This hot take will be a little out of date by the time it eventually goes up, but I’m sure that by the time it eventually does get posted, I’m sure some other nostalgically charged franchise will get a trailer for their surprise reboot or sequel. Just to pre-warn you all, this is going to be a little bit of a grumpy old man article, more-so than usual anyway, because I’m getting really tired of getting low balled by media companies going for these easy targets.
Some weeks ago, Sony dropped a trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Yet one more attempt to follow up the first two Ghostbusters movies that were amongst the most popular franchises going in the late 1980s and early 90s. Coming after the 2009 video game that treated itself as a sequel to the second movie, and the 2016 reboot. Neither of which I’ve played/seen.
Y’see, the thing about Ghostbusters is that there was one really good movie, and then the rest of it was just all okay. It’s the same thing with the Jurassic Park franchise, there was only really one truly great entry within that franchise, and the rest of it was just trying to recapture the magic.
But Richard, you might ask, have you not seen that new trailer? It looks like they’re finally getting it right after all these years. I agree, it does look that way doesn’t it. It’s almost as if Hollywood has finally cracked the formula on pushing all the right nostalgic buttons.
I’ll be brutally honest, I have found myself with a very strong dislike having my nostalgia pandered to over this past decade. These throwbacks very rarely stand up to scrutiny outside of their brief release window. The thing that really sent me over this edge though was how producing a product almost entirely on nostalgia, rather than the merits of the product itself, is how Hollywood is wrecking the the Star Wars movie franchise.
While Ghostbusters isn’t quite the unique monster that the Star Wars is, you only have to look as far as Jurassic World or Bumblebee to get a decent idea of what Afterlife is going to end up being. Which will most likely be an inoffensive, middle of the road movie that tickles all the right spots while never really feeling like it takes any risks with the property. Which might be the most damning thing about this current wave of bringing back the old franchises.
Everything feels like its stagnating. While that might seem like a strong word for it, it’s something I do feel pretty strongly about a lot of current media I am consuming. I’m tired of the status quo, I’m sick of tropes and I want to see someone shake things up. It was one of my biggest frustrations with the Rise of Skywalker is just how it ended in the exact same spot that Return of the Jedi did. It was a return to the status quo.
I’ll put my hands up and say that it’s extremely unlikely that is is what Afterlife is going to do. But I question what it’s actually trying to do, outside of mashing a number of nostalgic styles and properties together to end up with what this movie looks like based on the trailer.
It’s set in a perfect little slice of Americana, a visual style established by our shared love of old Spielberg movies where he managed to make his movies feel as wholesome and American as Apple Pie. Then you’ve got one of the stranger things kids in there, a series which also managed to evoke a insane nostalgia for the 80s and the Spielberg era of our collective childhood that even I, a millennial from the U.K. managed to connect with.
Then you learn the original actors are in it and the kids are Egon’s grandkids, which is never outright stated, but it’s painfully obvious. There will most likely be some kind of passing the torch moment and if the movie is successful, we’ll most likely get a sequel or two that follows the kids and whatever older actors the studio can justify paying.
This is happening so often that I’m getting tired of the cliche it, itself, is becoming. Some, giant world ending event was prevented in the 80s/90s, and now, decades later history seems to mysteriously repeat itself, and the big, heroic moments of the past amount to little more than staving off some bigger, more CGI looking, disaster. It’s happening so often that it’s worming its way into video game franchises too. Gears of War doing pretty much the same thing rather than just rebooting or even doing something totally new.
I’m not mad about this movie coming out or anything. But nothing about it screams at me that it’s a movie I need to see. I do love the original Ghostbusters, like most people my age surely do. And I’m not angry about them remaking it, I mean the Ghostbusters name has been battered and bruised enough for that to be incredibly difficult to do at this point. I think Back to the Future is the only well that could make me truly angry if they try to go back to it at this point.
I’m just not sure I can see the value in it. Martin Scorsese bashing the MCU is something that people got pretty angry about, but the more I think about what he said, the more I think I agree with him. Cinema isn’t all that cinematic anymore. All these franchises we look back on so fondly are all unique, they have something special about them that is precisely why they’ve stood the test of time. Almost all of these remakes and reboots feel so interchangeable with one another, let alone the movies that they spawn from.
I am not against the idea of bringing back old franchises as a rule, but when they’re starved or the originality, the charm and the vision that made the original movies so iconic in the first place I just can’t help but roll my eyes. It’s possible to bring back old franchises and surprise your audience with a fresh and/or ambitious take on them. Look at Mad Max: Fury Road or Blade Runner: 2049.
It’s just when I can’t tell the difference between this remake and the three other remakes also coming out around the same time I can’t help but get frustrated by the whole thing.