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After one member of a high school class bound for Paris experiences a terrifying vision, he and a handful of passengers disembark the ill-fated flight, just before it takes off and explodes. Then the survivors begin to die, one by one, in mysterious and increasingly bizarre "accidents."
For more about Final Destination and the Final Destination Blu-ray release, see Final Destination Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on August 31, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: James Wong
Writers: James Wong, Glen Morgan, Jeffrey Reddick
Starring: Devon Sawa, Amanda Detmer, Chad E. Donella, Ali Larter, Daniel Roebuck, Kristen Cloke
» See full cast & crew
Final Destination Blu-ray Review
Nothing Is "Final" About a Franchise
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, August 31, 2011
The team of Glen Morgan and James Wong was well-known to fans of The X-Files and its distant cousin, Millennium, for their clever, original and frequently shocking takes on horror material. When they made their feature film debut with 2000's Final Destination -- Wong directed, Morgan produced, both of them wrote, from an original script by New Line staffer Jeffrey Reddick -- their fans hoped for something different, and we weren't disappointed. Working from an idea that, ironically, had originally occurred to Reddick as a concept for an X-Files episode, Morgan and Wong crafted a screwball twist on the classic teen slasher genre spawned by Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth. Instead of being methodically eliminated by an indestructible psychopath, the cast were stalked by a paranormal force representing Death itself, perceptible only to someone with psychic powers, whose predictions, like Cassandra's, brought him only sorrow. Neither Wong and Morgan, nor Reddick, ever expected to create a franchise. Their original title for the film was Flight 180, after the airline disaster that sets the plot in motion. It was the studio brass at New Line Cinema, a studio founded on a successful franchise, that had the commercial instincts to insist on the generic title "Final Destination" over the objections of the writers, producer and director, thereby ensuring easy "branding" for sequels if the film was a success. Thanks to the story's novel elements and the superior craftsmanship brought to the project by Morgan, Wong and an interesting cast that played their parts straight while getting the joke, the film did well enough to spawn four sequels (to date).
The metaphysical conceit of Final Destination is that Death (with a capital "D") has a plan for us all. If something interferes with the plan, Death seeks to restore the intended order, like a natural system seeking equilibrium. Of course, this pseudo-mythology is just a pretext for Wong and Morgan to stage unnecessarily elaborate but freakishly entertaining (because they're both scary and comical) death scenes that are a cross between the demonic punishments of the Omen films and a Rube Goldberg machine. The person who interferes with Death's plan is Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), a high school student joining his class for a school trip to Paris. (The name is a reference to Tod Browning, director of Dracula and Freaks. All the character names are film or inside references.) A nervous flier so superstitious that he saves the baggage tags from the last successful flight completed by his luggage (actually his dad's), Alex turns out to have good cause for being nervous. He's a psychic who sometimes foresees disaster just before it happens. Shortly after boarding the Paris flight, he experiences a vivid vision of the plane exploding immediately after take-off and jumps up screaming that they're going to crash. Even in a pre-9/11 world, this kind of behavior gets him ejected from the plane, along with one teacher, Mrs. Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke), and five other students who are caught up in the melee. One of the students, Carter Horton (Kerr Smith), is furious at Alex, and the two are being pulled apart when the plane they just exited explodes in midair, killing everyone who remained aboard. There's shock, tears, copious reports, interviews with a representative from the NTSB and hard stares from two FBI men who find the whole thing suspicious (Daniel Roebuck and Roger Guenveur Smith). And, of course, the parents of the teens who survived are deeply grateful, even if they don't really understand what happened. The sole exception is Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), who is an orphan. Clear is exceptional in another way, because she affirmatively followed Alex off the plane, somehow sensing the accuracy of his premonition. Now she wants to help Alex understand the true meaning of his remarkable prediction. The other survivors treat him with anger, fear or, like Billy Hitchock (Seann William Scott), as a sideshow fortune teller. Alex's and Clear's inquiry becomes more urgent when one of the survivors, Alex's best friend, Tod Waggner (Chad E. Donella), is found dead in his bathroom, an apparent suicide. We in the audience know different, of course, because we've seen the complex contrivance of household items guided by an unseen hand that took Tod's life. Alex and Clear break into the funeral home to get a close look at the body, where they encounter a spooky mortician named Bludworth played by the incomparable Tony Todd (who would become a recurring figure in the series). It's Bludworth who explains about Death's plan, which sends Alex on a quest to decipher and try to outwit it. Using Death as a villain liberated Final Destination (and its sequels) from many of the practical absurdities that eventually dragged down the Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth series, with their indestructible, omnipotent and omnipresent killers. Here, the killer really is indestructible and everywhere -- and since his (its?) weapons are whatever happens to be lying around, one just has to apply a litte imagination. The film may not be deep, but it's well crafted with the same wickedly warped sense of humor that Morgan and Wong brought to their best X-Files work. (The death of Carter's girlfriend, Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer), is a particular crowd-pleaser.) Indeed, when the filmmakers tried to add a more profound note with a conclusion suggesting Death could be outwitted by creating new life, it fell flat. (This alternate end and unfavorable reaction are detailed in the extras.) The ending was reshot, and the film was released with a conclusion that hews to the story's "through line" by closing with another elaborately staged demise. When you've done such a fine job sending your story racing down one particular track, you just have to ride it all the way to the end.
