Every good comedy needs a villain audiences love to hate, and the original 1984 Ghostbusters gave us William Atherton’s sneering, nosy-parker EPA inspector, Walter Peck. That film turns 40 this year, so it’s fitting that Sony is releasing Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, its latest sequel, in March, a follow-up to 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. We’re getting even more of Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Ernie Hudson this time around, along with the welcome return of Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) as well as Peck.
(Some spoilers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife below.)
As we previously reported, Afterlife introduced us to a new generation of ghostbusters descended from Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis)—namely, the science-loving Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and her mechanically inclined brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Mom Callie (Carrie Coon), aka Egon’s daughter, moved the family out to Oklahoma when she inherited Egon’s old house. The kids discovered their grandfather’s old ghost-busting gear just in time to battle the attempted return of none other than Gozer the Gozerian from the original film. Afterlife grossed over $200 million at the box office against its $75 million production budget. Sony announced the sequel the following spring, with a script by Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan. Kenan would eventually replace Reitman as director. Per the official premise:
In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the Spengler family returns to where it all started—the iconic New York City firehouse—to team up with the original Ghostbusters, who’ve developed a top-secret research lab to take busting ghosts to the next level. But when the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an evil force, Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second Ice Age.
Much of the Afterlife cast is returning: Grace, Wolfhard, Coon, Paul Rudd as local science teacher (and Callie’s love interest) Gary Grooberson, Logan Kim as Phoebe’s BFF Podcast, and Celeste O’Connor as Trevor’s crush, Lucky Domingo. The remaining original Ghostbusters—Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Winston Zeddermore (Ernie Hudson)—have expanded roles, with the additions of Janine Melnitz and Peck. New faces in the cast include Patton Oswalt as Dr. Hubert Wartzki, Kumail Nanjiani as Nadeem Razmaadi, James Acaster as Lars Pinfield, and Emily Alyn Lind in an undisclosed role.
Sony released a teaser for the film back in November, and I thought it looked very promising—and I wasn’t a huge fan of Afterlife (not a broadly popular take at the time, but I stand by it). The teaser felt like a welcome return to form, right down to bringing the Spengler gang back to good ol’ New York City, where it all began. That same feeling infuses the official full trailer.
The trailer opens with the Spengler gang ghostbusting in the Big Apple. This naturally gets them into trouble with NYC’s mayor—none other than our old friend Walter Peck, who has clearly failed upward over the last 40 years. (Atherton also played corrupt science professor Jerry Hathaway in another nerd classic, 1985’s Real Genius. The actor is a nerd villain icon.) He was humiliated and discredited in the original. Despite those events, he’s still not a believer in ghosts, and his insufferable, bullying, hall-monitor vibe is stronger than ever. “You have a minor hanging out the side of a moving vehicle, firing a laser gun indiscriminately,” he tells the Spenglers, who are not remotely contrite.
Meanwhile, Ray receives a visitor (Nadeem) offering to sell him a mysterious orb. Phoebe asks what it is, but Dr. Wartzki tells her a better question is “what’s inside of it?” Cue Ray’s extensive knowledge of occult lore. “The parables tell of an unimaginable evil commanding an army of ghosts,” he says. It can kill people by literally scaring them to death, and with its release, NYC enters a second Ice Age. We’re betting the ghostbusters will once again prevail.
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire hits theaters on March 29, 2024.
Listing image by YouTube/Sony Pictures