Final Destination 5
Rated: R :: Released: 12 August 2011
Director: Steven Quale :: Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, and Tony Todd
By James D. Deaux IV
04 October 2011 — I have one meager request. It's really a simple thing to ask for, considering I've now seen (and in several cases, suffered through) all five Final Destination movies. Given my resentment for the previous two films, mild annoyance for the one before it, and my admiration for the original, I think I'm owed something for spending so many dollars on these things. (And no, I don't want an autograph from Ali Larter or Devon Sawa.) That one thing I ask for is merely an explanation: What are these movies trying to be?
I think it's important to note that the latest installment was not nearly as bad as The Final Destination — the fourth film in the series. At least in this movie they try to have some kind of cohesive plot around the outrageously silly and convoluted deaths. That doesn't mean it was a good or compelling plot, but at least the effort was there. Still, when you get right down to it, this movie was just more of what we've gotten since Final Destination 2: ridiculous deaths, mindless gore, uninteresting characters, and horrible acting, all wrapped up in a shiny, golden Rube Goldberg bow. Worse, there's little to nothing of the allure that made the original Final Destination so chilling. But therein lies the problem; they aren't likely to regain the allure of the first film because they have jackhammered this franchise into the ground with the endless focus on style over substance.
The first one was great because it was a new idea amongst all the rehashed garbage that was, and still is, so prevalent in Hollywood. The acting wasn't exactly Oscar-worthy, but it was certainly better than anything we've seen in the series since. Had I written a review of it, I could certainly have given it a solid 7 out of 10. In every subsequent movie, they seem to just drag people off the streets to fill in the parts of Random Victims #1-943. This one was no different in that regard. The acting is as laughably bad as ever, and maybe it's a lost art in drama, but nobody believably cries. Furthermore, going back to the original, I hate airplanes. Always have, always will. Watching the opening scene of that movie made me never want to go within 10 miles of an airport again. The subsequent movies, though? They didn't make me fear highways, though I readily admit that the second movie's opening deathfest was easily the best in the entire series. Nor did they make me dread roller coasters or suspension bridges, at least not any more than I already do thanks to my acrophobia. And I certainly don't fear NASCAR tracks. I hate NASCAR anyway, but the racetrack in that movie was just stupendously dilapidated to an utterly preposterous degree. Part of the appeal of the first film is that it elicited that element of apprehension in many people — not just myself. I spoke to several people who saw it and agreed with me that it made them afraid to get on an airplane; and these weren't exclusively people, like me, who fear flying. With every successive Final Destination flick that comes out, the effect is watered-down. Today the franchise has fully mutated into a ludicrous gorefest that clearly doesn't take itself seriously. And that, above all else, is why I am so at odds with it.
Much like in the Saw franchise, the first movie had such a brilliant concept, and to see where it stands right now frustrates me greatly. There is absolutely nothing to distinguish any of the last four Final Destination movies from one another except, ostensibly, the location of their opening sequences. The only difference in this latest one is that Tony Todd has a moderately more prevalent role than his appearances in the first two films (along with his uncredited voiceover in Final Destination 3), though it is still little more than a glorified multi-part cameo. I have to admit, the minimalist touches they did with him here weren't bad, and he was probably the best actor in this film. (Courtney B. Vance would be a close second, but his involvement is the kind of casting that makes one ask, "What bet did he lose to be cast in this?") Todd's line delivery was eerie, and assuming they wind up making Final Destination 6 and 7, then it looks as if his character, William Bludworth, could be more important to the final two chapters.
This leads me back to my original question: What, exactly, are these movies trying to be?
Including Final Destination 5, they have done nothing but retread the same old tired modus operandi for, at the very least, the last three movies. (I cut Final Destination 2 some slack because they had some continuity with Ali Larter and Tony Todd's characters, but the current formula definitely began there.) However, with the newest film, they brought back Todd's agent of death character again and are possibly trying to build to something bigger. Never mind the fact that they completely forgot about Bludworth in the third and fourth parts, and now, all of the sudden, he's just there again. The total extent of Tony Todd's involvement in the third and fourth movies is the aforementioned uncredited voiceover. That's it. So, are they trying to build to something more meaningful in the form of a backbone plot with Bludworth being the driving force? If that is the case, I'm all for it, and it would certainly assuage some of my constant criticisms of the series in general. However, as much as I would like to see more Tony Todd, the problem is, you can't throw him in there for a grand total of roughly four minutes of screen time and expect me to truly care. Moreover, it is almost certainly far too late in the game for them to attempt something like having a central character. We're now five movies into this franchise's existence. By now, the vast majority of people going to see these are simply going for the messy deaths. I don't begrudge them that, but most of them probably don't care about Bludworth and they know he's probably Death himself. So, part two of the question at hand: Tony Todd's return notwithstanding, are the writers of this series content with rehashing what we've seen for nigh unto a decade now? If I were a betting man, I'd say the answer is pretty obvious. I can guarantee that whatever they ultimately decide to do with Bludworth, it will be half-assed and lead to something altogether disappointing.
Grade: 20 / 100 — It's certainly better than the previous installment, but that's like saying "The Terrible Trio" was better than "Toys in the Hood."