Frozen Empire Is Moving On From One of Ghostbusters’ Most Recognizable Characters

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire director Gil Kenan promises a new approach to the franchise, including by moving on from the "Gozerian" era.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
Photo: Sony Pictures

There is no Gozer, only… well, we don’t know yet.

After the chaos that followed the release of 2016’s series revamp Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Sony went full nostalgia with Ghostbusters: Afterlife in an attempt to appease change-resistant fans. The studio recruited Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman, as well as the original four Ghostbusters (including the late Harold Ramis in CGI-ghost form). Afterlife even brought back the main villain of that first movie, Gozer the Gozerian.

In other words, it was a textbook legacy sequel that introduced a new generation of heroes while nodding to the originals, and according to Afterlife co-writer Gil Kenan, the movie’s structure demanded Gozer’s return.

“Because the Spengler family story drove the narrative in Afterlife, bringing Gozer back to centre-stage was a natural way to close the book on the past,” he told Empire. That explanation does track with the movie that Reitman and Kenan made, which focuses on Egon’s grandchildren Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) in Oklahoma.

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But now that the original Ghostbusters have come back, Kenan wants to move forward with new characters, including Phoebe and Trevor’s mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and their teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd). That also means moving on from the franchise’s most recognizable villain.

“[W]e are now in the post-Gozerian era of the Ghostbusters saga,” Kenan said of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, which he’s directing. “[S]o that means we’re able to stretch out and create an entirely new mythology. And that’s thrilling as a storyteller, because there are all-new and terrifying stakes with fresh visual references to draw on.”

Frankly, it’s hard to know how seriously readers should take Kenan’s comments. A new big bad for Frozen Empire sounds great, and we would do fine if we never heard the words “Gozer” or “Zuul” or “Ivo Shandor” again. But then again, Afterlife also promised new ghosts and then gave us Mini-Pufts, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man except really tiny instead of really big, and the green blobby ghost called “Muncher,” who is definitely not the same thing as “Slimer.”

Kenan will also undo Afterlife‘s biggest change to the Ghostbusters setup, moving the action from Oklahoma and back to New York. For fans who just want to see their favorite characters again, Frozen Empire will feature the surviving original Ghostbusters back in their firehouse headquarters. In fact, Kenan gushed about that nostalgic aspect during his conversation with Empire. Kenan recalled the joy he felt while directing a big scene and said, “Finally, it dawned on me that I was calling ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’ on some of my very favourite characters in movies, working on a big cinematic scale on something that I really cared about.”

While no one can deny that respect for characters makes for a better work than open disdain, too much fealty can result in stagnant, flat works. Afterlife worked best when it let the kids play (yes, even Podcast), and became a creaky slog when it treated the original movie — itself a messy, ad-libbed masterpiece — as sacrosanct.

Will Kenan be able to retain his excitement while telling a new, interesting story? We’re ready to believe you, Kenan… maybe.

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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is out in theaters on March 29, 2024.