Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Failed By Forgetting What Makes The Franchise Great

By Robert Scucci | Published

ghostbusters frozen empire

What do you get when you take a legacy property and abandon everything that made its original premise so special? You get Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire– a movie that’s kind of fun but ultimately forgettable. One of the biggest pitfalls I’ve noticed when it comes to rebooting timeless classics is that the rebooted version does more telling than showing, which is patronizing to the audience and totally unnecessary.

When you compare the spirit of the original Ghostbusters film to both Afterlife and Frozen Empire, it’s obvious that you’re watching a Ghostbusters film, but the latter titles are not cut from the same cloth. 

Show, Don’t Tell

ghostbusters frozen empire

I’m not trying to say that Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is necessarily a bad movie, as I enjoyed it quite a bit at moments. But it’s not the Ghostbusters that it’s attempting to emulate because it tries to be too brainy and sophisticated while spoon-feeding exposition to the audience when it could have just given us more of what we love but with updated humor and special effects. Instead, we get beat over the head with big-brain scientific concepts and unnecessary expository dialogue that slows down the film’s momentum. 

Larger Than Life Personalities

The original 1984 Ghostbusters movie was iconic for one very important reason: it didn’t waste a single minute of its run-time explaining anything that the audience could figure out for themselves. Right off the rip, we know that Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Spengler (Harold Ramis) are too smart for their own good and aren’t necessarily fond of maintaining the status quo (or listening to authority figures). Through their misadventures, we witness the natural chemistry that their larger-than-life personalities have to offer as they get into a whole heap of trouble. 

Small Setup, Big Payoff

The jokes in Ghostbusters are situational and occur naturally based on context; each character’s reaction to something crazy playing out on-screen is obvious to the viewer. The brief setups also imply huge payoffs, which isn’t something that Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire does at all. When Egon Spengler advises the rest of the Ghostbusters in the original film not to cross the streams of their proton packs because it can potentially cause a massive explosion, you know they’re going to shrug off their initial apprehensions and do it anyway when there are no other options. 

Too Much Focus On Worldbuilding

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, on the other hand, spends most of its run-time explaining the origins of the mysterious and antagonistic orb that possesses supernatural powers. There’s a whole trip to the library involving Dr. Hubert Wartzki’s (Patton Oswalt) attempts to explain the orb’s entire backstory and what can potentially happen if it’s used with ill intent. The entire sequence “yes ands” its way through establishing why the audience should care by telling the viewer what’s at stake instead of simply showing them. 

Keep It Simple

Ghostbusters Ernie Hudson

1984’s Ghostbusters also places a strong emphasis on working-class camaraderie, as its principal characters are basically just glorified exterminators with proton packs. While they’re starting their business, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) walks up and asks for a job, and the next time you see him, he’s already doing Ghostbusters stuff. There’s no long-winded explanation about how he has to prove himself, talk to HR, or even be trustworthy … we can reasonably assume that those kinds of lengthy conversations happened off-screen because the Ghostbusters want to get to work. 

No Human Actually Talks Like This

Conversely, Paul Rudd’s Gary Grooberson spends a considerable amount of time in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire explaining to Phoebe Spengler that just a few years ago, he was a seismologist and teacher before he ever became a Ghostbuster and started dating her mom, Callie. This translates into wasted minutes because if you already watched Afterlife, it was one of the main plot points. Spare us the SparkNotes and move on. 

Over Explaining And Under Delivering

Ghostbusters frozen empire

However, perhaps the most glaring issue that Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire needs to address is the franchise’s ongoing identity crisis. By bringing Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore back into the mix, one could reasonably assume that they’d continue to shoot from the hip and effortlessly dish out countless quotable lines. Instead, they succumb to the trap of over-explaining and under-delivering. 

What Can Be Done?

In order for the Ghostbusters franchise to course correct after Frozen Empire, there needs to be more action and less explaining. What we’re currently being offered is a reboot that tries to recapture the glory days without fully embracing the elements that made Ghostbusters so memorable in the first place.