Film Review- Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire


The second `new` Ghostbusters film opens with a bang before slowing to a crawl and a little while in you realise it is essentially a remake of the 1984 original with more characters. You've got the original Ghostbusters and the new ones plus sundry additions and the result is an enjoyable if crowded production. It seems to fall into a category of movie that is becoming more prevalent of late- the film that is fine but not exceptional. I don't think its as good as Afterlife though it doesn't have that nostalgic kick to propel its finale. On the plus side it looks great, has some exciting sequences and a strong comedic performance though not from who you think it will be from. 

Spoilers after the break


Two years on from the events of Afterlife, the Spenglers are living in the iconic Firehouse in New York courtesy of Winston who bought and restored it. They are now the regular Ghostbusters about town as an exciting zoom around the city streets near the start shows though the Mayor still wants them to shut down operations. He’s one of those mayors. The big bad this time is Garraka an ancient ghost who can unleash a Death Chill. He’s been locked inside a metal ball protected by brass fittings in a basement until it is accidentally opened. The main issue with the movie really is that this takes so long to happen.

Much of the running time is spent building to this unboxing in a manner that doesn’t always engage. It’s a simple plot which the writers have somehow made complicated. This is mainly due to there being about twelve principal characters to furnish and in trying to accommodate each of them the film lags during its first half and its not as if this time is spent doing much with those characters. Instead it takes a convoluted route to the recovery, analysis and eventually opening of the thing.

The Spenglers are ostensibly the principal focus of the narrative but the lively familial dynamic of Afterlife is replaced here mostly by familiar tropes and the unconvincing idea of Phoebe being grounded for her safety and for being a liability. This is literally after we’ve seen her doing the job perfectly in a chaotic but successful way. The move is to introduce a plot about her friendship with a teenage ghost girl which has potential- the chess scene for example- but seems designed solely to enable later plot developments. This is clearly supposed to be more than just a friendship but the film is too coy to go there so it seems a bit unlikely. The movie is also reluctant to administer more than minor injuries on any of the characters despite a striking opening in which we find the frozen bodies of  a number of people. This sense of danger is absent from the subsequent movie.

Where Frozen Empire scores highly is its atmosphere and sense of scale. There is surprisingly little actual ghostbusting but the early New York sequence is thrilling and the big confrontation between our heroes and Garraka is suitably epic. Garraka  himself is terrific, all spindly fingers and ghostly roar with director Gil Kanan framing it to accentuate it’s spooky shape.  However menacing Garraka looks though you wonder why he is freezing everything. This may be something he explains but even in a Dolby cinema it’s a struggle to understand his booming voice.

The Ghostbusters series is often billed as a comedy though I’m not sure even the first film really qualifies under that banner. There’s some banter perhaps but comedy is largely absent here. Where it does pop up is thanks to an amusing Kumail Nanjiani  as Nadeem, the chancer who has inherited the sacred object with no sense of its significance and sells it. He gets the best lines and uses them well turning out to be something of a hero after all. He certainly gets the best character journey of the film.

The large cast make the most of their moments with Dan Aykroyd having the most to do of the originals now coming across as the avuncular expert. Bill Murray turns up fashionably late but lacks the bite he had in earlier films. I’m not sure if this is due to his scarcity of lines or if the actor wasn’t especially interested in reprising the role again. The Spenglers spend a lot of time being rather obvious – for example the way Trevor’s maturity is flagged up by him actually saying twice that he’s an adult now. Even the rows that break out when Phoebe is sidelined feel unnatural.  Trevor and Phoebe are two years older yet they are treated more like kids than they were in Afterlife. Still good performances from McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard help hide some of the script's weakness.

However controversial it might be if there is another film they need to gently retire the OGs and turn the focus on the newer characters to give them the time they deserve. Frozen Empire is undoubtedly a big screen spectacle and not without charm, thrills or menace but feels over burdened with characters, exposition and plot that make it difficult to be as good as it could be.




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