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This article contains Ghostbusters: Afterlife spoilers. Read our spoiler-free review here.
Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very much a film of two minds: it is a love letter to the past and his father’s work, and it’s also an attempt to strike out and be its own thing. The movie both basks in the nostalgia we associate with “legacy sequels” while also attempting to create a new generation of heroes who look decidedly nothing like Stantz, Venkman, or Zeddemore—although Spengler’s spirit is pretty well captured by the pint-sized Mckenna Grace.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the film’s two post-credits scenes are of similarly divided interests. One is a sweet nod (and presumable sendoff) to Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman and a briefly returning Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett, and the other sets the table for an entire shared Ghostbusters universe. Below we unpack both scenes and what writer-director Reitman tells us they each mean to him.
Peter and Dana Play Cards
The first post-credits scene is the more amusing of the two. A real easter egg for fans of the original film, it’s not so much about laying the groundwork for future sequels as bringing closure to Pete Venkman and his surprisingly still happy relationship with Dana Barrett. This unlikely couple met under extreme circumstances in the original 1984 Ghostbusters—after their first date she turned into a dog—and were perhaps not so surprisingly broken up when we picked up with them five years later in Ghostbusters II (1989).
It seems their second go stuck though since now in their golden years, Peter and Dana are cozy in a New York City apartment, pulling out Venkman’s old electroshock gizmo while Dana is now the one at the controls and with the cards, testing Peter’s precognition. Surprisingly, Venkman is able to display seemingly psychic abilities and read each card—the old familiar three wavy lines, the five-pointed star, and more—but after a few shocks admits that he’s marked the back of each card. He also admits that he used to only shock the guys while leaving the co-eds alone during his days as a college professor. Such a skeevy admission in 2021 standards is worthy of another shock from Dana.
It’s a funny scene that has typical Murray riffing. Indeed, when we spoke with Reitman about the sequence, he revealed it was the only scene in the movie he wound up regretting trying to write dialogue for.
“We had a script for that scene. Apparently the script was unnecessary,” Reitman laughs. “Bill came into the movie with his own ideas, and they were brilliant. I had grown up hearing the stories of Bill improvising [and] watching him do it live on-set. So it was a thrill to watch him in real-time deliver dialogue that was far superior to anything I could’ve come up with in the couple of years of writing this movie.”
Reitman adds, “His brain crackles in a different way, and his voice is authentically his and has been so since we first met him.”
And if this is the last time we see Murray as Venkman and Weaver as Barrett, it’s a sweet sendoff for the pair.
Winston Zeddemore Builds Back Better
Surprisingly, neither post-credits scene in Ghostbusters: Afterlife is about the film’s main characters who led the first 105 minutes of this two-hour flick. After the young Spengler family of Callie (Carrie Coon), Phoebe (Grace), and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) get closure about their roots, the final moments of the film pivot to the three living original Ghostbusters… and the new world they might be building.
Hence the last scene before the credits is Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore finally driving the Ecto-1 back to its home in New York City. And the second post-credits scene would appear to tease it becoming part of a bigger universe.
The final sequence begins with a scrap of deleted footage from the 1984 movie of Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) giving Egon (Harold Ramis) a souvenir medallion from the 1964 World’s Fair. This occurred as Egon and the guys were going off to fight Gozer at the top of Central Park West. We then cut to the present, and Janine is holding the other medallion she mentioned having, clearly still thinking of the good Doctor Spengler.
She’s now in Winston’s high-rise. Ray wasn’t kidding when he said earlier in the picture that Winston had done very well for himself. Janine’s there now to reminisce about the past with her former colleague who also still looks back at his time in the Ghostbusters jumpsuit as the most fun he ever had. He also reveals that he’s been paying the rent for Ray’s dubious Occult Books shop in the Lower East Side for decades and that he may have wrestled out the old firehouse from the Tribeca Starbucks which replaced it.
In the final scene, we see Winston walking through the ruins of the firehouse and presumably thinking about a new future for the place. He’s also oblivious that the ghost containment unit is still on in the basement and looks to be holding something. Could it be Slimer?
Reitman has not been shy at noting in the press that he hopes Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the beginning of a whole new era for the franchise where a greater variety of stories can be told. Nonetheless, we feel like this is setting up a story about Winston spearheading a corporatized version of the Ghostbusters that would open the door to more adventures in New York, and with at least Hudson as the head honcho.
When we pose the idea to Reitman, the filmmaker becomes cagey about specifics. However, he does note that in their discussions about where we find Winston 30 years later, he’s a bit like this franchise’s Tony Stark. Further he admires what Marvel has done at letting different types of filmmakers tell different stories in their sandbox, and hopes his own wild spin, with the Ghostbusters being kids out in the American heartland in Afterlife, has paved the way for other filmmakers to take even wilder swings with the material.
“Every culture has its own relationship with ghosts, and I want to see those movies from some of my favorite filmmakers,” Reitman says. He later adds, “There are far more talented directors than me. I’m not trying to be humble here. There’s just brilliant filmmakers out there, particularly ones who made and are making big tentpole movies, but also ones I admire from the indie world, and I’d love to see them all working in this genre.”
Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s second post-credits scene paves the way for making that happen.