Fans of the beloved ’80s franchise were more than disappointed with 2016’s Ghostbusters-Answer the Call. Identity politics and a story which failed to connect with audiences saw the third sequel flounder at the box-office. In order to course-correct, Sony greenlit another reboot, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman (who directed the first two films), was tasked with directing and writing. For angered fans, it seemed like a good sign. Perhaps Sony learnt their lesson and wouldn’t alter the Ghostbusters formula too radically again.
In January, Reitman released a short teaser with the old Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Cadillac, using the original audio files for the sound of the proton pack and the original lettering used in the first films’ promotional material. This generated a lot of excitement and seemed to make good on the promise of a return to the essence of what made the originals great. To placate the negative sentiments, Reitman in an interview with Bill Burr said that his upcoming film would “go back to original technique and hand the movie back to the fans…” He goes further in saying, “…This is gonna be a love letter to Ghostbusters… I want to make a movie for my fellow Ghostbusters fans.”
Fast forward to a few days ago and the release of another teaser trailer. The reception varied. Some fans are excited, just happy to erase the memory of the disastrous 2016 reboot. However, others, like myself, were a bit underwhelmed and disappointed.
Why was there such a focus on children as stars of the film? What were we missing? Was this a trailer for a new Stranger Things season?
The children referred to are Stranger Things star, Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace, who stars in Netflix’s Fuller House series. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Finn plays Trevor while Grace plays his sister Phoebe. Though Paul Rudd stars in the film as teacher Mr Grooberson, he seems to play second fiddle to the child stars. Perhaps the teaser only makes this appear to be the case and a more adult-centric film will emerge with the next trailer, especially as we know that most of the original cast from the ’80s films will appear but, based on the trailer and Reitman’s inspiration for the script, an adult-led film seems unlikely, which is a far cry from the original film we all love.
Whichever type of Ghostbusters film we see next year, it’s clear that children play a large if not dominant role in the story. In a bizarre twist, the ’80s nostalgia wave which inspired and gave impetus to creations like Stranger Things has been channelled back on itself, spawning Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
In an interview at Ghostbusters Fan Fest, Reitman confesses that the inspiration for the new film occurred after a character popped into his head one day, this character was a 12-year-old girl. The director stated, “I don’t know who she was or why she popped into my head, but I saw her with a proton pack in her hand.” By revealing thoughts such as these, it seems entirely possible that McKenna Grace will be the lead in the film and might be a strong clue to the direction of the film.
Children as leads in a Ghostbusters film might be taking it too far, even further than an all-female Ghostbusters team. Reitman seems to believe that anyone can be a Ghostbuster, even children. If this is the case, then he and his fellow writer Gil Kenan are perhaps making a film closer to Monster House or Goosebumps.
Most of the original cast of the older films are confirmed to appear in the new film. The only question is to what extent they will be part of the story. Will they have cameos or be characters integral to the plot? Let’s hope their involvement is more than superficial and let’s keep fingers crossed that if this is indeed a child-led film that it will be executed well enough to win fans over. Sony and Reitman might bury the franchise for good if their tinkering with the franchise goes awry or it might become like Predator franchise with their continuing bad sequels incapable of capturing the magic of the original.