Nerd culture got a dopamine hit this morning with the release of a trailer for the upcoming Ghostbusters Afterlife, slated for November release. A quick scan of responses finds it being received favorably, so it remains to be seen how people will respond when it comes time to buy tickets.
Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking, Up In The Air), the film immediately asks fans for the benefit of doubt. He is not only a successful movie maker, but also the son of Ivan Reitman, director of the first two Ghostbusters, and the trailer goes out of its way to assert this happens in that universe and not the female-fronted version delivered by Paul Feig in 2016.
A single mother (Carrie Coon) drives her kids to their new home out in flyover country, and it is clear they’re not thrilled to be there. The old farmhouse, the dusty well, the cornfields all indicate a major change of life. The kids are absolute outsiders at school, especially the young girl Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) who appears to be a slightly nerdy science-head. In one part of the house, she finds a strange object hidden under the floorboards, which we recognize as that classic ghost containment unit. The boy Trevor (Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard) finds the hearse-cum-Ecto-1 under a tarp in the barn. The audience can guess who these kids are.
Their lineage seems assured by a visitor who tells the family that the former owner “was hardly a homemaker. He could barely keep the power on.” This is Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), formerly the secretary for the Ghostbusters, and these seem to be the grandkids and daughter of Egon Spengler. There are lots of questions. Why did Egon truck all the Ghostbusters equipment out into the middle of nowhere in Summerville, Oklahoma, far away from New York, and now that the kids are uncovering grandpa’s secrets, why is the dimension of the undead bursting forth…including Gozer and Zuul?
Aside from many photos of the four original Ghostbusters, the trailer ends with a phone ringing on the counter of Ray’s Occult Books in New York City. A hand creeps into view, picks up the phone, and answers rather menacingly, “We’re closed.” In interviews, Reitman confirms it is Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz. Again, the filmmakers are bending over backwards to reassure this is the world you expected it to be.
The question now is, will it be enough? This past weekend, fan culture was in an uproar over the debut of Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Despite a marketing offensive to assure audiences the “sequel/spiritual sequel/reimagining” was faithful to the original, many called in advance that significant changes to Eternia lore were afoot, and they were proven correct. This did not go well and I’m not going to elaborate on that. Google it for yourself.
Perhaps more applicable is the Star Wars sequel trilogy which found the original primaries – Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo – included more like walk-on guest stars, or behaving in ways the series’ fans found in opposition to previous characterization, or getting laser-shanked. It’s not for me to weigh in on how right or wrong they are in their vitriolic response, but I can say that the third film of the trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker, did harm to the financial viability of the film side of the saga.
The fans of the original Ghostbusters made the reasons for their rejection of the 2016 reboot very clear, but again and again, we’re seeing revivals of lucrative IP get burned for one of three reasons:
- The reboot rejects old lore
2. The sequel mistreats the previous characterizations in terms of expectations
3. The revival uses those characters in cameo roles, not as integral to the story
Putting aside the very broad and not entirely accurate charge leveled at G-16, the major complaint wasn’t that there were now women Ghostbusters as much as it was the previous Ghostbusters didn’t exist. (You can find, however, many deep rabbit holes asserting a misogynist view that it was strictly that it was the gender flip. I tend to believe that is a small sliver of the criticism of the film, but would be disingenuous had I not acknowledged its existence.) The hurdle Jason Reitman and team have to overcome is that even though we will see Stantz, Zeddemore, probably Venkman, and possibly Spengler in some form, will that be enough for the fans? Will their presence bring value to the story or is this inconsequential?
I do not always see eye-to-eye with YouTube movie critic Grace Randolph, but her reaction to the trailer asks what a lot of people were thinking: “Audiences wanted more of their Ghostbusters, not Lady Ghostbusters, and now we get Ghostbuster Kids?” If anything, this film will stand as a litmus test for exactly what and how much of it viewers want from the endless mining of nostalgic properties. It all goes down when Ghostbusters Afterlife hits theaters on November 11.