Chris reviews Ghostbusters: Afterlife

If you pay attention to any part of this review, make it this: stay till the end. Stay till the very, very end.

This is good advice. I saw an early IMAX showing, and I was not disappointed.

I love Ghostbusters. I loved it as a kid, I loved it as a teen, and I love it as an adult. I love The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and I love Ghostbusters II, despite it’s many, many flaws. So I was expecting to at least like Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

But I was not expecting to like it this much.

It’s going to be exceedingly difficult to gush about this movie while avoiding spoilers, so I’m going to keep it short, which is not easy for me. But here goes.

This is not just the sequel I have been waiting for since 1989. This is the Ghostbusters I have waited for since 1984. I love Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The first and most obvious thing that excels about this movie is Phoebe Spengler. Relax, that last name’s not a spoiler. Not to anyone but her. Played to absolute perfection by Mckenna Grace, Phoebe is an exceptionally intelligent kid who, like her genius grandfather, almost certainly falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum. She’s quiet, she internalizes emotion, and her personality and intellect set her at a distance from her family. She is misunderstood and without true peers. In short, she is alone.

Isolating her even further is the fact that her genius and extraordinary aptitude for the physical sciences appear to be a genetic fluke. Neither her parents nor brother exhibit similar traits, and it is her slow discovery that she takes after the grandfather she never knew – and never knew about – that provides this movie with the deep emotional roots that make it work so well.

If Sony plays their cards right, Phoebe Spengler could easily be the next Hermione Granger. But she’s not the only breakout revelation in this film. Although it is just a piece of equipment, the roller trap is such a delightful little addition to the Ghostbusters’ tech that it almost qualifies as a character in its own right. While it is made clear that it is a remote controlled device and definitely not any kind of AI, there is a distinct personality to the way it moves. It’s the BB-8 of the Ghostbusters franchise. It’s odd to say this about a prop, but the roller trap is so cute it’s almost charming.

Speaking of Ghostbusters tech, pay attention. Pay attention to EVERYTHING. Egon was not idly using the same equipment he and Ray invented in the 1980s. Look closely and you’ll see his proton pack has changed. His neutrona wand has changed. Even the PKE meter has been upgraded and weaponized. The proton stream that blew apart wood and set wallpaper on fire in 1984 is now powerful enough to ignite manganese steel caterpillar treads. Every piece of ghostbusting equipment is markedly more dangerous in this movie, because it absolutely has to be. Observe how Egon has leveled up his equipment. The movie will reveal the reasons, but the props silently tell their part of the story, no exposition needed. It’s not just good design. It’s a hallmark of attentive, intelligent cinematic storytelling.

I said it before, but it bears repeating: stay till the very, very end. I know the credits are ridiculously long, but, please trust me, your patience will be WELL rewarded. In fact, your patience may be crucial to your enjoyment of the film.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is Phoebe Spengler’s movie. Even after the original Ghostbusters show up, it remains Phoebe Spengler’s movie. And it would have been a bad film if it didn’t. But when all was said and done, after our heroes were victorious, there was something that still felt incomplete. Even after the incredibly clever and genuinely funny way the movie reintroduced Dana Barrett back into the story, something still felt undone. There was an odd emotional uneasiness about the end. And that’s because it was not the end. Not for Phoebe Spengler, and not for the original Ghostbusters.

So if you pay attention to any part of this review, make it this: stay till the end. Stay till the very, very end. And you’ll see that it’s not the end at all. There’s still somethin’ strange in the neighborhood. Who ya gonna call?

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