Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Final Destination - in 3-D

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    The Final Destination - in 3-D

    Directed By: David R. Ellis

    Starring: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Mykelti Williamson,Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella, Justin Welborn


    Studio: Warner/New Line

    Year: 2009

    Rated: R

    Film Length: 82 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

    Release Date: January 5, 2010

    The Film *

    In The Final Destination, Nick (Campo) has a lucid vision of impending disaster while attending a stock car race with his girlfriend Lori (VanSanten) and their friends Hunt (Zano) and Janet (Webb). Awaking from his daydreamed vision, he begins to see the events leading to the massively fatal crash play out in real life, panics, and insists that they all leave. This causes a disruption that ultimately prevents the deaths of Nick, his friends, and a handful of other people that were killed in his premonition including a redneck racist (Welborn), a vain soccer mom (Allen - lowbrow amusingly credited in the closing scroll as "MILF/Samantha"), a mechanic (Fiscella) , and a security guard with a tragic past (Williamson). Initially relieved and stunned, Nick and Lori discover via news reports that a number of the survivors who would have died if not for Nick's intervention are becoming victims of bizarre deaths by misadventure. These deaths occur after Nick is plagued with a vision hinting at their circumstances, and seem to be happening in the order that the people would have died in Nick's original racetrack vision. Nick and Lori begin a race to alert the future potential victims and break the chain of fate/death that seems to be leading inexorably towards them.

    Horror sequels as a rule have never been known for their originality and groundbreaking reinventions of the form, but the "Final Destination" series still manages to establish itself as the lowest of the low-effort horror film series.  Since its main antagonist is an un-personified fate that takes the form of several Rube-Goldberg-like deathtraps and its thematic thrust is usually that there is no escape from death, the sequels can pretty much just hit the reset button and let the same plot play out with a different mix of young actors meeting their demises in differently staged ways.  This was generally the case with the second and third entries in the series and is even more so the case with this fourth entry, which feels like they handed a treatment of the first film to a special effects team and ask them to run a "find and replace"  word processor function on all of the death scenes and character names.

    Since the films do not aspire to be anything more than variations on a theme, fans of the genre/series can only assess them relatively based on the creativity of their gruesomely staged death scenes, the suspense generated by their fake-out "near miss" scenes, and the capabilities of the assembled ensemble of actors.  On the former count, The Final Destination stacks the deck by applying the 3-D process.  The death scenes are staged in such a way as to provide ample opportunity to employ a variety of 3-D "gags".  Some of them are creative, but most of them are pretty ridiculous.  Fans of the laws of physics are bound to be disappointed.

    When it comes to the ability to generate suspense and the actor's abilities to make the audience care, the film falls flat.  The screenplay is so lazily assembled that Nick and Lori figure out the relationship between his premonitions and the series of accidental deaths by "Googling it".  The only character in the film that the screenplay even tries to develop is Mykelti Williamson's security guard who is given a backstory involving alcoholism and a tragic accident.  Other than that, actors playing one-note character parts such as Nick Zano's arrogant hedonist, Andrew Fiscella's old school racist, and Krista Allen's amusingly vapid soccer mom tend to completely overshadow the nominal leads who are supposed to be carrying the movie.

    The screenplay does them no favors by making the characters continuously do and say stupid things. Scenes intended to be suspenseful are undermined by characters who ignore potentially life saving warnings from others despite plenty of evidence that it would be a good idea to heed them.  Rather than dreading/anticipating their impending demise, the viewer is more inclined to want it to come sooner.

    The Video **** (2-D) ????? (3-D)

    The Final Destination is presented in two separate versions encoded at 1080p via the VC-1 codec at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. The first is a standard "flat" 2-D presentation, and the second is an anaglyph 3-D presentation.  The "flat" presentation is generally quite strong with a solid encoding, although the image does seem a bit filtered/processed at times, possibly due to artifacts associated with its 100% digital cinematography. The contrast frequently seems a little bit artificially pushed, which could have something to do with an effort to brighten things up to make foreground and background elements more distinct for the 3-D process or maybe to give the digital image more of a film-like appearance.

