Ghostbusters: Afterlife might be one of the most highly anticipated sequels of the last decade, and it finally arrives on cinema screens after what seems like an interminable gestation process.

Ever since the release of Ghostbusters II in 1989, the film’s writer and star, Dan Aykroyd, has been teasing a third instalment. He has “revealed” its development more times than you can vertically stack books, and at one point he was pitching it as “Ghostbusters Go to Hell”.

Fans soon grew weary of the pie-crust promises, especially after original director Ivan Reitman made his film Evolution in 2000 and called it a Ghostbusters successor. Of course when a third film finally did arrive, it was in the form of a gender-switched remake, which polarised and ultimately disappointed legions of long-serving fans.

Now, finally, after 32 years, the official third instalment and direct sequel to the first two films has arrived, and it’s more wonderful than we could have ever hoped for.

The story begins in a rural area of middle America with a character racing against time in a beat-up old utility truck. He is pursued by ghosts and he is Egon Spengler, the former Ghostbuster who now resides on a dusty old fam in the middle of nowhere.

With this introductory moment, the film’s new director, Jason “Son of Ivan” Reitman, addresses the issue of actor Harold Raimis’s passing by having the character die onscreen and laying the foundation for the new film’s story. It’s a stroke of genius that speaks directly to the viewer’s heart, while facilitating an all-new era for the legacy.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife sees Spengler’s estranged daughter (Carrie Coon) and her two kids arrive at the old farmhouse in hope of an inheritance. Phoebe (McKenna Grace) is a pre-teen with an obsession for science, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her late grandfather, while Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), her gawky teenage brother, is more interested in girls than anything else.

Shortly after arriving at the old house, Phoebe discovers it’s haunted, and upon further investigation she stumbles upon her grandfather’s old Ghostbuster equipment. With the help of her geeky summer school science teacher (Paul Rudd), she sets about finishing what Spengler started.

To reveal more would simply spoil the fun, and boy is this movie fun! It leaps off the screen from the get-go, dishing up a smorgasbord of nostalgia while creating its own distinct atmosphere. The New York City streetscape has been swapped for a rural American dustbowl and the stark contrast of settings immediately sets this chapter apart from the rest. The narrative relies on, and expands, the original film’s story, and the old characters we know and love return in a way that’s credible and not at all tacky.

The new lead players are mostly kids, which gives the franchise a broad appeal – and even though this instalment serves as an entry point for a new generation, its kid-led adventure is reminiscent of some of the best family flicks of the 1980s.

Jason Reitman has said that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a movie about a family made by a family, and that no day on set was without his old man leaning over his shoulder to ensure he was serving the legacy with respect. That connection is palpable, and the Reitman factor is why this sequel works.

And in a true display of respect, Jason cites Paul Feig’s 2016 reboot as a massive source of inspiration for him; not because it failed to resonate with fans, but because it proved that the story did – indeed – require strong female leadership. With that in mind, it’s no coincidence that the character of Phoebe closely resembles Kate McKinnon’s character from the reboot.

McKenna Grace might have been best described as a revelation were it not for her already well-established career in films like Gifted, I, Tonya, Annabelle Comes Home and Malignant. She is a remarkable young actor who has somehow managed to embody the essence of a character whose impact was made decades before she was born.

Meanwhile, Finn Wolfhard offers solid support as the awkward older-brother-cum-Ghostbuster, in a part that’s essentially similar to his roles in Stranger Things and IT, while Carrie Coon (The Leftovers) is serviceable as the mother and connects the kids’ adventure to their grandfather.

Paul Rudd is perhaps the second most valuable player as the über nerdy science geek with a fanboy recollection of that classic 1984 incident in New York City. He’s a Ghostbusters fan in disbelief that today’s kids have no idea who or what Ghostbusters are or were. In some respects he represents the generation of fans who grew up with the original films, and his bewilderment of forgotten icons is shared with those of us who are now just plain old.

Adding to the cast is a new character called Podcast (Logan Kim), a kid who carries recording equipment wherever he goes, always on the hunt for a new story. He’s fantastic as the comical sidekick and turns in a performance that seems years beyond his age.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the Part III we’ve all been hoping for. It delivers as a new movie. It delivers as a proper continuation. And it delivers on nostalgia and sentimentality. It will have you howling with laughter and jumping out of your seat right before tugging at your heartstrings in a profound way. And make sure you stick around during the end credits, where even more is revealed…

In cinemas: January 1, 2022
Starring: Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard
Directed by: Jason Reitman

Ghostbusters at JB Hi-Fi