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New Escapist Column! On Squaring the Circle with Nostalgic Sequels Like “The Rise of Skywalker” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the larger trend of the modern nostalgia sequels, and the paradoxes at play within the genre.

By their very nature, belated sequels like Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens require the heroes to have left something unfinished or undone for years or even decades. Often, this involves forcing the heroes’ children to effectively grapple with the exact same problem that haunted their parents. There’s a recurring theme of generational failure running through these stories, a sense that the failure of these older heroes to wrap up their own stories exists at odds with the nostalgia that powers such stories.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Ghostbusters – Afterlife

In the final act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, young Phoebe has a sudden realisation about the farm that her family has inherited from her eccentric grandfather. “This isn’t a farm,” she boasts. “It’s a trap.”

She could just as easily be talking about the film itself. Afterlife is a belated sequel to the original Ghostbusters, consigning Ghostbusters II to a weird continuity limbo where Ray still owns an occult bookstore but there’s no way that that the film’s climax could have happened. The film follows the family of Egon Spengler, his estranged daughter and her two grandchildren, who take ownership of his farm shortly after his death. Inevitably, the family unit learns that the eccentric patriarch who abandoned them in the middle of the night with no explanation really did love them all along.

Blast from the past.

Afterlife is suffocated in a reverential nostalgia that treats the original Ghostbusters as a fetish object. Sure, a casual audience member might watch Ghostbusters as an irreverent mid-eighties comedy that was cleverly skewing Reagan era values, but Afterlife instead sees an earnest classic of American cinema that deserves to be venerated and celebrated as a monument of popular culture. Much like Ivo Shandor erected the skyscraper at 55 Central Park West as a tribute to the Cult of Gozer, Afterlife has been erected as a monument to the cult of Ghostbusters.

It’s telling that the movie’s subtitle is “Afterlife” rather than “Resurrection.” This is not a movie about breathing new life into an existing property. It’s not about finding anything new or interesting to do with these characters or concepts. Instead, it’s about finding a way to tap into the audience’s desire for Ghostbusters nostlagia as a way to wring a few more dollars. In its own way, Afterlife is as cynical as Peter Venkeman in the original Ghostbusters, but at least Venkeman had the decency not to disguise his ruthless pragmatism as earnest sentiment.

Kidding around.

Afterlife is a nightmare coloured in shades of sepia-tinted nostalgia. It is a story about how the best that children can ever hope to accomplish is to emulate their forebearers, foresaking any identity of their own as they grapple with problems that their grandparents singularly failed to resolve. It is a story about how even death is not enough to remove a respected actor and writer from his obligations to a piece of intellectual property, and a reminder of how easily the dead can be animated to serve the demands of the living.

In the world of Afterlife, the dead exist to satisfy the living. This isn’t nostalgia, it is necrophilia.

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New Escapist Column! On “Ghostbusters”, and How Irreverence Became a Source of Reverence…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife this weekend, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the original Ghostbusters.

The original Ghostbusters was a wry and cynical movie about three academics who find themselves forced to work in the public sector, and so start a business busting ghosts in a run-down and decaying New York City. The film was very self-aware and very glib, essentially built around the idea that three men who would be con artists in any other situation were able to come out on top in eighties America. However, in the years since, Ghostbusters has become an institution. What was once irreverent is now venerated, without any of the self-awareness that made the first film so compelling.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a Lifeless Franchise Resurrection”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which will release in theatres next weekend.