Can Ghostbusters: Afterlife unite fans of the original and the 2016 reboot?

There is good news if you are a fan of the first Ghostbusters movie: the original crew of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson will be back, along with Sigourney Weaver and even Annie Potts (as secretary Janine Melnitz), in Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

But there is bad news for those hoping that the forthcoming sequel, a direct followup to the 1980s movies, will show how much Paul Feig’s underrated 2016 reboot (with its all-female cast), got it wrong. Reitman has been clear that he is an admirer of Feig’s film and that the inspiration for making it, other than being the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, was an image that came to him of a young, female ghostbuster.

“We wanted to make a love letter to the original movie,” Reitman told an audience at a fan event in 2019. “I did not expect to be making a new Ghostbusters movie. I thought I was going to be this indie dude who made Sundance movies. And then this character came to me. She was a 12-year-old girl. I didn’t know who she was or why she popped into my head, but I saw her with a proton pack in her hand. And I wrote this story … It started with a girl and all of a sudden it was a family. And eventually I knew this movie that I needed to make, that I needed to write.”

That 12-year-old girl will be played by Mckenna Grace in the new film, with Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as her brother and Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon as her mum and dad. The new movie centres on a family that moves to the countryside after being evicted from their New York home. There they discover a connection to one of the original Ghostbusters.

A new clip from the movie suggests Reitman will make the most of the nostalgia factor, and yet its vision of tiny Stay Puft Marshmallow Men getting their Gremlin on in a local supermarket certainly warms the cockles. Could it be that Afterlife ends up pleasing both fans of the original movie and the Feig reboot? Can’t we all just get along?

The fact that Reitman’s film managed to persuade Murray to return as Dr Peter Venkman certainly bodes well. The veteran comic once considered reprising his role as the womanising parapsychologist in an abandoned project that would have pre-dated Feig’s movie, but which failed to pass muster at a screenwriting level. “They just don’t have a really good script,” Murray told David Letterman in 2012. “It’s hard. You know, even the second Ghostbusters wasn’t as much fun for me as the first one. It’s hard to make a sequel. That first one was so darn funny. It’s hard for me.”

If we buy this picture of Murray as quality control executive of the Ghostbusters series (and this is, after all, the guy who headlined not just Garfield: The Movie but it’s even more execrable sequel Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties) then the fact that the actor has described the new project as “good”, with “lots of emotion in it” and “through lines that are really interesting” ought to be a reason to welcome it. It’s certainly hard to blame Murray for taking 30 years to return to the franchise, given some of the nuthouse ideas Aykroyd tried to foist upon him in earlier, abandoned, sequels: Ghostbusters III: Hellbent was set in a darkling mirror version of New York that has started to evict its ghoulish inhabitants, in an only slightly clumsy nod to the real Manhattan’s gentrification. Venkman was due to cameo as – you guessed it – a ghost.

Quite how Afterlife will bring back the film’s original cast, given that it is set a long way from Manhattan, remains to be seen. The small-town setting seems to cleave closer to the world of Stranger Things than to the 1984 original, but perhaps that’s just the shaking-up this saga needs. Now if only Reitman can coax the wonderful Rick Moranis back to once again play nerdy Louis Tully – please, even if only for even the briefest of cameos – the film-makers might just be crossing streams all the way to box-office glory.

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