“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” isn’t quite a sequel to the first two films, it isn’t a crossover with other film franchises, it isn’t even about ghosts.
Rather, the opening segment of a new Netflix series revisits a number of familiar characters and places, but hones in on a young girl whose life is directly impacted by the events of the first two films.
Her name is Katie (Amy Schumer), and she is summoned by the Ghostbusters to restore order to the future after a man in a ghost suit invades New York. Katie, played by African-American actress Billie Harron, is the daughter of Jillian Holtzmann (Leslie Jones), the heroine of the first two films, and she’s a beacon of hope to a dystopian New York. Katie wears the same signature hat, hatchet and shield as her equally snarky father, so she’s made to think like him, but her own life (and her emotions) have been changed by the events of the first two films.
Amy Schumer, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth star in the revival of “Ghostbusters.” (Comedy Central)
Schumer has said that she decided to direct the opening episode because she felt the first two films were not as strong as they could have been. “I was like, ‘We need to do a hard, serious episode where we tell a story that makes sense. That has some stakes,’ ” she said. The episodes are slated to be streamed every Friday on Netflix, along with the rest of the series.
Katie isn’t just a gateway character to other films, although that is certainly part of the appeal. The series doesn’t pull any punches, but Katie is also deeply affected by her experience, with Holtzmann sharing with her the experience of losing her mother in a horrific accident — another facet of the healing of the series and of the events of the first two films.
Watch the first five minutes of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” (Netflix)
“We knew that Katie’s experience would be different than the experiences of previous cast members, and that’s kind of where the idea of including different female perspective came from,” said series creator Paul Feig, who originally was not going to be involved with the upcoming series but later became involved and lobbied hard for Schumer to direct the opening episode.
“If you look at the original ‘Ghostbusters,’ the thing I think most women appreciated about it was the idea that they could be strong, smart women,” Feig said. “The idea of Katie’s journey being unique is just how I would relate to it. …
“I’m a woman of color, and I look at Kat’s journey and go, ‘Wow, that’s incredible. You did that not because you had to, but because you’re a soul who just wants to feel good.’ We’re not about women saving the world; women are here to help each other, because that’s what friendships are.”
From the start, the series has felt deeply personal to Feig, an appealingly indie-style director who is known for his riffs on classic genres — a-ha’s “Take On Me” features the 1984 “Ghostbusters” in the background — but very much an original brand, rather than the kind of nostalgia-drenched Disneyfied reboot that many Hollywood writers think of when they hear the word “revival.”
Tribeca, which premiered the series at a screening May 25, called the opening episode “warm, fun and sweet.”
“Ghostbusters” stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones return in their roles for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” (Netflix)