters was so strong, they were explaining even the slightest detail and behind-the-scenes secrets to their kids before the movie started. After all, this is the magic of cinema, and sequels can be a good thing.
Before the lights went out and the movie started, Jason Reitman gave us a speech and finished by saying ‘’This is a movie for the family’’. And he was right. The parents in the theatre were literally passing the torch on to their kids, just like Jason Reitman knew they would. When I heard these two dads at the end of the credits, saying how much they loved what they saw, and how the next generation was being introduced, I knew Jason Reitman had found his own rhythm, his own dynamic and that he is now, the legitimate ‘’Keymaster’’ of the Ghostbusters franchise.