    The anaglyph 3-D presentation is, as always, difficult to assess for video quality since any pretenses of proper color and contrast are inherently abandoned from the get-go. All I will say is that the 3-D "gags" register pretty well, and since they are the only reason to watch this film over any other entry in the series, this color-hobbled presentation is the preferred viewing option. Those who are prone to headaches/eyestrain from watching anaglyph 3-D will be relieved that the film runs only about 76 minutes minus the credits sequence.

    The Audio ****½

    The English DTS HD MA soundtrack impressively repurposes the extremely active and dynamic theatrical mix for the home viewing environment.  It effectively extends the gimmicky 3-D philosophy of the visuals into the audio domain. This may come across as fatiguing to some, but seems consistent with the intent of the film, and will provide some gruesome 5.1 surround demo material to gorehound surround sound nuts. An alternate Spanish language track is presented via a 640 Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 stream.

    The Extras ***

    When the viewer first spins up the disc, they are greeted with the following series of skippable promos. All are presented in VC-1 hi-def video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below:
    • Warner Blu-Ray Promo (1:43)
    • Warner Digital Copy Promo  (:48)
    • The Book of Eli Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    Proper extras are organized under various headings under a special features menu that is fully accessible from either the main or pop-up menu unless noted below. All are presented in VC-1 hi-def video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. Note: while I have tried to avoid spoilers in my review, some of the special features listed below have "spoilerish" titles revealing details about on-screen character deaths. This is somewhat softened by the fact that some deaths are depicted only in "premonitions" while others take place in the "real" world of the film. That being said, I would avoid a detailed perusal of the special feature names until after the film has been viewed at least once. The features are listed below under the headings used for the disc menu:

    Behind the Story

    Body Count: The Deaths of Final Destination (22:08 w/"Play All") is subtitled "A deconstruction of several death scenes" and proves to be exactly that. It is divided into seven chapters each representing a different gruesome death scene.  Excerpts from the scene and behind the scenes footage are blended with on-camera interviews with the filmmakers discussing the technical details of how they were achieved. The segments, also viewable independently via menu selections are as follows:
    • Janet Explosion Death features comments from Director David Ellis, Producer Craig Perry, Special Effects Make-up Artist Mike McCarty, Haley Webb, Bobby Campo, Visual Effects Supervisor Erik Henry
    • Samantha Engine Block Death features comments from Ellis, Perry, Krista Allen, McCarty, Henry
    • Cowboy Racetrack Death features comments from Ellis, Mccarty, Henry, Actor Jackson Walker
    • Racist Fire Death features comments from Ellis, Stunt Coordinator Jeffrey J. Dashnaw, Actor Justin Welborn, McCarty,
    • Lori Escalator Death features comments from Ellis, Henry, Perry, Actress Shantel Vansanten, Campo, McCarty
    • Hunt Pool Death features comments from Ellis, actor Mykelti Williamson, Perry, actor Nick Zano, McCarty,
    • Gearhead Fence Death features comments from Ellis, Perry, actor Andrew Fiscella, Campo, VanSanten, McCarty,

    The Final Destination - Racecar Crash (5:01 w/"Play All") breaks down the opening racecar disaster by showing the original storyboards, the "Pre-Viz" computer animatic, and a visual effects clip thats shows before and after compositing examples. Each of the three viewing options is selectable separately or via a "Play All" menu selection.

    Mall Explosion (6:05 w/"Play All") breaks down the "Mall Explosion" sequence in exactly the same manner as the "Racecar Crash" feature described above.

    Additional Footage

    Deleted Scenes (7:17 w/"Play All") includes a mix of both completely deleted scenes as well as alternate versions of scenes in the movie. The alternate takes are generally less extreme and, perhaps more importantly, feature less prominent 3-D "gags" compared to the versions used in the final film.
    • SC 20 Race Track - is a five second insert of a woman being killed by a piece of fence
    • SC 22 Race Track - is an alternate take of the envisioned death of the mechanic character played by Andrew Fiscella. Two stuntmen had to be lit on fire for this version, so I supposes its inclusion as a deleted scene is partial compensation for their pyro antics not being used in the finished film.
    • SC 24 Race Track - is an additional 10-11 seconds of lethal race track mayhem with multiple deaths of anonymous stunt performers.
    • SC 35 Nick & Lori's Apt. - features additional dialog in the scene after the racetrack accident where they discuss not playing it safe anymore, ditching their job plans, and backpacking through Europe.
    • SC 82 Grandstage Garage - is a minor alternate take of a characters death outside of a mechanic's garage
    • SC 99 Pool - is another alternate take of the death of a character that makes a bit more sense than the highly unrealistic version that was used in the final film.
    • SC 120 Street - is a scene where a character tempts fate by crossing a busy intersection without regard for traffic.
    • SC 124 George's House - is a nonsensical scene where yet another character who thinks he has "broken the chain" of fate/death decides that he needs to prove it by attempting suicide.
    • SC 126 George's House - is a scene where George delivers a soliloquy to two other characters about how they should use their "second chance" at life.

