Directed By Jason Reitman
Starring – Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon
The Plot – When a single mom (Coon) and her two kids (Wolfhard and Grace) arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.
Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references
– Life imitates art. Similar to the passing of the proverbial proto-pack that transpires on-screen, the passage of the director’s chair from father to son, Reitman, is one that does a huge service to the integrity and legacy of the original picture, cementing us the most emotionally evolving experience of the entire franchise that is felt consistently in the sentimentality of Jason’s responsibilities. As to where the original duo of films pertained to a combination of dark humor and science fiction, “Afterlife” at times can also be a gut-wrenching drama that illustrates this disconnected family at the forefront of the narrative. The comedy and science fiction elements are still there, but they’re not as defined as the continuous heart that unloads itself during meaningful imagery and familiarity in shot composition that Ivan may have created, but Jason expands upon seamlessly. In addition to this, it’s the time that Jason takes in allowing the characterization and conflict to materialize naturally in the heat of the engagement, valuing story over circumstance in a way that affords us the audience the time and experience in growing with these people, all for the sake of their beneficial appeal to a hardcore fanbase.
– Visual merit. Much credit to the production for stripping down the immensity of the big apple, and instead setting this film in a small town farming community, far from the devastation of 1984. This new landscape not only feeds into the ambiguous sense of knowledge that these kids had about their deceased grandfather, but also paints a profound sense of isolation for the community, simultaneously fleshing out a corresponding vulnerability and dread that serves the horror elements of the movie terrifically. In addition to this, the special effects of computer-generated renderings attains a detailing in texture, as well as perfection in color-grading that is an intoxicating improvement from the 2016 remake. Believability certainly isn’t an issue here, as each of these artificial properties instill with it a hefty impact to their sizing influence, but the bigger factor is the balance of their movements, which never feel hollow or strained with the magnitude of rampant velocity at their character design. They are some of the best special effects that I have seen throughout the whole year, and wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they receive an Academy Award nomination for their transfixing allure.
– Fresh faces. My biggest skepticism prior to the film was how this youthful cast could hold a torch to the comedic icons that rounded out the original foursome. Those fears were put to bed almost immediately, as Mckenna Grace exudes a caustic wit and dry delivery that emotionally conveys the Spangler heritage, without it ever feeling like an impression of her on-screen grandfather. This girl is a firestorm that steals the screen each time she decides to invade it, and proves a worth for the gender that doesn’t require girl-heavy commentary or insufferable loudness to convey the magnitude of her appeal (Talking to you Kate McKinnon and Melissa McCarthy). Also great were Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon, who not only embodied an awkwardness in chemistry by the dozen, but were both each having the time of their lives for dramatically different characters, with Rudd bringing the humor, and Coon rounding out the drama in her tragedy. Finally, the timing and charm of 13-year-old Logan Kim’s portrayal as Podcast is a faithful callback to the tech-savy characters of 80’s adventure films, complete with various gadgets and bizarreness in personality that made him a surprising delight, especially considering how close he stays to Grace’s Phoebe throughout the film.
– World-building. “Afterlife” is a sequel, but not necessarily one watered down by the obligation of sticking to a familiar formula made redundant by its predecessors. Instead, it’s very much respectful and conscientious about the magnitude of its responsibility, stitching together thirty years of exposition to two hours in a way that satisfies the fanbase without straining the attention of the narrative. For that, we instead remain firmly implanted on the dissection of the aforementioned family drama, but also on the inevitable doom that is knocking on the door of this frail and desolate community, bringing with it a familiar antagonist whose lore in backstory is so compelling here that it actually enhances the appeal of the character’s presence in the original film. It very much feels like a lived-in continuation of the world depicted in the two previous chapters, all the while conjuring up some fresh directions off of the blazed path that provide quality originality and hope for the future of this franchise.
