Why Making a Ghostbusters Sequel Is So Hard and How Afterlife Sets Up the Future

Ghostbusters: Afterlife director Jason Reitman talks to io9 about the alchemy of the franchise and what's next.

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Ghostbuster: Afterlife's Ecto 1 vehicle from front on, driving in front of a radio controlled ghost trap
The past and the future come together in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Image: Sony Pictures

Ask 100 people why they love Ghostbusters and you’re likely to get 100 different answers—it’s part of the reason why returning to that world has always been so complicated. No one knows that better than Jason Reitman, the co-writer and director of the new film Ghostbusters: Afterlife. “The real question is what is the essence of what a Ghostbusters film is? And it’s a very complicated question to answer and clearly something that Gil [Kenan, co-writer] and I have been discussing ever since we started to tiptoe in this direction,” Reitman told io9.

“For some people, a Ghostbusters movie is a Bill Murray movie, and that’s just kind of it,” he said. “And then for other people, a Ghostbusters movie is a Slimer movie, and that’s just it. And for other people, it’s the type of comedy that Harold Ramis was famous for writing. And then for others, it’s that pure, joyful, childlike passion that Dan Aykroyd brought.” It’s true that Ghostbusters means different things to different people and when Reitman—who also happens to be the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman—spoke to io9 last month about how that adds to the near-impossible task of resurrecting the beloved franchise, he made it abundantly clear these are issues he’s thought about a lot.


“If you were a certain age when the original came out, you think it’s the funniest film of all time. If you’re a different age you think it’s the scariest film you’ve ever seen and it broadens from there,” he told us. “Because Ghostbusters is also about simultaneously embracing the supernatural and everything unknown, but approaching it with engineering, science, and fact-based reasoning. It’s always been about these complex ideas that are at odds with each other.” That meant Reitman and Kenan had to come up with one story that brought all of those complex and at-odds ideas together in a way that, hopefully, audiences found pleasing.

Jason Reitman behind the door of ecto 1
Jason Reitman on the set of Afterlife.
Image: Sony Pictures

“It is a complicated endeavor to take on this franchise, which means so many different things to different people,” Reitman said. “As a result, we are trying to address the desires and needs of every type of person who is going to see this film—and at the same time, try to just have a good time. Try to come at it with just joy all the time and involve the people that we love working with. The result is a movie in which you have this family on a new adventure that is attempting to link to everything you already love or know about Ghostbusters, no matter how casual or deep a fan you are.”

Which sounds like a lot, right? But Reitman also told us that, with Afterlife, he’s attempting to not only cater to fans of all types while linking multiple generations, but also set the table for the future of the franchise. It’s something he believes Paul Feig, the director of the 2016 film, did for him. “I thought the 2016 movie was extraordinarily brave, inventive, and really laid the groundwork so that I can make this movie,” Reitman said. “Paul Feig did the heavy lifting of broadening the concept of what a Ghostbusters movie could be.”

A camera crane and the Ecto 1
Filming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Image: Sony Pictures

But here’s where Reitman inspires writers everywhere to go wild with the idea of Ghostbusters. “One thing I wanted to do is set the table for Ghostbusters as a franchise to have all kinds of movies,” he said. “I want to see all those movies. And we need to do something that really was about setting a foundation and bringing the original 1984 story to a place so that other stories could bloom. I want to see the scary movies, the funny films. I want to see movies involving the original cast. I want to see more movies involving people we haven’t even seen yet. I want to go to new dimensions. I want to go to other cultures and countries. There’s so many places for Ghostbusters to go. The question is, what’s the starting place? And that’s what Afterlife is about. It’s about these generations making amends with each other in a way that brings one story to close and starts another one.”


We’ll have much more from Reitman, co-writer Gil Kenan, and more in the coming days. Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens in theaters only November 19.

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