This weekend, Ghostbusters: Afterlife hits theaters, the next chapter in the long-running Ghostbusters franchise. Directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, it finally comes to screens after years of development and another year of delay thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a labor of love by Reitman, who got over his hesitance to step into his father’s shoes to tackle his legacy and put his own stamp on it.

Far removed from the streets of New York City, Ghostbusters: Afterlife instead takes place in the middle of nowhere in what appears to be the Midwest. The story revolves around two kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), and their mom, Callie (Carrie Coon), who move to the small town of Summerville in order to start over. But when mysterious earthquakes start shaking the area and strange, paranormal things start occurring around the small town, it’s up to them and their friends, along with their enthusiastic science teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), to uncover the legacy right underneath their noses and save the town.

Some might be a little confused about Ghostbusters: Afterlife where it fits into the Ghostbusters franchise, exactly. Here’s what you need to know about the long-awaited legacy sequel and how it carries the torch of the original movie.

Is It A Sequel To The 2016 Ghostbusters Movie?

While meant to be essentially a franchise reboot, the 2016 Ghostbusters movie underperformed at the box office, despite being far more fun as a movie than its bottom line dollar total indicated. As such, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is operating as though that movie doesn’t exist. Instead, Afterlife functions as a direct sequel to 1989’s Ghostbusters II, albeit a sequel coming over 30 years later. So the exact timeline of the Ghostbusters franchise is Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), with Ghostbusters (2016) a movie we can consider to exist in an offshoot universe.

Does That Mean The Original Ghostbusters Cast Will Be Back?

Indeed, they will! At least, most of those who can return certainly will. Three of the four original Ghostbusters will appear in Afterlife: Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Akroyd), and Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson). Sadly, of course, the late Harold Ramis will not be appearing as Egon Spengler, but the movie works him elegantly into the story. On top of that loyal if acerbic secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) is returning, as is Peter Venkman’s love interest, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), though Rick Moranis will not be returning to reprise the role of nerdy Louis Tully. Also returning are Ghostbusters‘ iconic terror dogs, along with miniature versions of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

How Does Afterlife’s Story Tie Back To The First Ghostbusters?

As mentioned above, though Harold Ramis isn’t in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it’s his late character, Egon Spengler, who sets the events of the movie into motion. When he dies, he leaves his run-down farmhouse, barn, and land to his estranged daughter and grandchildren. As she’s lost her job and they’re completely broke, they pack up and move to his “creepy old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere” in a town called Summerville. It’s ramshackle and rundown – but as Janine mysteriously tells their mom, “Well…I wouldn’t say nothing,” when asked if he left them anything. As they pick through the remnants of their late, eccentric grandfather’s life, the kids start to discover there may be more to him than they first realized. Soon, they uncover an old ghost trap, some proton packs, coveralls, and, under a tarp in the barn, the iconic Ecto-1. When weird things start happening around the town, it’s up to them to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps and stop the ghosts for good. Clearly, both in front of and behind the camera, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a labor of love and a homage to what has come before.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife hits theaters on Friday, November 19.

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