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Can ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Sequel Avoid ‘Last Jedi’-Style Online Backlash?

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at January 1, 1970

Sony has already announced a sequel to Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife back in April during their CinemaCon presentation, but now we know that it’ll open theatrically on Wednesday, December 20, 2023. That puts it right between Warner Bros. Discovery’s Wonka (December 15) and Paramount’s theoretical Star Trek 4 and Disney’s very *theoretical* Star Wars: Rogue Squadron both dated for December 22. Well, next Christmas now has its Greatest Showman/Mary Poppins Returns and its Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle/Bumblebee. I guess either Star Trek 4 or Rogue Squadron get to be the Aquaman/Spider-Man: No Way Home, unless neither film makes the slot and, I don’t know, Disney just dates Avatar 3 a year after Avatar: The Way of Water.

Reitman and Kenan confirmed during this month’s “Ghostbusters Day” that the sequel would return to New York City and prominently feature the original firehouse location. The untitled film, which probably will not be titled The Last Ghostbuster, will attempt to capitalize on the obvious commercial success ($204 million on a $75 million budget on a Covid curve is good enough) and hope that A) audiences weren’t just curious the first time and B) the filmmakers can thread what seems to be a very Last Jedi­-like needle. I will assume the core actors (Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and Finn Wolfhard) will return alongside Ernie Hudson and presumably Dan Aykroyd (since he’s a true believer in the franchise and the supernatural).

I’m guessing Bill Murray won’t do more than a cameo, because the only thing more painful than watching Murray roll his eyes through his Ghostbusters: Answer the Call cameo was watching him hold his nose during the Afterlife climax. Harold Ramis died in 2014, but that didn’t stop Spangler from showing up from “beyond the grave,” although I’d hope that all parties know you can only get away with that once. More challenging will be how to make a sequel that centers on the new cast (since, yes, the film was a hit both because the fans liked it and because it played to newbies or agnostics like a decent kid-centric fantasy adventure) and takes the, uh, mythology, in new directions without dealing with fan backlash.

To be fair, since The Last Jedi earned rave reviews, an A from Cinemascore and $1.333 billion worldwide, maybe the big challenge will be convincing Sony to ignore whatever online backlash develops. Reitman and Kenan are good filmmakers who surely don’t want to make a sequel that merely goes through the motions once again remaking Ghostbusters (or Ghostbusters II), and I assume they want to make a movie that feels like a “next chapter” in the lives of the Spengler family whatever the hell that means. However, this is an incarnation of Ghostbusters that exists partially because of online backlash, namely the absurd sexist and racist war waged against Paul Feig and Katie Dippold’s Ghostbusters back in 2016.

That film cost $144 million (even if the money is on the screen), but it was only a flop because overseas audiences didn’t care. Answer the Call earned $126 million domestic and $229 million worldwide while Afterlife earned $128 million/$204 million. It’s impossible not to view Ghostbusters: Afterlife (which worked as a movie) as a response to the outcry and an example of giving some uncool fans exactly what they wanted. Now the film is a hit and we’re getting a sequel. Will it be a reprise of Star Wars where “fans” are okay with a young female lead when she was anchored and approved by original franchise characters only to revolt when the sequel questions the dogma and puts her on her own path?

We’ll find out when Ghostbusters 4 (or whatever) opens theatrically on December 20, 2023. And in a world where every fandom has become a cross between a sports fanbase and a cult, and every property has fractured fanbases consisting of people with often-conflicting ideas of what the IP should represent, well, we may be doomed to perpetual pop culture civil war for the immediate future. Unless, of course, Hollywood finally realizes that the loud vocal minorities on “both sides” (right-wing YouTube backlash didn’t stop Captain Marvel from earning $1.128 billion than leftist Film Twitter stopped Bohemian Rhapsody from earning $905 million) are just that. Most general audiences want a new movie or show within a familiar package. As always, we’ll see.


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