August 13, 2011
Eric Heisserer (script) and Jeffrey Reddick (characters)
Nicholas D’Agosto as Sam Lawton
Emma Bell as Molly Harper
Miles Fisher as Peter Friedkin
Jacqueline MacInnes Wood as Olivia Castle
Arlen Escarpeta as Nathan
The Final Destination series has had the same basic structure since the very first movie. Step 1: Group of people get together to go do something. In this case, they’re on a bus to do a team-building office retreat. Step 2: One person falls asleep and sees a horrific accident that will kill them all. In this case, it’s a bridge collapse. Step 3: Person wakes up and begins to experience their own premonition, freaks out, and convinces a small group of people to run to safety. Step 4: Foreseen event occurs, kills a slew of people. Step 5: Death, angry that someone has interfered, begins to attempt to cause their deaths in ways both simple and convoluted. In this case, the savior is Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto), who rescues his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and six other coworkers only for them all to have to contend with Death’s attempts to rebalance the scales in passable, nothing-special 3D.
The things that make Final Destination 5 interesting are the ways in which the series has clearly evolved from the first film in the series. The anticipation of the deaths is not so much the source of tension anymore as is wondering how random items shown by the camera will come into play in a death the audience knows is going to happen. Where the first film was played fairly straight, this entry has a touch of dark humor to its deaths. Finally, this film’s story expands ever so slightly beyond the expected tale through a well-done, subtly-handled twist and an interesting, if blatantly-telegraphed, new way to thwart death’s plan.
Regarding the newfound humor of the deaths here, the camerawork in Final Destination 5 is less “when are these people going to die” and move “which of these seemingly innocuous items will play a part in killing these people”. For instance, in one death, we’re shown a series of items including: a leaky overhead A/C, a frayed electrical cord, a fan, and a loose bolt on some uneven bars. When the camera goes to the trouble of showing all of this, we know SOMETHING’S going to happen, we just don’t know what. Heck, the filmmakers know why we’re here, that’s why the end credits have a montage of series deaths!
Then there are the actual death blows themselves. Almost all of them are so ludicrously over-the-top and outlandish that they’re laughable. In particular, I’m thinking of a person who fell from a decent, but not exaggerated, height, landed, and basically FOLDED IN HALF, presumably shattering their spine and legs. In another instance, the last death in the movie, there’s almost an expectation that a loud “WAH- WAH- WAAAAHHHH” will immediately follow it because of how absolutely silly it is. There’s also a sense that both death AND karma are after some of these people. The two most annoying characters in the film both die in the most ridiculously complex ways. Each of them is not only killed, they’re somehow additionally injured FIRST, then actually killed by some other implement in the same room.
For all the differences between Final Destination 5 and its predecessors it is still very predictable. Of course, it’s the same general plot as every other movie in the series, but the attempts made to evolve the franchise don’t have quite as much impact as one might hope. It is a bit frustrating, for example, that while the movie has a great, subtly handled, and very interesting twist, the impact is dimmed when there is an additional death immediately afterward. We are also introduced to a possible new way to save the characters from death’s designs that sounds interesting, but the characters obsessing over it kills the suspense. Still, the effort to innovate at all in Final Destination 5 is greatly appreciated.
Overall, Final Destination 5 effectively provides more of the same as the rest of the franchise yet adds enough small new twists to the story to make it feel a tiny bit fresh. That said, it’s still a Final Destination movie, so while there’s nothing new here that will turn on non-fans, those who already love it will not be disappointed. As for those apathetic either way, well, there’s definitely worse 2D and 3D things than Final Destination 5 playing right now… like that Glee 3D that was playing in the theater next door to mine… now THAT’S scary.