Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire – Life in Transition

Ghostbusters is going through a transition. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. 

When Jason Reitman first decided to revive his father‘s legacy with the Ghostbusters franchise, the initial outing was enjoyable but drenched in nostalgia. Returning characters, long glances at PKE Meters and Proton Packs and even reusing the original’s final act all added up to a party for fans. Of course, this was understandable (especially considering the backlash from 2016’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call). 

But now, with Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the franchise has begun what is inevitably a more difficult task. Now, it’s time to start telling original stories that resonate with people that gets them excited about the franchise for its own merit. 

Directed by Gil Kenan, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire follows the Spengler family as they step into their family birthright as Ghostbusters. Moving back to the New York City firehouse, they team up with the original team to develop new ways to trap the paranormal and save the world. But, after an ancient artifact unlocks an ancient ghost intent on freezing the city with a ‘death chill’, the team must work together to prevent a second Ice Age.

With Frozen Empire, Kenan brings a story that feels fresh and current. Unlike the brash comedy of the original two films, Frozen Empire carries a tempo and tone more akin to the franchise’s nostalgic cousin, Stranger Things. There is a greater emphasis on the journey of the next generation as they begin to lead. As a result, the film feels like it’s beginning to officially pass the baton from the stars who built the franchise to the ones they hope will carry it in the future.

And I believe it to be the right decision.

Frankly, it is time for us to care more about the newer characters than we do about those from the old days. Wisely, Kenan has placed the emphasis on his new characters as opposed to the legacy ones. Although Ackroyd and Hudson have a greater role in this film than they did in the last, the film remains focused on the Spengler family as they attempt to make sense of their new life. This is a film that wants to pass the baton to the next generation of stars and it does so intentionally.

As a result, the film’s best moments come from its new characters, especially Kumail Nanjiani. As Nadeem Razmaadi, Nanjiani uses his self-deprecating humour to get the best laughs. Whereas most other characters are grappling with other issues, Nanjiani becomes their comic relief, with solid results. 

The film’s biggest (and best) transition is its desire to tell an original story. While the film carries some nostalgic elements such as the return of Slimer and the Firehouse, this is a story that wants to lean into the future. Much like the franchise itself, these characters are also in the midst of transition as they try to find their place in a new world. Now in a new city, their relationships have changed. While they have fully embraced their lives as Ghostbusters, the Spenglers (plus one Grooberson) have not necessarily accepted their roles within themselves. Phoebe is attempting to walk the fine line between youth and adulthood. Gary is attempting to figure out his role in the family. Even Ray Stanz is battling old age as he clings to his former glory. Each of these characters are trying to determine where they fit in a world that doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. 

For a franchise that has catered to its older fans, Frozen Empire is another step towards finding its voice in the modern age. For some, this will seem out of place. After all, the style and tone are extremely different from the original classic. However, Ghostbusters still believes that it has something to say and wants to carve a new place in the pop culture zeitgeist. 

Admittedly, the film is far from perfect. Although all the pieces seem to be in place, the script does feel episodic (and even, forgettable) in moments. What’s more, some jokes fall flat (especially those from its older stars that try to bring an ‘edge’ to the film). But the new characters and an emphasis on character growth show that there’s still juice in these proton accelerators. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is available in theatres on Friday, March 22nd, 2024.

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