When you get to the fifth film in any franchise it’s easy to make bold proclamations such as: “it’s easily the best” or “it’s the best sequel” in the series. The jokes surrounding Transformers 3 this summer were such that many critics would declare the obvious in stating that it was “better than” part 2 – a beyond obvious observation. Expect the same with Warners and New Line Cinema’s Final Destination 5, only know that it’s an entirely different beast altogether. Critics (specifically those who have a soft spot in their heart for the series) will celebrate it as the best sequel in the franchise; but know this: it truly, whole-heartedly, genuinely, and without a shadow of a doubt IS the best. There are no qualifiers.
When a franchise enters its (rare) fifth incarnation, most studios will pound the calculator, check the numbers, and half-ass out sequel after sequel until the opening weekend box office numbers fail to meet their expectations. The sole plan is to “milk” the fan out of as much money as they possibly can, which is what The Final Destination felt like back in ’09. Simply put, it was garbage. It became a self-referencing, meta-machine bloated with cheesy kills as a device to move the movie from scene to scene.
I don’t know how or where the change occurred, but all of a sudden the people behind the Final Destination films realized that the fans deserve WAY better, and decided to take the fifth film deadpan serious. Using the words “fourth sequel” and “serious” in the same breath may seem laughable from where you’re sitting, but I implore you to see for yourself.
My long-winded, filibustering introduction does have a point, but unfortunately, to explore these thoughts, it would ruin what will be a “stand-out-of-your-seat and cheer” moment in FD 5. The big OMFG.
But I digress, the essence and soul of the first Final Destination film has returned. FD 5, from James Cameron protégé Steven Quale, takes itself serious and drops the meta-kills from the previous three entries. It instead opts to tell an actual story, builds upon the mythology, and uses both to deliver off-the-charts suspense. Penned by up-and-coming genre star Eric Heisserer (The Thing, A Nightmare on Elm Street), FD 5 realizes his vision/concept to the full extent (unlike Elm Street, which was butchered by a hack known as Sam Bayer). Heisserer has an uncanny ability to lateral think franchises and attack them from a completely fresh and unknown direction. FD 5, while remaining true to the original film, also dabbles in something completely unknown to any of the films – personal differences. While in ALL of the Final Destination films each character is killed off in their own personal, self-serving world, FD 5 steps back and asks, “What would REALLY happen?” While some of the exposition gets a little porky, the third act takes a very interesting turn when a few of the survivors become entangled in a battle of logic. Based on the rules, who deserves to live and who deserves to die? It causes one of the characters to lose his mind and thus a fistfight ensues. And within this fistfight, Death is making his own plans. It’s suspense overload that had me squirming in my seat like a 5-year-old watching “Barney”.
If I owned a film school, Final Destination 5 would be a required watch. It’s the kind of movie that would make Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, proud. It’s a lesson to filmmakers on how to build tension so tight that it’s shocking no viewer had brain hemorrhaging. Quale really takes his time with each “kill set piece” as he literally introduces dozens of potential hazards and then hangs on them for heavy seconds. The survivor is then dropped right in the middle of the death zone, and does a dance around all of these various hazards. It’s beautifully choreographed, much like an epic fight sequence in an action film. Quale squeezes every ounce of air out of your body and leaves very little room to breathe. Suffer from asthma? Bring your inhaler.
To build on the positive; the 3-D does put a punctuation on the experience, and the over-the-top gore remains intact. There’s little screen time wasted, as nearly every second is intensely engaging. And the finale is such a shocker that it’s going to force you to revisit every film in the franchise. Hopefully my long-winded review is enough evidence to support the statement that Final Destination 5 is the best sequel in the franchise, and I can thus guarantee this will be filling a slot in my top 10 of 2011. The only bad thing to come out of all of this is knowing that they will NEVER be able to top it…
Editor’s Note: I was going to give the film 4/5 skulls, but if it truly is the best sequel in the franchise, then by my logic it MUST score better than Final Destination 2.