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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) By Gil Kenan - Movie Review

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) By Gil Kenan - Movie Review

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) Director: Gil Kenan Writers: Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman Stars: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O'Connor, Logan Kim, Emily Alyn Lind, James Acaster, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton Runtime: 115min Rated: PG (Canada) G (Quebec) PG-13 (MPAA) for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references.

Listen here for audio of radio interviews about films from a Christian perspective with Pastors Ted Giese and Todd Wilken on where Christianity meets culture. 

Still Gonna Call? 555-Nostalgia

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a sequel to Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) the true sequel to his father Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters II (1989) and Ghostbusters (1984). Here the director mantle is passed to one of Reitman’s writers from the Afterlife, Gil Kenan. These recent two films completely sidestep the divisive Paul Feig all-female-centric reboot/reimagining Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016).

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire picks up two years after Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The Spenglers have moved from the farm in rural Oklahoma and fully embraced ghostbusting, living in the old fire hall from the original films which had been preserved by the financially successful former Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). The conclusion of the previous film resolved two estrangements with Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) a professional one between Egon and the original Ghostbusters and a familial one between Egon and his daughter Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon). Egon’s granddaughter, Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace), is the one who most takes after her grandfather but as Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire begins the mayor of New York City, Walter Peck (William Atherton), following a costly public ghostbusting fiasco, declares she is too young to be a Ghostbuster and forbids her involvement until she’s older. This should set everything up for a satisfying character arc where she grows and matures into her future role as a valued member of the new Ghostbusters team. Sadly, this gets lost in the shuffle.

While mildly amusing and enjoyable in the moment, in the end the film is lackluster lazily using all the low hanging fruit at its disposal, which makes it less creative than Ghostbusters: Afterlife. For instance, the gluttonous Slimer ghost from the original film returns with no explanation as to how or why. Apparently, filmgoers aren’t supposed to think about this and are only supposed to be amused by the nostalgic reference. This operates like intellectual property “product placement.” The same could be said for appearances by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts from the original 1984 film. The characters of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, and Janine Melnitz don’t really have much to do and aren’t well integrated into the overall plot; they sort of waltz in and out whenever the film needs a high dose of nostalgia and are great for marketing the film by generating public interest with older audiences. Of all the characters Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) has the most to do but even his role as a go-to expert on all things esoteric seems to be passing to NYC Library research librarian Dr. Hubert Wartzki (Patton Oswalt). Kenan and Reitman have created a large ensemble cast film when a lot of the original film’s charm was the result of the chemistry between the small ensemble of core characters. It’s not impossible to pull this off, it’s just that Kenan and Reitman didn’t do it here. Some characters from Afterlife like Phoebe’s friend Podcast (Logan Kim) and Trevor Spengler’s (Finn Wolfard) love interest — the small-town police chief’s daughter Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) — seem included to fulfill contractual obligations rather than to serve the storyline.

A surprising negative for the film comes from its excellent series of promotional trailers. Unfortunately, they include many moments and scenes that didn’t wind up in the film’s theatrical release! The resulting effect is a bit of a letdown for viewers waiting for that cool moment from the trailer to show up. Even though general pacing is an overall issues Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire likely requires a longer runtime to include missing scenes which might help sort out many of the film’s leaps in logic, plot holes and unevenness. All these bumps in the road threaten to disrupt the necessary suspension of disbelieve that any Ghostbusters film needs to engage its audience.

The key element requiring suspension of disbelieve for viewers revolves around the paranormal aspects of the films. There are two main ideas presented that Christian viewers should consider: First, the idea of ‘cursed’ or ‘haunted’ objects, or at least the idea that objects can function as receptacles of supernatural beings; second, the idea that the soul or spirit could scientifically be separate from a living body, which is often referred to as astral projection.

One of the central features of the Ghostbusters franchise is catching ghosts and holding them in a containment unit by technological means. Here audiences are given an ancient containment unit that holds an ancient evil, the horned demon Garraka who kills with ice and snow, and fear. Whether technological or magical should Christians worry about ‘cursed’ or ‘haunted’ objects? In short, no. This is common belief in animism, religious systems where supernatural entities are believed to inhabit inanimate objects. While Christians will bless objects like wedding rings or houses the idea isn’t to imbue them with living spirits for protection, the idea is to acknowledge the goodness of God and His authority over all He has made that is in our care. Whatever the object the Christian shouldn’t fear, love or trust in it over and above God. Historically, faithful believers reaching back into the Old Testament right up to our day will dispose of items that have been worshiped as idols, but this is not always necessary when the Christian has a grasp on the true nature of these objects. Saint Paul teaches “we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one,’” (1 Corinthians 8:4b). And the Old Testament prophet Isaiah teaches “All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame” (Isaiah 44:9). The tension comes when the epistle writer Saint John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” (1 John 5:21) which is good advice. This is not a contradiction; consider how scripture regards such things as false while likewise counseling the Christian to avoid what is deceitful. The primary thing to avoid is the lie behind the object more than the object itself which might, in some cases for the good of a troubled conscience, require also keeping away from the object.

Likewise, Christians should think about the second major idea presented in the film that the soul or spirit could scientifically be separate from a living body. In the film the grounded Phoebe is befriended by a teenage ghost Melody (Emily Alyn Lind). Already the viewer will want to run this idea through what they believe regarding life after death. In death Christians are at rest in Christ Jesus and not interacting with the living, and non-Christians are separated from the living awaiting The Last Day and the final judgment. While Saint Paul talks about a man who “was caught up to the third heaven” he quickly adds “—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Saint John in the beginning of the Book of Revelation explains the nature of his vision as being “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” (Revelation 1:10). Saint Luke describes how when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness “the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,” (Luke 4:5) and how “he took Him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple” (Luke 4:9a). All these things happen to the person and are not the work of the individual or some form of scientific technique or the use of technology. The inclusion of this in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire seems more in line with transhumanist ideas of separating the body from the mind/spirit/soul. Often these ideas will present themselves in science fiction or fantasy films where audiences wouldn’t necessarily take them seriously. It would be wise to remember there are people working on these concepts in the real world who do take them seriously and while they are not likely going to accomplish what they are seeking to do they will still be driven by the belief that it is possible. The way most people experience having their body separated from their mind/spirit/soul is in death. The film presents it as a dangerous thing to do but something a person could do and then reverse. The Christian believes that this reversal is only possible in the hands of God not something that belongs to the whims of humanity and that the ultimate reconfiguring of the mind/spirit/soul separated from the body in death will occur on the Last Day. The Bible provides examples of resurrection these are miracles pointing to what is promised to happen on the Last Day making it a scientific processes like turning a switch on and off on a machine is part and parcel with a modernist notion humanity doesn’t need God and can do everything by natural means. This is particularly interesting as this idea in nestled in story about the supernatural. 

The general lightheartedness of films like Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire may distract viewers from thinking too deeply about what they are watching but this approach is not wise. Dan Aykroyd who was pivotal in the development of the first Ghostbusters film and is shown running an occult bookstore and curio shop as Ray Stantz in these last two film has personal deep interest in the supernatural and the occult along with UFO/UAPs and all manner of high strangeness. In fact, his family has a long history with Spiritism and séances.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot at the intersection of charm, humour, and spooks like the original Ghostbusters did and isn’t as endearing as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, as a result it comes across as an amiable fumble which may jeopardize future installments. This is a classic example of a franchise with massive potential stalling out due to overly ambitious yet poor choices.

Rev. Ted Giese is lead pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; an award-winning contributor to The Canadian Lutheran and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio programme. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter/X @RevTedGiese. Check out our Movie Review Index!