Ghostbusters: The Big Way Afterlife Improves Upon The Original Movie

Paul Rudd and Mckenna Grace staring at a ghost trap in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Warning: SPOILERS for Ghostbusters: Afterlife are in play. If you haven’t seen the latest chapter of this sci-fi comedy legacy, you may want to trap some non-spoiler coverage from here at CinemaBlend. 

After the outpouring of love that fans have sent towards the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it feels like the sci-fi/comedy franchise has been warmly welcomed back. Building a bridge to a new generation of appreciation, co-writer/director Jason Reitman’s entry into his father Ivan’s canon has checked some very important boxes. Perhaps its greatest feat is the fact that when you look at Afterlife in a certain light, it actually improves upon the original movie in a big way. 

More specifically, this movie redeems one of the original franchise’s characters thanks to new developments. Which means it’s time for those of you who haven’t seen the latest Ghostbusters movie to back out should you want to avoid spoilers. If you’ve seen the movie, or you just can’t wait to learn about what’s about to be discussed, then it’s time to go over some pretty exciting developments. 

The Ghostbusters cast

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

How Did Ghostbusters: Afterlife Improve The Original Movie?

It’s not that 1984’s Ghostbusters is a faulty film, especially when you take into account just how well it works despite its intense production. However, there was one piece to the film that was altered drastically at the last minute, and it’s in the role of Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Being massively reduced and rewritten from what was originally intended, Winston’s final form can be summed up in one line: 

... If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.

Out of the four original Ghostbusters, he was the cynic, though he eventually came around to believing and made an impassioned defense to the mayor on behalf of his crew. That development in particular is improved upon in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, with Hudson himself even claiming that Jason Reitman’s efforts made Winston Zeddemore “a complete character.”  We learn that not only has Winston Zeddemore become a financial giant and a family man, but he’s the key to resurrecting the business that died off after ghosts stopped haunting and Egon Spengler ran off to save the world.

Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Winston Zeddemore’s Original Role In Ghostbusters

Die-hard Ghostbusters fans probably saw this coming, but it’s a subject that needs to be discussed in light of just how its legacy-quel has taken the classic ball and ran with it. When Ernie Hudson was originally offered the role of Winston, the character was an Air Force officer, a demolitions expert and a firm believer in the paranormal. Not to mention, as Hudson himself has recounted in the past, Winston was present from page 8 in the original draft; before his entrance was shifted to page 68 of the final draft.

By the time Winston Zeddemore is hired onto the team, we’ve already seen Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) bond together through “establishing the indispensable defense science of the next decade.” Winston still gets some choice moments, like the scene where he and Ray discuss how biblical scripture applies to the presumed apocalypse that’s presenting itself. Still, it's not enough to override the fact that Winston Zeddemore felt more like an afterthought in the final form of the film, despite Ernie Hudson absolutely owning the role and making a memorable character out of it. 

The Ghostbusters cast

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Why Ernie Hudson’s Role Changed So Drastically

There are two factors that seem to go hand in hand when it comes to Winston Zeddemore’s role being changed so drastically. One such moment was the time when, according to an interview with Parade, Eddie Murphy turned down the role in order to make Beverly Hills Cop, rather than reteam with his Trading Places co-star Dan Aykroyd. You can’t blame the man for leaping onto a career making hit, but that choice apparently led to Mr. Zeddemore being re-written.

Which leads to the second star powered influence that saw Ernie Hudson’s part reduced. Without Murphy in the mix, Bill Murray was the largest comedy star in the lineup, especially after working with Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman on 1981’s smash hit Stripes. Naturally the core trio of Ghostbusters were given more prominent roles, with Winston being reworked into a smaller context at the last minute; a fact that is now neutralized by Ernie Hudson’s newfound importance in the franchise hierarchy. 

Ernie Hudson stands heroically, covered in marshmallow in Ghostbusters.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

The Reasons Winston Zeddemore Is Now The Most Important Ghostbuster

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is absolutely focused on the younger generation of budding paranormal experts, so it’s not like Winston became the lead of the story out of nowhere. However, once Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace), her brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and their ghostbusting friends find themselves in a bind, the original, surviving busters step in to save the day. Though this particular entry dealt heavily with Egon Spengler and his unfinished business, the post-credits scene establishes Winston Zeddemore as the most important Ghostbuster to the future of the series.

Now a shrewd businessman who’s been properly reunited with his friends, Winston’s status as a true believer is a redemption of past plot developments. What’s more, he’s enough of a convert that he’s the one starting to set up shop once again in the ending of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. If it wasn’t for Winston, his fortune and that pivotal moment of reuniting with his team, the coming threats in the world of the paranormal just might be a little scarier.

Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Logan Kim stand in front of Ecto-1 in a field in Ghostbusters Afterlife.

(Image credit: Columbia/Ghost Corps)

What This Could Mean For Future Ghostbusters Sequels?

Watching the light on the original Ghostbusters containment unit glow red wasn’t just a sign, it’s a practical stake in the ground for the tent that is potential sequels to this latest box office hit. It’s certainly not too outlandish to start looking into the future of this landmark franchise, especially in light of that success. What’s more, even Ernie Hudson himself has let it be known that Ghostbusters 4 is naturally in the works; so what does this mean for Winston Zeddemore’s role in future sequels?

As the man responsible for funding and resurrecting the Ghostbusters organization, Winston could be the guy running the show from here on out. While the younger Ghostbusters: Afterlife team continues training and growing up, Zeddemore could become someone like James Bond's M to the restored team and any further additions. What’s more, those franchising opportunities that the company had always dreamed of can finally happen in the cinematic world. At the heart of it all is Mr. Winston Zeddemore, the true believer and entrepreneur who’s ready to believe in the Ghostbusters yet again.

If you’re just read this whole rundown and haven’t seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife just yet, you’re in luck. A lot of the movie is still unspoiled for you, and you can catch it in a theater near you! No matter your status when it comes to the latest spectral spectacular at the movies, you can always head over to the 2021 release schedule and trap your next adventure in theaters!

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.