    Alternate Endings (3:34 w/"Play All") are two additional sequences that were cut and replaced from near the film's conclusion. The scenes were cut as a work in progress and are shown without finished score or visual effects. Descriptions follow:
    • SC 167-170 Mall - Original Ending is a substantial change from the theatrical ending, with Nick being given a more significant "heroic" moment, but it is not really any better than what was used.
    • SC 164 Mall - Nick gets sucked in and killed by the escalator has the mall mayhem sequence play out a bit differently than the final film, as the description suggests.

    Sneak Peeks

    An Exclusive Look at the New A Nightmare on Elm Street (1:59) is a two minute promo consisting of film clips, behind the scenes footage, and on-camera comments from Producer Brad Fuller and actor Jackie Earle Haley. The film clips mix certain key images and moments that look to have been lifted directly from the original film with a few new bits and brief shots of the Freddy Kreuger character carefully chosen so as not to be too revealing. The behind the scenes footage is mostly Haley getting his Freddy make-up applied. The bulk of the interview comments are Haley talking about the tone of the film and how the Freddy character is being approached.
    BD-Live (accessible from "Pop-Up" Menu only) is a link to Warner's BD-Live portal. At the time of this review posting, there were no features unique to this film save for the ability to host or attend a BD-Live powered virtual screening with online friends.
    DVD and Digital Copy - As Warner has recently stated will be their policy for all theatrical new release titles beginning with the 2010 calendar year, the BD is packaged with a standard DVD that includes both a standard DVD presentation of the movie as well as a digital copy compatible with both Windows and iTunes media.  All are the "flat" 2-D version of the film.  This DVD is a uniquely authored disc that is not the same as the standard DVD released separately.  That being said, I compared the presentation to the 2-D presentation on the standalone DVD release, and they looked just about identical, with noticeable MPEG video artifacts occurring at the same places.

    Packaging

    The BD-50 and bonus SD DVD are packaged in a standard-sized BD case with hubs on each interior side to accommodate both discs. Inserted in the case are two shrinkwrpped pairs of cardboard 3-D glasses (red lens on left, greenish-blue on the right), a single-sided information sheet on BD-Live, and a dual-sided sheet with the code to unlock the digital copy on one side and a promo and code for the Warner "Insider Rewards" program on the other. The hard case is in turn covered by a cardboard slipcover that reproduces the same cover artwork with lenticular 3-D enhancements on the front.

    Summary *

    The Final Destination is a lazy sequel that offers little beyond an abbreviated re-hash of its predecessors save for the use of the 3-D process. Video quality of the 2-D presentation is quite good and marred only by some slightly odd looking (but possibly consistent with filmmaker intent) contrast manipulation and occasional artifacts of the film's digital video origination. With the 3-D process being almost literally all the film has to offer fans of the series, the anaglyph 3-D presentation is the preferred viewing option despite its inherent color and contrast problems. Truth be told, other than fans who are absolute completists when it comes to dead teenager and/or 3-D gimmick movies, the real preferred option would be no viewing at all. The DTS HD MA 5.1 surround sound mix on both versions of the film is impressively dynamic and dimensional. Extras are highlighted by a collection of behind the scenes featurettes on how many of the film's gruesome effects were achieved, breakdowns of two key action sequences via storyboards, pre-visualizations, & effects reels, a collection of deleted and/or alternate scenes, some of which reveal how key moments in the film were re-staged to further exploit the 3-D process, and a two-minute "sneak peek" at the forthcoming A Nightmare on Elm Street remake.


     

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