Sunday, October 4, 2009

"The Final Destination" review

"The Final Destination" movie review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Since the original "Final Destination" was released 2000 (and the next installments were released every three years after), the series distinguished itself as being unique during an era of sub-pair remakes of slasher horror classics from the 1970s and ‘80s. The premise of the thriller series is that the main character has premonitions on how his or her friends and the strangers around them will die shortly thereafter in a disaster. Those saved will try to cheat death, but will begin dying in freak accidents soon after anyway in the same order they were meant to die in the original accident. However, fans of the series should have predicted that The Final Destination, the fourth and newest addition that was released on August 28 by New Line Cinema, killed any originality left in the saga.

What made "The Final Destination" disappointing is that it didn’t live up to the high expectations set upon it before it was released. With the success of the original trilogy, New Line hoped to have one of the last great movies of summer 2009 during a season of action blockbusters. It was also released in 3D in some theaters, pleasing fans who wanted to see the third film in the technology, which was originally planned, but was scrapped as it proved to be too expensive at the time.

The original trilogy grossed approximately $215 million (about three times the combined budget), and featured memorable performances from such actors as Devon Saw, Kerr Smith, Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, A.J. Cook and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. While having promotions isn’t realistic, the series also struck a cord with its teen and 20-something audience, as everyone gets a thrill of cheating death.

The newest film focuses on a premonition Nick O’Bannon (played by Bobby Campo from Legally Blondes) has of a multiple-car pile-up and explosion while watching a race at McKinley Speedway with his friends Hunt Wynorski (Nick Zano, TV’s What I Like About You), Janet Cunningham (Haley Webb, TV’s Close to Home) and his girlfriend, Lori Milligan (Shantel VanSanten, TV’s One Tree Hill). After warning the other spectators of section 180, they run to the exit in panic, as the car explosions occurred exactly the Nick saw them.

After the memorial service at the raceway for those who died during the pile-up, Nick began having visions and getting the feeling that the survivors were going to die in the order he saw them die in his premonition. While Hunt and Janet don’t believe Nick and Lori at first when they warn them of their impending deaths, the rest of the survivors try to cheat death.

Craig Perry, one of the producers of the latest installment, stated that this movie will be most likely the last in the series, as there aren’t any current plans to go ahead with a fifth film. He said that he personally didn’t want to continue with a “dying” franchise, as it’s difficult to come up with a fresh spin for a series that relies on the same premise for each sequel.

If "The Final Destination" is indeed the final movie in the series, it was disappointing in the fact that the characters weren’t able to break the series curse and figure out how to cheat death once and for all. The characters weren’t given a final resolution on how to beat death’s plan.

This new installment in the series also just seemed to be a rehashing of the car theme from the second movie, which focused on Kimberly Corman (played by Cook) and her premonition of a massive pile-up on the highway she is traveling on with her friends. This may in part be due to the fact that writer Eric Bress and director David R. Ellis both returned to "The Final Destination," after working on Final Destination 2 six years ago. If Perry wanted a fresh spin for the fourth film, a new writer and director should have been brought in.

"The Final Destination" also didn’t seem to work as well as its predecessors because its plotline wasn’t as coherent or constructive. The filmmakers seemed like they just wanted to end the series with as much gore as possible, with the number of death scenes ranking in at 11, more than the first three movies. The Final Destination just seemed to show each death scene in succession, without showing any emotional connection between the characters.

But one good aspect of the movie was its subliminal connections to the first three movies. Some examples include the film’s opening titles recreating death scenes from all three of the previous movies. Also, when Nick is driving, he passes a sign that causes him to have another premonition. The sign is clearly marked Clear Rivers Water, and Clear Rivers is the name of Larter’s character in the first two movies. The race track is named McKinley Speedway, which was the name of the town, high school and character Ian McKinley in the third film. The only disappointing part was the fate of Winstead’s character Wendy Christensen, her sister Julie, and their friend Kevin Fischer, portrayed by Ryan Merriman, was left ambiguous, whereas the fate of the main characters from the second movie was revealed in the third.

While "The Final Destination" was number one at the box office during its first two weeks of its theatrical run and has so far grossed over $97 million domestically so far against a $40 budget, only true fans of the "Final Destination" series, and those who like seeing movies in 3D on the big screen, will enjoy this latest entry of the series.