Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) poster

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)

Rating:


USA. 2024.

Crew

Director – Gil Kenan, Screenplay – Gil Kenan & Jason Reitman, Producers – Jason Blumenfeld, Ivan Reitman & Jason Reitman, Photography – Eric Steelberg, Music – Dario Marianelli, Visual Effects Supervisor – Geoffrey Baumann, Visual Effects Animation Supervisor – Troy Saliba, Visual Effects – Barnstorm (Supervisor – Chun Seong Ng), DNeg (Supervisor – Axel Bonami & Ferran Domenech), Sony Pictures Imageworks (Supervisor – Jason Greenblum, Animation Supervisor – Craig McPherson) & Territory Studio (Supervisor – Sam Keehan), Special Effects Supervisor – John Van Der Pool, Makeup & Animatronic Creature Effects – Arjen Tuiten, Production Design – Eve Stewart. Production Company – Ghost Corps Productions.

Cast

Paul Rudd (Gary Grooberson), Carrie Coon (Callie Spengler), McKenna Grace (Phoebe Spengler), Finn Wolfhard (Trevor Spengler), Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Kameel Nanjiani (Nadeem Razmaadi), Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venkman), Emily Alyn Lind (Melody), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), Patton Oswalt (Dr Hubert Wartzki), Logan Kim (Podcast), Celeste O’Connor (Lucky Domingo), James Acaster (Lars Pinfield), Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), William Atherton (Mayor Walter Peck)


Plot

Gary Grooberson and Callie Spengler have moved to New York City to take over the firehouse building where they operate Ghostbusters along with Callie’s children Trevor and Phoebe. After a ghostbusting incident causes damage in the streets, they are hauled in and reprimanded by Walter Peck, the Ghostbusters old nemesis now the city mayor, where Phoebe is ordered to stop working because she is a minor. Left on her own, Phoebe befriends the ghost girl Melody. They discover that the ecto-containment unit at the firehouse is straining because it is nearing full capacity. Winston Zeddemore shows them an upgraded ghost storage facility he has had built. Meanwhile, Nadeem Razmaadi sells an orb to Ray Stantz that they discover imprisons Garraka, a powerful deity. However, Melody has been sent to trick Phoebe into uttering the spell that will release Garraka on New York City.


The original Ghostbusters (1984) holds an indisputable place in pop culture history, even if I am someone who feels “meh” about it. Director Ivan Reitman and the cast returned for a sequel Ghostbusters II (1989), which was poorly regarded and seemed to kill the franchise. Between the sequels there was the animated series The Real Ghostbusters (1986-91). Then came the all-female remake Ghostbusters (2016), which was much disliked by fans of the original. The series underwent a reboot with Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) made by Ivan Reitman’s son Jason, which introduced a new team as well as brought back most of the surviving original cast, and was a better received revival.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire comes from Gil Kenan who co-wrote Afterlife with Jason. Kenan has directed at least a couple of quite good films – his debut, the delightful motion-captured animated Monster House (2006) and the fine Young Adult film City of Ember (2008), which also featured Bill Murray. More recently, Kenan made the much disliked remake of Poltergeist (2015) and A Boy Called Christmas (2021),

Frozen Empire is a direct sequel to Afterlife. It brings back all the characters introduced in Afterlife and all the surviving characters from the original films (with the exception of Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis). However, this is done in often awkward ways where it feels like characters are being boiler-plated onto a story where they don’t organically belong. Annie Potts’s Janine just turns up and hangs around as a ghostbuster without any real purpose being there. A 74 year-old William Atherton, the hardass bureaucrat from the first film, is brought back to do essentially the same, but is looking fairly long in the tooth as the mayor of New York City, still trying to shut the ghostbusters down. Even characters from the previous film return because the sequel seems to feel obligated to include them and so has to contrive reasons for putting them in – Logan Kim’s Podcast, a classmate of Phoebe in Afterlife, turns up having moved into Dan Aykroyd’s occult store, while Celeste O’Connor’s Lucky has now become an employee of Ernie Hudson.

Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)
Classic Ghostbusters back in action – (l to r) Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Bill Murray

Just like Afterlife, Frozen Empire plays the same homage and nostalgia game. Much of the action is relocated at the firehouse – there is even a montage clip of scenes from the first film and the Ray Parker Jr videoclip for the title song. Cute miniature versions of the Stay Puft man run around again – and even have an end credits scene – solely because they are part of the franchise. There is a whole subplot about Finn Wolfhard dealing with the Slimer ghost that now inhabits the attic at the firehouse, plus a revisit to the New York Public Library where we get a reappearance of the ghost between the bookshelves and one of the stone lions gets to come to life again. The film is dedicated to Ivan Reitman who still gets a producer credit despite passing away in 2022. Paul Rudd even gets a scene where he peruses a dvd of Ivan Reitman’ first directorial outing Cannibal Girls (1973), which was also listed on billboard of the abandoned theatre in the town in Afterlife.

Frozen Empire can be considered the Ghostbusters II of the revival series. Both films haves this awkward feel of not really being a story so much as a patchwork quilt designed to offer more of the same and cram the sprawling cast of characters back in. Everyone gets to come on and do their own thing and get some screen time. I liked the scenes between McKenna Grace, who is one of the strengths of both Afterlife and Frozen Empire, and ghost girl Emily Alyn Lind but that has a twist betrayal and redemption that plays out with a story arc that is tedious in its predictability.

The climax of the film is a rehash of the 1984 film with another deity reawakened and threatening New York City and the ghostbusters having to spout a bunch of techno-babble and wield flashing energy lights to defeat it. You cannot help but feel that the threat here is decidedly underwhelming. The big bad demon’s thing when unleashed is that it … freezes everything. (Not to mention that the subtitle Frozen Empire left me mentally confusing this with the frozen kingdom that turned up in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) three months earlier, which had a not dissimilar plot about an ancient evil deity reawakened, and kept calling it Ghostbusters: Frozen Kingdom). And the last minute defence pulled out of nowhere is … redeploying the brass fittings around the firehouse, someone who has fitful ability to bend flames and a box of matches provided by the ghost. When Bill Murray turns up at the last minute to join the ensemble and does the good old Bill Murray delivey filled with sarcastic one-liners he only illustrates just how much Frozen Empire is lacking by comparison.


Trailer here


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