Final Destination 5: Is this the end?
With the release of Final Destination 5 (purchase link) it’s a good time to look back at the series as a whole. 2000’s Final Destination was a breath of fresh air. The film was clearly marketable to the teen market, along with other horror flicks of the time, including Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and their sequels. Yet the concept was fiercely original. In Final Destination a group of teens are preparing to travel to France for a graduation class trip. After boarding the plane (Flight 180) lead character Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a premonition in a dream that the plane crashes, killing all on board. He scrambles to get off the plane, with a few of his fellow students and teachers also forced off the flight.
Flight 180 crashes of course, and the rest of the film is sort of a supernatural thriller, as Death seeks to kill off the survivors, one by one for “cheating death”. The deaths were wildly imaginative and challenging to film, involving water leaks, fires, freak car accidents, electrical shortages, beheadings, and on and on. The movie is unique in that the viewer knows everyone will die at some point, it’s just a matter of how. And Death is not a human character; it is merely a supernatural force, neither good nor evil. The movie if effective in part because many people believe that deaths do happen for a reason and that everyone has a time to die.
The sequels to Final Destination all followed the exact formula, with some minor twists, and have made for a relatively stable and successful franchise. Instead of dying in a plane crash, each sequel has been designed around a different tragedy. Final Destination 2 involved a devastating freeway pileup, Final Destination 3 a freak rollercoaster accident, The Final Destination a race-car mashup, and now a bridge collapse for Final Destination 5 in 2011.
Final Destination 5 starts off on a sour note, simply because the bridge collapse seems so contrived and unlikely. Also, the characters in Final Destination 5 are much less dynamic than in previous sequels. Nonetheless, Final Destination 5 serves up some memorable death scenes, one in an acupuncture accident and another during a gymnastics meet. To top it off there’s even a laser eye surgery death, probably a film first. The big “plot twist” of Final Destination 5 is that we are led to believe that one can trick Death by taking the life of someone else. One character, Peter Friedkin (Miles Fisher), becomes obsessed with this idea, which makes for an intriguing subplot as he tries to kill some of the other characters. It’s an interesting plot device, but thankfully not too much time is devoted to it before we also see Peter’s death.
Final Destination 5 (purchase link) also sees the return of creepy coroner William Bludworth (Tony Todd). The character, who appeared in the first two films, has been one of the few ties linking any of the films together. He is also a human representation of Death for the series, although after five movies we still know almost nothing about him. It would have been nice to learn more about this character, but in the end each FD sequel has been basically a remake of the original. The 3-D effects of FD 5 been praised by some, but to me they didn’t seem especially impressive. There are a few moments when the effects grab you by surprise and jolt you out of your seat, but by and large the effects are merely average.
Just when we thought we had FD 5 figured out, it turns out that FD 5 is actually a prequel to the original, as the surviving FD 5 characters end up perishing on Flight 180. So, the series goes full circle and ends off where it began. It’s interesting to me that FD 5 is the first of the sequels to explicitly revisit the plane crash of Flight 180. Was this at all controversial, considering the proximity of the release date to the 10th anniversary of 9/11? I imagine the original would never have been made if it was produced after 9/11.
After all, how can you reasonably make the argument that nearly 3,000 people were meant to die in the terror attacks? And why those 3,000 people and not others? Was 9/11 also part of Death’s design? Perhaps making a terror attack one of the disasters would breath a little life into the series, as unpleasant as the idea may seem. As it is, though, the FD series seems content with merely treading water until enough people lose interest in the series.
UPDATE July 22, 2018: It would seem a logical time to end the series, however when this article was written in 2011 there was speculation that back-to-back sequels would be produced if FD 5 were successful. According to Box Office Mojo, Final Destination 5 ended up making close to $160 million worldwide. Over the years there have been continued rumors of future sequels. Tony Todd himself reportedly announced that Final Destination 6 would begin filming in Vancouver in August of 2016, however that was not the case and the series creator Jeffrey Reddick denied the information. The series has a loyal fanbase, and it seems like the interest is there. The unofficial Final Destination 6 Facebook page has over 140,000 followers.
If they keep making Final Destination movies, I’ll keep watching them. But if Final Destination 5 is the last one, that would be fine too. At least the series went out on a high note with a quality sequel. Stay tuned.
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