Even for a movie about teens who cheats death, only to be pursued by Death itself (taken to manifesting as an actual unseen force, it appears), “Final Destination 3” offers up a 5-minute sequence about an hour into things that defies logic. (Yes, I know how that sounds considering the movie’s premise, but stay with me…) After having been told that four of the people who survived the film’s central accident that propels Death’s pursuit, two of the survivors continue to crack jokes, seemingly unconcern that Yes, it does appear as if Death is re-claiming those who escaped its icy grip. Really, folks, even if you have zero belief in all this supernatural stuff, shouldn’t the fact that four of your fellow survivors have already died in grisly ways in a matter of days make you somewhat of a believer? Apparently not.
The writing/directing team of James Wong and Glen Morgan returns to the franchise that made them famous, taking over part three from director David Ellis and writers Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress. Once again, this latest installment concerns a gaggle of teens that, on a senior field trip to an amusement park before graduation, crashes and burns on a roller coaster ride. That is, they would have crashed and burned had young Miss Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) not prophesized their death and made such a racket that it got them kicked off the ride. The ride does indeed crash as envisioned by Wendy, leaving Death to seek out the survivors and kill them in elaborate, “accidental” ways. Ain’t Death a bitch?
If you’ve seen the original “Final Destination” and Ellis’ “Final Destination 2”, then part three is more of the same. The basic premise has remained intact, which is all for the best, as changing things up now that the franchise has developed a cult following would be akin to making Jason Voorhees stop hacking teens and start singing Britney Spears songs in one of the umpteenth “Friday the 13th” sequels. Which is to say, anyone who bothers to pick up “Final Destination 3” has no fantasies about indulging in anything original or intelligent. The most one can hope for are some fun, grisly deaths, the occasional chuckles, and if it’s not too much trouble, some thrills and spills.
Fortunately “Final Destination 3” does serve up all the requisite tropes of the franchise, right down to the sequential killing of the survivors, and the film’s leads figuring out how to cheat Death — or so they think. (Hey, if Death was that easy to cheat, he wouldn’t be called Death, now would he?) Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes for a good heroine, and is probably over qualified for such a shallow role. The young woman has real talent, so look for her in movies that will take full advantage of her impressive emoting range. Ryan Merriman, as the male lead, cracks wise throughout the film, and makes for a fun contrast to Winstead’s ultra serious survivor. In particular, Merriman’s constant quips about how he’s going to die provide some nice chuckles. There is also no forced romance between the two leads, which is a major plus in this day and age of formulaic Hollywood .
If you are a fan of the previous two installments, in particular Ellis’ immensely creative “Final Destination 2”, then part three makes for a decent continuation of the series. It’s not great, and certainly doesn’t top part two, but it’s a tad better than the original, which at this point seems tame by comparison to its two follow-ups. The formula is once again repeated to a “T”, but as mentioned, at this point kicking the concept to the curb would be akin to dissing the franchise and its fans, so that’s a no-no.
The deaths this third time around are not nearly as inventive as part two, but you do get the sense that Wong and company have followed in the footsteps of the last film. The killings are once again quite vicious, as if Death was really getting sick and tired of high school teens trying to cheat him out of his bodycount, and was trying to make a point. I don’t blame the guy. We get a couple of fried corpses, impalements, decapitations, an encounter with a nail gun, and my personal favorite, death by exercise. See? I knew there was a reason I stay away from the gym.
“Final Destination 3” is a good genre entry, even if its central “cheat death” gag — a rollercoaster that goes horribly awry — is not nearly as impressive as it might have appeared on paper. The death and destruction really doesn’t meet the standards set by Ellis’ highway rampage, which is a shame because the idea of a rollercoaster going off-track really does have room for some massive carnage. In any case, with part three having made a tidy profit at the box office despite being (predictably) savaged by critics, expect a fourth installment sometime in 2007. Maybe this time they can graduate from high school and bring on the college kids. Or better yet, go the adult route.
James Wong (director) / Glen Morgan, James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick (screenplay)
CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead …. Wendy
Ryan Merriman …. Kevin
Kris Lemche …. Ian
Alexz Johnson …. Erin Ulmer
Sam Easton …. Frankie
Jesse Moss …. Jason
Gina Holden …. Carrie