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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ review: A movie made for shareholders

Ryan Oquiza

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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ review: A movie made for shareholders


Columbia Pictures

Despite the amazing talent on and off camera, 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' is a soulless film because it is a business decision first, and a work of art second

MANILA, Philippines – As of writing this review, the stock price of Sony, the studio behind this atrocity, stands at $88.72 (₱4,986.58).

This marks the most significant drop in its shares in years, considering the stock was trading around $106 at the same time in 2022. Why do I bring this number up? Because it was the only thing studio executives had in mind when making this film.

They wanted an investor-friendly product with vertically scalable assets like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. They could care less about its opaque characters, as long as it had recognizable and marketable faces such as Paul Rudd of Ant-Man fame and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard.

“Storytelling?” they said. “Why don’t we take a moment to show you this Dunkin’ doughnut and Cheetos wrapper? If you missed it, we’ll be sure to add in a line about how ‘booking.com’ is awesome.”

So why should I, as a critic, treat this film any less than what it is? A ploy to sell new Stay Puft Marshmallow Man merchandise, a scheme aimed at attracting the broadest age group to movie theaters, and a desperate attempt to make intellectual property seem more valuable than it actually is. 

Lacking in soul

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a soulless film because it is a business decision first, and a work of art second. I don’t doubt the amazing talent on and off the camera. I’ve seen behind-the-scenes footage shot in New York, where production assistants worked tirelessly to crowd control before the director even said “action.” This is a systemic problem that isn’t new to this film, isn’t new to Sony (I mean, Madame Webb just released last month), and isn’t new to audiences.

In a recent survey released last week on IndieWire, it was found that Millennials and Gen-Z wanted more original films, not remakes or sequels. We’re in a remake bubble right now, and Sony seems stuck in the dot-com era. If fiduciary duty holds any meaning in the realm of buying movie tickets, then consider it my fiduciary duty to advise you to please hold on to your money and not dive into this depreciating market.

I sound too much like an economist right now, let’s return to filmmaking for a bit. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire continues the story started from Afterlife, now featuring our new quadrant of heroes: Gary (Paul Rudd), Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). After some trouble, Phoebe, still 15 years old, is grounded from ghostbusting duties because she makes a mess and, understandably, she’s a minor (what was she doing in such dangerous environments in the first place?).

However, things begin to take a “chilly” turn as an unexplainable artifact threatens to unleash an ice demon and a flurry of ghosts. This spurs the interest of  Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and sparks the return of fan favorite Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). Caught in the crossfire of this ghostly mystery is Kumail Nanjiani’s Nadeem, who uses his character’s innate selfishness as a jumping board for the film’s best and funniest moments, as well as its worse ones.

There’s also a really promising subplot involving Phoebe and a ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) in which unspoken feelings create the one and only tangible connection the film had going for. But in classic MBA decision-making fashion, they revealed their one ace card too early, wasting a handy plot twist that could’ve at least made their grave five-feet deep instead of six-feet.

‘Let them rest’

The character overload is also a big issue. The film not only features the main cast from the reboot but also brings back the original team (minus a CGI-ed Harold Ramis, thankfully). However, they’re primarily there to deliver corporate-sounding lines that don’t have any life to them. This strategy aims to evoke just enough nostalgia without allowing any real character change, so audiences leave the theater exactly as they arrived: neutral.

Let’s stop bringing back old people, let them rest. I’m not the first to say this, and I most certainly won’t be the last. I must not be alone in this, right? I can’t be the only one who thinks that paying north of ₱500 just to see a gray-haired Bill Murray deliver lines in his signature sarcastic tone for a mere three seconds is shockingly not worth the investment? And when the action scenes start, what do we expect them to do? 

Are we really expected to cheer as they geriatrically maneuver from one point to another, shooting proton blasters, while being led to believe they stand a chance against a more powerful and formidable foe? I’ve grown angrier and angrier at these films (especially if you’ve seen my Aquaman 2 review) not because of the lack of artisanship, but because studio executives think that you, the audience, are dumb.

You are not dumb. You smartly cancel streaming services when they don’t serve you quality content anymore. You know what movies are good and what aren’t without needing knowledge in film theory. But sometimes, studios can serve you up a dish that seems passable enough, and this is exactly where they thrive. To give you the illusion, the fleeting hope that a film in 2024 can replicate the magic that happened 40 years ago.

They know that’s not possible, yet they sell you these crappy deals anyways. There are enough recognizable brand names, surefire tropes, and iconic music that will hijack your brain’s hippocampus area. But films shouldn’t be products frozen in time, they should inspire us to ask heated questions about the world, or at the bare minimum, entertain the hell out of us.

Because even when judged as a feel-good, inoffensive theater experience, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire crashes and burns. – Rappler.com

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide.

$1 = P56.20

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Ryan Oquiza

Ryan Oquiza is a film critic for Rappler and has contributed articles to CNN Philippines Life, Washington City Paper, and PhilSTAR Life.