Gorgeous New ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Posters Point To A Marketing Conundrum

Sony dropped two new theatrical posters, pretty damn lovely ones I’d argue, for Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. They are essentially in front-of and behind the same core image with some slight differences in terms of character placement. They highlight our main cast (save for the mom played by Carrie Coon) looking up at an apocalyptic light beam straight out of your favorite 2016 blockbusters. What’s… interesting is that while the film’s protagonist is supposed to be Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), the posters place her in the background while (especially in the face-forward poster) giving front-row attention to Paul Rudd (as Mr. Grooberson, a local teacher) and Finn Wolfhard (Trevor, Phoebe’s brother) while giving the Stranger Things star the Ghostbusters uniform.

Is that a fair criticism of a piece of marketing material that A) may not represent the film and B) may be followed by additional posters that highlight Grace, Coon and both Logan Kim (as a character named “Podcast”) and Celeste O’Connor’s “Lucky”? Nope. It’s especially unfair considering how badly the film seems to want to be The Force Awakens, but with Ghostbusters. If you recall, Star Wars 7 was sold as if the notion of Daisy Ridley’s Rey becoming “the one” was a huge plot twist. It worked great for post-debut legs (it earned $937 million from a $248 million debut), even if it caused some long-term consternation for audiences who thought John Boyega’s Finn was going to be the Jedi hero.

It does stand out considering the awkward history of the last Ghostbusters movie. Paul Feig’s female-led reboot was released under a two-year-long firestorm of online controversy for the mere notion that A) this wasn’t the in-cannon Ghostbusters 3 that fans wanted and B) Feig had the gall to cast Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon as the title ghost-catchers. The film received mixed reviews (the extended cut is actually a lot better than the theatrical version, but, as with Batman v Superman, we can only review the version we get) and earned “just” $128.35 million domestic (the biggest-grossing straight-up comedy of the year unless you count Deadpool) and $229 million worldwide.

Alas, the film cost $144 million, so it was a financial whiff, and its commercial failure (more about budget and overseas disinterest in a distinctly American IP) as a metaphorical blow for the kind of folks who make YouTube videos arguing that Hollywood is going too “woke” by daring to cast “not a white guy” actors in their favorite franchises. And while Jason Reitman is the man who directed several Diablo Cody gems (Juno, Young Adult and Tully are terrific), the mere existence of this “for the fans” Ghostbusters 3 can’t help but feel like a kind of affirmation for those who declared holy war on Answer the Call five years ago. Again, not fair, but c’est la vie.

It’s less a “moral sin” and more arguably an example of “not reading the room” or perhaps subtly very much “reading the room.” After all, Hollywood gets a message when Birds of Prey flops while Joker made $1 billion worldwide, or when Widows bombs but Bohemian Rhapsody earns $905 million worldwide. That’s a big reason I tend to beg folks to “vote with their wallet,” at least if they really want the kind of films in theaters that they claim to want in theaters. For that matter, when we ignore films like All the Money in the World, Roman Israel, Esq., Tully and The Front Runner, what we get is a Jason Reitman-directed “legacy sequel” to Ghostbusters.

All of that said, I’ve heard good things from folks who saw it at CinemaCon last month. The director of Young Adult and the screenwriter of Monster House (Gil Kenan) have my benefit of the doubt, and it does ironically feel like more of an old-school “movie movie” by virtue of pouring Ghostbusters into a Stranger Things/Super 8 mug. Triple irony, presuming it cost closer to $95 million than $145 million, it would actually qualify as a minor hit if it “only” earned the same $128 million domestic/$229 million worldwide cume as the previous Ghostbusters, let alone such a total being judged on a Covid curve. Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens November 19, 2021.

The Tycoon Herald