It’s difficult to believe that the producers of the latest Ghostbusters reboot didn’t receive some kind of studio pushback for the subtitle of the movie. Obviously, the word “afterlife” can have some clever connotations when it comes to ghost stories, but given the rocky history of the franchise it also suggests that the series was already dead. Consequently, the meta aspects of Afterlife tend to overwhelm whatever charms the story and the presentation offer. For me, these considerations have less to do with the idea of connecting the reboot to the original series, thus leapfrogging Paul Feig’s previous reboot, whose well-meaning all-female casting coup turned out to be a PR nightmare, than it does with making the new Ghostbusters team one of children. Moreover, one of those children is played by Finn Wolfhard, the star of the hit Stranger Things Netflix series, thus making it appear that Afterlife isn’t so much milking the Ghostbusters brand as it is ripping off an entirely different property.
The narrative link to the original movie is Egon Spengler, the tech wiz member of the team played by Harold Ramis, whose own death in 2014 adds another meta layer. Spengler’s daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two kids, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Woldhard), down on their economic luck, move to Spengler’s abandoned farm in the middle of a desolate plain somewhere in the Midwest. The kids, who never knew their grandfather, find all sorts of interesting things on the farm and in tinkering with them free the ghosts that have been locked up since the original series. By itself, it’s a serviceable plot, but director Jason Reitman—yes, the son of the original director, Ivan Reitman—seems determined to point hysterically at every connection between his movie and his father’s, and the effort gets embarrassing. The action scenes could be reliably laid over their cognates from the 1980s and there would be practically no distortion. Even worse, all the principals from the original eventually make an appearance, including the one who’s dead thanks to the kind of CGI that makes these endless franchises possible without actually making them fresh. Though Reitman junior does come up with a few new ideas that could be extrapolated in later installments, such as Phoebe’s total lack of social graces, there’s not enough here to inspire hope, if, in fact, you really are looking for the franchise to continue by any means necessary. But it really seems about time the Ghostbusters thing was properly laid to rest.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Marunouchi Piccadilly (050-6875-0075), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Shibuya (050-6868-5002), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
Ghostbusters: Afterlife home page in Japanese