Nostalgia Milked to Death in 2024's Worst Sci-Fi Sequel

Nostalgia Milked to Death in 2024's Worst Sci-Fi Sequel
Image credit: Columbia Pictures

A new sci-fi comedy may be amusing, but it's still nothing more than a shallow commercial project.


  • A new comedy, the second installment of the revived cult franchise, has been playing in American theaters for a week now.
  • Despite its commercial success, the movie can only boast of homages and references.
  • This is yet another sign that it's time for pop culture to turn to fresh and original stories.

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe, the term 'superhero fatigue' has been thrown around more and more in recent years, suggesting that audiences no longer embrace with the same enthusiasm the endless content that fails to bring anything original to their favorite universes, but only leads to more frustration and a sense of understatement — well, as long as merchandise continues to bring in billions of dollars, so will the movies and shows that generate that merch.

But in reality, we're more likely experiencing an era of 'pop culture fatigue', as the major studios, lacking fresh ideas, try to keep up with their former glory by squeezing every last dime out of franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and making endless live-action adaptations, remakes, and reboots.

One such movie franchise is Ghostbusters, whose resurrection began with the 2016 all-female cast reboot. And now, on March 22, the third film in the rebooted series, Frozen Empire, was released in US theaters.

Like the previous installment, Afterlife, the new supernatural comedy is quite in the vein of the two original films directed by Ivan Reitman. Also, unlike the MCU and DCEU flicks, the new Ghostbusters is fun. The problem is that it has little to offer beyond empty commercial nostalgia, not knowing whether to resemble the original or deliver something original.

What Is the New Ghostbusters About?

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, directed by Gil Kenan and co-written with Ivan Reitman's son Jason (who directed Afterlife), continues the story of the Spengler family after Egon's daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) discovers the activities of her estranged and sadly deceased father.

The plot of the new film focuses on Phoebe Spengler (McKenna Grace), who wants to become a Ghostbuster against all odds because of her age, but is forbidden by both Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton) and Callie. But being an ordinary teenager who dreams of adventure, Phoebe disobeys by getting close to a ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind).

Only this ghost is no ordinary ghost. Serving the ancient demon Garraka, she manipulates Phoebe into her body and brings the world to a near-apocalyptic state, bringing back the Ice Age.

Epitomizing the Problematic Nature of Modern Pop Culture

Commodifying nostalgia isn't necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes we get pretty good remakes and reboots that offer fresh and original stories. Frozen Empire clearly wasn't trying to be another shallow and unremarkable cash grab. But to be honest, that is exactly what it turned out to be.

Unlike the original Ghostbusters, which was an adult, but rather straightforward, silly horror comedy, Frozen Empire tries to please audiences of different ages by combining comedy and drama. Except that the 1984 movie is much more character-driven in both genres.

This applies to Phoebe, who, despite the consequences, does not reflect on her own actions and selfishness in any way. It also applies to other characters like Trevor – Finn Wolfhard is once again the sidekick, as he was in Stranger Things.

Unfortunately, the return of Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd to their iconic roles didn't change the situation, but only confirmed the problematic nature of the new movie. These cameos are just dull fan service, devoid of any substance or meaning of their own.

Audiences have long yearned for creative daring in pop culture, for filmmakers who are not afraid to deviate from formulaic or downright nostalgic sentiments. And when the industry realizes this, maybe we will see some truly interesting movies again.