Postmortem spasms. These words are on the tip of my tongue after the screening of “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire”.

Michal Kaczon

6 April 2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has arrived in cinemas. As a big fan of every installment in the film series, I eagerly awaited its premiere. Did the new film warm my heart or leave me cold? Let’s evaluate.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the fifth feature film in the renowned Ghostbusters series, beloved by audiences since 1984. This latest installment is a direct continuation of the 2021 film Afterlife, following the adventures of the Spengler family who have moved to New York and inherited the famous firehouse that was the original quartet’s base of operations. Now, they continue the family business.

Before diving into the present-day storyline, it’s worth examining the intriguing opening scene, which seems to hint at a great idea for a separate story. The opening sequence, set in the early 20th century, shows us that ghostbusting has been a profession for decades. The initial moments of Frozen Empire are engaging with this concept, leaving one to wonder how people a century ago dealt with capturing ghosts. It’s an interesting idea, and after watching, I feel a bit unsatisfied by the lack of exploration of this intriguing subplot. It could make for a great prequel, were it not for the recent Kingsman series failing to execute the same idea. Nevertheless, the prologue of the new Ghostbusters film is one of its best scenes, holding potential for something more.

The actual plot of the film, however, feels rather derivative and, to use a beautiful English term, generic. Suffice it to say, there’s a moment where a blue beam of light shoots into the sky. The screenwriters clearly struggled with what to do with so many characters.

In the previous film, Jason Reitman, son of the original director Ivan, demonstrated how to cleverly play on nostalgia while creating something new within the familiar universe. While paying homage to the original, he injected his own ideas and solutions. The director succeeded in recreating the original’s atmosphere, despite shifting the action to a vastly different setting than the famous metropolis on the west coast, which was a key character in the original story. Placing the action in a timeless, somewhat undefined geographic area allowed viewers to mentally revisit places where they first saw Reitman’s film as children.

Gil Kenan, the new director and co-writer alongside Jason Reitman, theoretically had an easier job relocating the action back to the iconic New York setting. He inherited new, decent characters from Afterlife and had more room to play with nostalgic references, adding his own touch. Additionally, we see more of the original group’s lineup, with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in lead roles. On paper, it seemed like a surefire hit. However, what shines on paper doesn’t always translate on screen. Frozen Empire has its moments, but unfortunately, it mostly feels overloaded with subplots, overly talkative, and at times, downright boring, only occasionally stirring emotions similar to those of years past.

The film’s biggest flaw is its excessive number of characters whom the script struggles to develop. Many characters don’t undergo any significant development; they just exist. Adding to this are familiar tropes and an unnecessary subplot reminiscent of a superhero story (Power of Fire, seriously?), making this latest installment pale in comparison to its predecessors. Mediocre casting decisions also don’t help. Kumail Nanjani feels out of place, and Patton Oswalt’s typical acting style can be grating. Even the main antagonist falls flat, resembling a clich├ęd evil character plucked from a catalog, and his power described as “fear induced by fear itself” turns out to be merely a marketing ploy.

In conclusion, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire neither warms the heart nor chills to the bone. It’s akin to a zombie – theoretically everything moves as it should, but it lacks heart and life. The prologue and “freezing” scenes seen in trailers are exciting, as are a few other fleeting moments, but that’s about it. The viewing experience is painless, but this series has set the bar much higher, leaving this lukewarm, half-baked production unable to satisfy for long. You can watch it, but you definitely don’t have to.

Michal Kaczon

Michal Kaczon

A cultural journalist and a fan of pop culture in its various forms. A lover of film and music festivals, where he is a frequent and enthusiastic participant. He sometimes treats the cinema as a second home.

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