GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) & GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE Are Both Terrible: And It All Should Stop…

Ghostbusters symbol

So a new blockbuster called Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has just been released in cinemas. 

And I guess some people are probably excited.
It looks like the Ghostbusters franchise is going to keep going: perhaps indefinitely, since nothing seems to end anymore.
I wish this particular property would just call it a day.
Not that I don’t love the Ghostbusters.

I’m a lifelong fan of the original 1984 movie (who isn’t?). The original Ghostbusters is one of the most perfect popcorn movies ever made.
It was also of course a big fixture in the childhood of anyone who grew up in the 80s/90s. Yes, I watched the cartoon series and yes, I had some of the toys. Though I never had the iconic Ecto-1 car – and I still want one to this day.
In some ways, the brilliance of the first Ghostbusters was also an extraordinary fluke: an offbeat and wacky idea that shouldn’t have worked, but somehow came together perfectly.
Ghostbusters VHS vintage advert
There are obviously various reasons that original film worked so well. What’s curious is that that magic has never been recaptured. 
Even the original Ghostbusters sequel in 1989 didn’t manage it. I’ve always enjoyed Ghostbusters II, but it is largely considered a lackluster successor, despite having some of the same charm.

Then, for decades, there was no Ghostbusters. And that was fine.

A third film probably should’ve been made in the mid-90s, while all the actors were available. But it wasn’t, and that was okay.
As for the two modern reboots/sequels – 2016’s universally derided female-cast reboot and 2021’s kid-centric Ghostbusters: Afterlife – they both fell far short of any kind of greatness.
The 2016 movie seems to be liked by no one.
It’s pretty awful – and this had nothing to do with the all-female cast, but the terrible writing, a total absence of charm and a complete lack of ideas.
It also took the baffling approach of completely erasing the original movies and starting a whole new origin story for the Ghostbusters mythology.
In fact, that attempt to reboot the franchise was such a spectacular misfire that they had to pretend it never happened and go for a whole different attempt at a revival.

The more recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife seems to be much more liked by general audiences.

Which is somewhat understandable: it’s less obnoxious and less overtly annoying than the 2016 reboot.
However, it embraces the original Ghostbusters so tightly that it does nothing else but reference it, and it hinges entirely on a nostalgia-overload finale: which is probably what won a lot of people over, but which I found awkward and even a little distasteful.
I found Ghostbusters: Afterlife tedious.
Afterlife is remarkable in that it is incredibly boring for most of its run time, and waits until virtually the final scene to do something interesting.
But that finale is really odd and  disorienting.
Sure, seeing a CGI-manipulated Harold Ramis ghost join up with the other three original Ghostbusters has some emotional kick, at least the first time.
But the longer it goes on, the more awkward it feels to see a deceased actor brought back to life for what is essentially little more than a nostalgia-fest aimed at satiating the audience so that a franchise can be made profitable and sustainable again.
It feels cynical and empty. I know I’m supposed to be feeling things, but I’m really just narrowing my eyes at a strange and possibly misjudged spectacle.
It’s not quite as bad as Luke raising the X-Wing out of the water in The Rise of Skywalker: but it feels like it’s in the same category.
Essentially, Afterlife felt like an empty entity: part Stranger Things copycat and part nostalgia exercise.
What’s remarkable is the total lack of original ideas or thoughts: it’s all callbacks and homages to a much better film that everyone loves.
Yet one of the many charms of the original Ghostbusters was its originality and weirdness. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene in the original 1984 film is a ridiculous idea, for example, but is nevertheless among the most iconic scenes in cinematic history.
Ghostbusters (1984) - The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man Scene
There is no creative spark in either of the modern Ghostbusters reboots: even though the two films are such different approaches, they both suffer from the same absence of both ideas and charisma.
Which is why Ghostbusters needs to just stop.
It all feels like just a cynical cash grab. It doesn’t need an endless franchise. The charm has gone.
The fact that even bringing back Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd felt unimpactful is evidence enough of flogging a dead horse. The fact that they didn’t look like they were even enjoying it is also a sign. Kind of like how Mark Hamill looked in Rise of Skywalker.
And maybe I’m being too harsh on Afterlife. People seemed to like it. Maybe it’s just me: but I felt incredibly bored and empty.
And again, the use of Harold Ramis’s likeness felt less like a tribute and more like an exploitation.
I’m honestly feeling the same way about Star Wars too, after ten years now of Disney/Lucasfilm’s milking to death of that once beloved world and property.
Maybe it’s the whole nostalgia movie thing in general that’s run its course and outstayed its welcome.
From Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny to the Star Wars sequels and everything from Spiderman: No Way Home to Men in Black: International and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the nostalgia game has been done to death at this point.
Ghostbusters in particular feels devoid of any purpose other than a commercial one.
We’ve proven enough times now that the magic of the original can’t be recaptured. Partly because that magic was very much a product of its time and environment. And maybe a dab of drugs and alcohol.
I watched the original two films again over Christmas – and I enjoyed them a lot. That’s all we really need.
Time to just let it go: and let it be what it was.
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire might end up being brilliant. In which case, I’ll eat humble pie.
I’m betting it won’t be.
Dammit, I still want an Ecto-1 car though.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.

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