– Audible embodiment. Musical composer Rob Simonsen does a remarkable job in channeling Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score, but it’s what Simonsen does with the familiarity that presents the themes in entirely new light. At first, there’s a general teasing with how Simonsen presents them, giving us a note or two here and there, before eventually committing wholheartedly to the magnitude of the engagement, which lends itself to tender moments of levity between highly impactful stakes and circumstances. Likewise, the resurrections themselves feel instrumentally updated and concise with a mixing and editing that prescribes technological advancements without sacrificing the authenticity of the various identities. It’s one of those rare examples where I’m glad that the composer didn’t stray far from the beaten path, as music is such an integrally underrated importance to the legend of the Ghostbusters, made all the more apparent by the growing smiles that I couldn’t hide from, each time they invaded my ears.
– Sight and sound. As a pleasant surprise, “Afterlife” lends itself to being seen in the biggest auditorium imaginable, as a result of technical merits that immersed and engaged me continuously in the duration of the two hour experience. Credit to cinematographer Eric Steelberg for not only producing a film that looks and feels so unlike anything else in the Ghostbusters franchise, but also one whose color-grading blends so artistically with the swift movements of Reitman’s mastery at the forefront of the scene dynamic. In addition to this, I found the sound design for the film to be astonishing, complete with quirks and identities of gadgetry that brought goosebumps to my arms at the sound of their familiarity, after thirty years spent on the shelf. In addition to this, the action sequences themselves are emphasized with an echoing disturbance that surprisingly brought forth a couple of well-timed jump scares for my enjoyment, allowing the conflict of the scene several moments where it allowed us, like our characters, to get lost in the elements of its environment that are articulated brilliantly from beyond.
– Fan service. There it is, my biggest fear heading into the film realized in a second half that is far too redundant to feel original. To be fair, I have no problem with fan service if it’s presented in a way that doesn’t rely on it as a crutch throughout. However, an amazing first half of the film gives way to a highly inferior second that not only tugs far too often on the familiarity of its predecessor, but also recreates entire scenes from that film, limiting the originality factor in eluding the immense shadow that it nearly escapes. It almost feels like the film questioned its intentions midway through the run time, and instead chose the safe and narrow path of expectations, that, while feeling like the exact opposite of the 2016 film which distanced itself entirely from the original timeline, here veers a bit too close to the film, which keeps it from ever exceeding it. Most fans won’t have a problem with it, but my integrity is worth a whole lot more, and I just wish the film had more confidence in diverting from expectation.
– Abrupt instances. It’s strange. For a two hour film, the pacing can periodically feel devastating on the supporting subplots it holds captive in its expeditious grip. Part of the problem can definitely be blamed on the script establishing too many arc’s in an introductory film that should keep the eyes on the prize, but for my money it’s these pockets of logic that simply don’t make sense with how they’re presented. Such examples pertain an often mentioned, but never seen boyfriend of the character Lucky, an ensuing love triangle between Lucky and Wolfhard’s Trevor that is almost entirely forgotten about by the midway point of the film, and the capability for these kids to pick up 1980’s technology in weaponry, and never struggle with its usage in the slightest. The last problem is one that constantly plagues my experience with superhero films, and just feels like an insincere obstacle of storytelling and character exposition that is tragically overlooked, taking away the necessity of each of these characters being the particular ones needed for the responsibility of the job.
– Inconsistent humor. As previously established, “Afterlife” is very much a seven course dinner of emotional resonance that supplants a roller-coaster to longtime fans of the franchise. Unfortunately, the weakest element of that meal, and one that sticks out all the more especially because of its diminishing returns, is the abundance of humor seen through child eyes. Because the original Ghostbusters was very much an adult comedy, the dominance of kids at the forefront of “Afterlife” lends itself to more cute and harmless jokes that aren’t a favorite for my particular brand of comedy, and made all the worse when the film decides to double, triple, and quadruple down on them, even when the first time wasn’t successful. The worst is easily when a police station chief halts the momentum of the scene, to practically look in the camera and say “Who you gonna call?”. Thankfully, drama and science fiction are much of the focus of this particular narrative, but I wish that it packed an equally compelling comedic muscle that could’ve resulted in the same quotability of its 84 original, while extending the shelf life of its appeal.
My Grade: 7/10 or B