Surprise, surprise: favoring comedy over scares and elaborate over-the-top death scenes over plot mechanics, and featuring nifty 3D bloodletting effects and a niftier ending, Final Destination 5 is plenty fun. It’s still not for all audiences – plotwise, this is the same film as the four that came before it – but it’s the best in the Final Destination series and heartily recommended for fans.
If you’ve seen one of these movies, you know exactly what’s going to happen: who’s going to die, the order they’re going to die in, the rules of death, and so on. Only problem: the characters in the movie haven’t seen the previous films, so we have to have it explained all over again. The filmmakers know this, too, which results in a bare minimum of exposition and the characters adapting to the outlandish situation in (comically) record time.
The death fodder this time around is a group of office workers, headed by Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto), who has a vision of violent death on Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge, a scene that rivals the gruesome freeway pileup in Final Destination 2 for best in the series. Like clockwork, the bridge collapses, after Sam has managed to get a few of his colleagues out just in time. And like clockwork, Death returns to claim those who have initially escaped his embrace.
Few of the actors here – save for Tom Cruise lookalike Miles Fisher – make much of an impression; D’Agosto and his female counterpart, Emma Bell, are particularly bland leads.
But what does make an impression is the way the characters are knocked off: in a gymnasium (that upturned screw on the balance beam is brilliant), a massage parlor (this scene will make you stay away from acupuncture), and even a LASIK clinic (which wouldn’t be complete, of course, without a 3D eyeball popping out at us.)
When it gets to plot, however, the movie falters: a conventional thriller-movie climax is particularly disappointing. But the finale picks up the slack with a neat (and unexpected) little twist that will satisfy series fans.
Director Steven Quale, a protégé of James Cameron (he was a second unit director on Titanic and Avatar, and co-directed Aliens of the Deep) brings a slick technical polish to the proceedings, which extends to the 3D visual effects.
While most contemporary 3D features are content with added dimensionality, Final Destination 5, like its predecessor, is more than happy to use the technology as a cheap gimmick to shower the audience with blood, guts, and debris. It works, in any event; with knives, poles, skewers, and other sharp objects repeatedly thrust at the viewer, along with the bloodshed they create, this is a film that’s not afraid to use 3D at its most basic – and effective – level.
And maybe they have the concept right: after countless features where the 3D adds little more than a dimmer picture and a higher ticket price, and is forgotten after ten minutes, here’s one that gives you your money’s worth. Prior to this film, the last memorable 3D experience I can recall was Resident Evil: Afterlife, about a year ago.
The opening credits animation – which features glass shattering in three-dimensional slow-motion – is particularly effective. Be sure to stick around for the end credits, too, which roll to a bloody montage of death scenes from the previous films.
If not viewed in 3D, you can probably knock a half-star of the rating, which would still leave Final Destination 5 on a par with Part 2 as the best in the series.