Tom Jolliffe on Ghostbusters: Afterlife so far, and whether it can perfectly balance old school nostalgia with modern blockbuster trends…
It feels like Ghostbusters: Afterlife should have been and gone long ago. The dust should have cleared and we should all know, whether it would capture the magic of the original, or prove as disappointingly divisive as Paul Feig’s reboot from 2016. In November we’ll find out for sure, but the second trailer has just dropped. Does it suggest potential greatness, potential disaster, or something in between? Does it scream Ghostbusters 1984? No…actually it screams Goonies, but this is a good thing, and here’s why:
I grew up in the 80’s. I’ll say it with bull headed confidence, but this was the greatest era for adventure films for the whole family. We had plenty of adult heroes to follow on dangerous quests, occasionally against the supernatural. Indiana Jones for example. We also had a plethora of films lead by youthful casts, often at that awkward age of physical changes and increasing responsibilities. Films often had a backdrop of these young kids having to learn about responsibility, cause and effect, the looming specter of adulthood. It might have been Sarah in Labyrinth, the titular Willow, or even the Goonies. Goonies as far as joyously entertaining family adventure films with young characters, might well be the pinnacle. It was so much fun, but it was effortlessly, endlessly charming. It also had nicely etched characters and a great dynamic between our gang. The fact these Goonies were also ‘outsiders’ or geeks/nerds/school also-rans, also resonated deeply with people, as did the very real world issues that become a backdrop to the film’s adventure side (facing the prospect of their homes being forcibly taken by developers for example).
There’s been something a little divisive across the interwebnet about Ghostbusters: Afterlife so far. Too close to Stranger Things? Focusing on a younger cast has also divided. A decided lack of ghostbusting in the original trailer left people perplexed, in an age where 99% of other blockbuster trailers leave absolutely nothing to discover in the film. Redoing Ghostbusters just wouldn’t work. You replace Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson with a bunch of modern contemporaries around the age the originals were in 1984? That doesn’t feel the way to me. No, this diversion into a more Goonies-esque adventure seems like it could potentially prove shrewd. The trailers, particularly the most recent, suggests something that feels warmingly familiar to my generation, but suitably appealing to kids too. One pleasing aspect is that it doesn’t suggest a barrage of incessant carnage and chaos. Occasionally in modern blockbusters, character gives way to set pieces and we never build anything up. There’s occasionally a feeling, particularly in franchise or universe movies, that characters can get their development over two-to-three films (or more) rather than getting much in the film at hand. The trailers play out at a pace that’s relaxed, that takes time. This is the world, our characters, some of their issues. Then we get a last 30-second blast where the spectacle kicks in.
One thing that I’ve really dug about the trailer harks right back to a childhood fantasy as a young busters fan. What if.. you found a goddamn proton-pack? You found the old jumpsuits, traps, etc? Most people my age, at one point or another in childhood had a proton pack and was, for an afternoon of imaginative play, a Ghostbuster. This movie, is that dream being turned into a real adventure. Sure, my pack was a crudely construct cardboard version, but when watching Afterlife, I imagine my inner child might just fondly remember those heady afternoons of losing myself in fantasy. So this, combined with a Goonies sense of unexpected life or death adventure feels delightfully nostalgic.
There will of course be very definite references to the original film. We’ve already got characters directly related to the original gang, and we’ll see cameos along the way. The trailers thus far have teased these cameos nicely, without overselling them. The fact is, there is still a big air of mystery about exactly how the film will play out, how involved Paul Rudd will be, or any original cast members. We don’t have a firm idea about the enemy in wait, other than the fact that there will (of course) be ghosts. Leaving some mystery for the theatre is all too rare. It’s been a tactic that has oddly riled some fans, but any established property is already backed against a wall from the off. No matter what comes out, some won’t be happy, but this is a subjective medium these days, and it’s understandable. I’ve been impressed with the promotion so far.
During said promotion, director Jason Reitman spoke about the influence of his father, Ivan Reitman (who spent a lot of time on set overseeing). Ivan of course directed the original. His part in crafting a new adventure might just be key in ensuring the spirit of the original still remains in tact, whilst Jason can oversee things with a more modern gaze. This is, after all. a generational franchise. I watched with my parents. I’ve watched with my own child and the result (with the first film particularly) has always been mutual enjoyment. Perfect escapism over two hours. If Afterlife gets close to that generational unity, to create something that leaves a warm feeling inside, with plenty of laughs, and just a few scares along the way, it’ll have done enough. I hope it does.
What are your thoughts on Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Does it look like a worthy successor, or is it going to be another disappointing Hollywood reboot? Let us know your thoughts on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2021/2022, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.