Ghostbusters: Afterlife conjures up its first batch of reviews

Something strange arrives in a whole new neighbourhood in this November's Ghostbusters: Afterlife. This is the follow-up to the classic 1984 Ghostbusters movie, and the not-so-classic (although somewhat underrated) 1989 sequel, in the process introducing a new generation of spirit-battling characters.

Mckenna Grace (Captain Marvel) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) are adolescent siblings who have reluctantly moved to a dilapidated farmhouse with their mother (Gone Girl's Carrie Coon). When they arrive, both kids have to reconcile with some important ghostbusting heritage, which comes in handy when malevolent phantoms begin to menace the town. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) co-stars as teacher Mr. Grooberson who becomes a valuable ally in the fight against the paranormal activity.

Director Jason Reitman (Juno; Young Adult) picks up the mantle of his father Ivan, who helmed the original movies. Expect plenty of fan-pleasing references from the re-emergence of the Ecto-1 car to an attack of mini Stay Puft marshmallow men. In fact, the first reviews for the movie indicate it leans heavily on the nostalgia element a la Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And one thing's for sure: rising star Grace steals the show.

"Grace is thoroughly winning as an impatient and dismissive smarty-pants who subtly undergoes a seismic shift, not unlike the mother with whom she often clashes," writes Sheri Linden in The Hollywood Reporter. "You can see Phoebe opening to unlikely possibilities when, in one of the film’s loveliest details, she communes with a benevolent spirit in the farmhouse, beginning with a mysterious game of chess."

Olly Richards, writing for Empire Magazine, concurs: "Mckenna Grace... is the heart of the film. In her preternaturally able hands, Phoebe is a quietly fearless kid who is fascinated by anything she doesn’t understand, be it gadgets, ghosts, or people. Grace uses shades of the late Harold Ramis’ performance as Egon, but with a rebellious streak of her own."

"Well, it’s taken 36 years and six presidencies, but with Ghostbusters: Afterlife fans finally have an unembarrassing sequel to love," raves Johnny Oleksinski for The New York Post. "Reitman, who just so happens to be the son of famed producer of the 1984 movie Ivan Reitman, is an accomplished director in his own right, having helmed the wonderful Juno and Up in the Air. 

"He finds the perfect tone here, especially in how he uses composer Elmer Bernstein’s original music while Phoebe and Trevor tinker with Egon’s gadgets. He’s also skilled at getting genuine performance out of young actors, as he proved in Juno, and balancing humor with stakes — essential for comedy-horror like Ghostbusters. The jokes are very funny and Wolfhard and Grace make life-threatening peril look like a ball."

"Between Stranger Things and the upcoming Top Gun sequel, ’80s pop culture nostalgia seems to be at an all-time high," muses Variety's Peter Debruge, "but Afterlife tries not to lean too heavily on that sentiment alone. It’s designed to work for those who’ve never seen any of the franchise’s earlier incarnations, and though the film adopts an unmistakably Amblin-esque vibe — there’s an obvious “what if the Goonies were Ghostbusters?” sensibility at work here, reinforced by Spielbergian magic-hour shots of kids assembling around a Devils Tower-shaped rock formation — you needn’t have grown up on such movies to appreciate how they elevate adolescent rejects to hero status."

Needless to say, not everyone has been won over. "What threatens to undermine much of our goodwill takes place in the film’s nostalgia-fueled finale, where nothing is sacred and the spectacle culminates in all-too-familiar patterns," says Indiewire's Courtney Howard. "All the risks taken up until that point to deepen character drive and further thematic profundity on forgiveness, friendship and familial strife are given an entirely expected safe landing. Add to this a run time of two hours plus, where every minute is felt, and this new journey feels a bit more busted than one would hope." Despite, this Howard praises "astute, captivating, vibrant performance".

Whatever flaws the film may possess, Total Film editor Jane Crowther says the new Ghostbusters adventure casts an irresistible spell. "Afterlife is, like the recent Free Guy, one of those rare movies that’s a genuine four-quadrant treat. Smart and knowing without being snide, it’s a film that will entertain adults as much as kids, fans and much as newbies; and it operates from a place of nostalgia as well as future-facing optimism. Dedicated to the late [Harold Ramis] (and there’s magic in that, too), it’s a movie that lives up to the promise of its provenance. Bustin’, it turns out, does make you feel good."

That's a smattering of responses from the critics. You can make your own mind up when Ghostbusters: Afterlife arrives in Cineworld cinemas on 18th November.