When fan service goes too far: A formal complaint towards Ghostbusters: Afterlife




Despite what the title might say, I don’t turn my nose up to a bit of fan service in the movies I watch. There are reboots and remakes that pay homage to their predecessors in efficient and respectable ways. I found the reintroduction of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far From Home very enjoyable without hindering the movie at all. Of course, there exists an opposite end of the spectrum, where movies don’t include fan service as an actual service to the fans, but instead use it as a crutch to stumble its way through its own runtime. 

This is where I now draw my attention to Ghostbusters: Afterlife. While watching, I was of course bombarded by each and every forced reference (with the most egregious being the “who you gonna call?” line spoken by the police chief to Phoebe asking for her one phone call from jail), but that’s not what I’m focused on. I want to talk about how this formula for cheap nostalgia has changed some areas of the film industry. While the new Ghostbusters relies on fan service for quality, it also relies on the plot of the original movie, even reusing the same villain, the demon Gozer. It was surprising the lengths the filmmakers went to attempt a copy and paste of the original Ghostbusters, but that complete recycling of content somehow wasn’t a new concept to me. 

In a comparison as close as some can get, the new Star Wars trilogy is a very recent example of this exact phenomenon, where it’s not just the props and characters that are reminiscent of previous movies, but the story itself. In The Force Awakens, our heroes must destroy a superweapon the size of a celestial body while evading a man in a black mask, with an eventual hero blowing up the space station. It’s not in the same movie, but it is later in the series where the villain of the original trilogy is somehow back to instigate even more evil. 

It’s abnormal that there’s even one instance of this I can name off the top of my head, but to have a second one laid out in front of me is quite frankly absurd. Again, I am not a hater of nostalgia, and when used correctly, can be very rewarding for both the people involved with the movie and the people watching it. It’s just films like Ghostbusters: Afterlife that don’t understand how to differentiate from an audience reaction and genuine quality.