29 August 2009

At the movies: The Final Destination 3D.

I’m on record as being willing to watch 3D anything.

Call it a weakness for gimmicks or just being enraptured with the visual representation of physical space, I’m more than willing to luxuriate in stereoscopic cinema under just about any circumstances.

The analogy I’ll always use is The Polar Express. As a film, it’s near unwatchable. But in 3D, it’s pretty fascinating to look at and to experience.

So take that perspective, and apply it to something that I really love- in this instance, the Final Destination films. The most egalitarian voice in contemporary cinema, these films posit that we are, in fact, mortal beings, and that moral perspective and/or actions are completely irrelevant to our own survival. That's eminently subversive these days, when movies generally are just little slices of immortality, things that flatter us into believing that by watching films, we somehow are learning skills that will let us avoid the tragedies that befall others. But whether it's cancer, some poisoning arthropod, or a randomly careening bus, we all will die at some point. It's what defines us. And the Final Destination films' baroque setpieces are cathartic experiences that even the Ancient Greeks would have responded to.

And as for those deaths: we get what could best be called a Chuck Palahniuk kill (possibly the only moment that felt like it had been trimmed for the purposes of the MPAA, because just the idea of this one is unbelievably nasty), a beauty parlor sequence which will terrify anyone even thinking of getting a pedicure at any point in their future, an escalator encounter that somehow manages to recall both Wile E. Coyote and nine inch nails' "Happiness in Slavery" video, countless flying or impaling objects, and, in the meta-moment of this year's cinema, something catastrophic that happens at a 3D film.

This is a movie that works both as a shameless deployer of pointy things at your face and as a great example of using physical space in a captivating way. Director David Ellis (who directed the series peak Final Destination 2, the superweak Asylum, the pretty awesome Cellular, and the thuddering misfire Snakes on a Plane) has a gift for playing both our perceptions and our own senses of foreboding, and there is no body part he won't make go splat, no dream he won't head off at the pass, and no viewer he won't play like a finely-tuned instrument.

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