Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire has no chill

I’m not sure there’s a cinematic franchise that has the degree of difficulty that GHOSTBUSTERS has in emerging from the original’s shadow and finding its own feet. GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, although entertaining, seemed resigned to not only dwell in the shadow of its forebear but actually revelled in it. It did, though, at least seem to want to draw a line under things at the end and, having paid heartfelt tribute to the past seemed ready to pitch a more future-facing attitude to the film which would succeed it. GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE kind of fumbles the catch, making some smart moves to expand and secure the future of the franchise while still being too reliant on increasingly cheap and clumsy callbacks for fear of alienating the faithful.

Now based out of the famous Manhattan Firehouse, the Spenglers – Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) – along with Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) are operating as a new Ghosbusters team, tackling the occasional hauntings which have, for some unspecificied reason, resumed plaguing New York. But when Ray (Dan Aykroyd) comes into possession of a mysterious brass sphere, the sinister spectre inside unleashes a frosty force of chaos that will take all the Ghostbusters – old and new – to deal with. Who ya gonna call? Everyone!

In many ways GHSOTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE is reminiscent of a lot of follow-ups to recent legacy sequels which have resurrected dormant franchises. Firstly there’s a slightly overstaffed main cast as the producers find ways to contrive including unanticipated fan favourites (Podcast (Logan Kim), Lucky (Celeste O’Connor)) alongside deadweight obligations (Carrie Coon and, I’m sorry, Finn Wolfhard) while bringing in even more new faces – Patton Oswalt, Kumail Nanjiani and for some reason James Acaster and wheeling out the old guard of Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson and Potts once again. This time round, even William Atherton returns as the odious Walter Peck, now Mayor of New York, to participate in a gratuitously unnessarary and narratively inconsequential reprise of his original quest to shut down the Ghostbusters for good. Perhaps we should just be grateful the bad guy this time round wasn’t just Vigo The Carpathian 2.0?

Perhaps the biggest – and most metatextual – callback GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE makes is in how much it skews the cinematic franchise to align with its second most successful incarnation: the animated REAL GHOSBUSTERS series that ran for five years between 1986 to 1991. This is the movie which firmly moves Ghosbusters from snarky horror comedy to kid-friendly family adventure and while its by no means a bad move, you can’t help but feel it loses a little of its soul in the process. The cartoonisation is perhaps best epitomised by the unlikely and unexplained reappearance of the mini Staypuft marshallow men. Given Gozer was dealt with once and for all, there’s zero diegetic reason for them to exist in the film, yet there they are, a Minion-isation of a franchise icon.  The other echo of REAL GHOSTBUSTERS is that FROZEN EMPIRE feels like it would have worked much better as an episodic TV series. If Sony had its own streaming network, perhaps that’s where it would have landed.

A longer form TV series would have relieved the over-stuffed narrative, which is bursting at the seams in a manner reminiscent of the overburdened host containment unit in the firehouse basement. Alongside the looming thereat from pre-Sumerian ice god Garraka, GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN KINGDOM tries to cover blended family drama, the expansion of the Ghostbusters organisation itself and a coming of age story which feels very much like it had studio notes applied to all but excise the queer subtext, leaving some of the character motivations seem contrived, actions arbitrary, and all of the story elements feeling short-changed and underdeveloped.

The introduction of a new Ghostbusters Headquarters – apart from catastrophically undermining the whole “close down the firestation” reprise and rendering it dramatically irrelevant – isn’t just about a new location, it serves as a metaphor for ambitions of future franchise expansions. While it’s clear the torch is being – not subtly it has to be said – passed to a new generation, if it’s to really lead the way, GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN KINGDOM needed to be less reliant on Easter Eggs, nostalgic homages and recycled dialogue than its predecessor. Unfortunately, it’s anything but.

There’s such a nagging lack of confidence that FROZEN KINGDOM can stand on its own two feet rather than prop itself up with callbacks (such as someone getting slimed by Slimer. Twice. Neither time Bill Murray) and references. It’s a problem that GHOSTBUSTERS will have to solve if it’s really going to be able to escape the ghost trap of its own past.

ghostbusters frozen empire review
Score 7/10
logo

Related posts

Scream (2022) Review

Scream (2022) Review

This new Scream barely counts as a whisper“What’s your favourite scary movie?” goes the traditional question. If you’ve got any sense, it won’t be SCREAM (2022), a woeful waste of time that likely has Wes Craven spinning in his grave.Twenty-five years after the original...

The Suicide Squad finally finds itself, under the Gunn

The Suicide Squad finally finds itself, under the Gunn

Sometimes you come into a sequel standing on the shoulders of giants. Think Richard Lester’s SUPERMAN II or James Cameron’s ALIENS. With THE SUICIDE SQUAD, James Gunn finds himself in the unenviable position of standing in the hole dug by the previous – bafflingly Oscar-winning – film...

Spoof: Based On A True Movie (2017) turns out to be a diamond in the VoD rough.

Spoof: Based On A True Movie (2017) turns out to be a diamond in the VoD rough.

Once in a while, down in the depths of Netflix or Amazon Prime, you come across something so odd looking, it would be a dereliction of duty not to watch it. Or maybe that’s just me? In any event, it happened to me today while browsing for something to watch on Amazon Prime, I came across...

Monster House (2006) #MonthOfSpooks Review

Monster House (2006) #MonthOfSpooks Review

A family-friendly horror movie seems like an oxymoron, but it’s exactly what 2006’s “Monster House” is. It has all the hallmarks and ingredients you’d expect from a really good haunted house movie, it's structured exactly the way a 'real' horror movie would be, except you can watch it with your...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.