Final Destination Blu-ray, Video Quality
Morgan and Wong hired Millennium veteran Robert McLachlan to shoot Final Destination, which suggests that they wanted dark scenes to be truly dark. McLachlan's work on Millennium pushed the boundaries for dark images on television about as far as anything I can remember in the Nineties, and much of Final Destination takes place at night or in dimly lit interiors. McLachlan makes sure you always see what you're supposed to, and the 1080p, VC-1-encoded Blu-ray from New Line/Warner does a respectable job of reproducing his work. Black levels are quite good and sometimes more than good (a night scene in which Alex flees the FBI by boat is especially impressive, because the reflective surface of the water aids in lighting the scene). Grain is lightly present but not intrusive, and since no apparent effort has been made to strip it away, the image remains finely detailed. Colors tend to be drab, but this is a deliberate aspect of the production design, as can be seen when strong colors are called for, e.g., the red roses laid as memorials for the crash victims, Bludworth's blue shirt and the surroundings in a sequence late in the film where the decor is different for reasons best left for the first-time viewer to discover. Though the film has been released on a BD-25, it is only 98 minutes long, and the only audio tracks other than the lossless feature track (and its compatability companion) are lossy commentary tracks. This seems to have left sufficient room for the compressionist to work without generating artifacts or digital errors.
Final Destination Blu-ray, Audio Quality
N.B. Final Destination is one of the early Warner-produced discs that does not default to the Dolby TrueHD track. Be sure to select the lossless track from the pop-up menu as soon as the film starts. The lossless Dolby TrueHD track has presence and punch and uses the entire surround field for the film's big moments, of which the most impressive is Alex's vision of the plane disaster. Several of the subsequent "make-up" death sequences also provide impressive displays of sonic engineering, although none of them can match the sustained assault of the airline sequence. Bass extension is sufficient to have impact without rattling the room. (For my taste, that's enough, but I recognize that tastes vary in this regard.) Dialogue is always clear and centered.
Final Destination Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The extras have been ported over from the 2000 New Line "Platinum Series" DVD. Omitted are the extras available exclusively as DVD-ROM content: the screenplay and various internet-enabled features, including the original website (assuming it still exists) and film-themed games.
Final Destination Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Comedian Bill Maher observed, on the occasion of the latest Final Destination film (the fifth in the series): "The makers of the movie Final Destination 5 must be locked in a room until they learn what the word 'final' means." It's a good laugh line, but the reason why films whose plots are no more than a loosely connected series of murders so readily lend themselves to franchising is that there's never anything final about them. The supply of victims is one of the few permanently renewable resources we have. By universalizing their killer, simplifying motive to the most basic, and expanding means and opportunity to the entire world, the creators of Final Destination effectively guaranteed that, in the words of Phantasm's Tall Man, "It's never over." (At least not until the box office drops. It turns out that the word "final" probably means "low ticket sales".) In the meantime, the Blu-ray of the film that started it all is a solid presentation that is highly recommended.
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Final Destination Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Final Destination 5 Blu-ray - October 13, 2011
In December, New Line and Warner Home Entertainment will release Final Destination 5 on Blu-ray. The latest installment in the popular horror franchise, Final Destination 5 stars Nicholas D'Agosto (Fired Up) as a young man whose advance premonition of a gruesome ...
• Today on Blu-ray - April 7th - April 7, 2009
When making a film about a controversial subject, it is often difficult to represent the subject matter in a way that will appeal to general audiences. Tread too lightly on the subject, and the message can be lost or misunderstood; tread too heavy, and the message ...
• Final Destination Blu-ray Gets Detailed - December 30, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of the teen horror flick 'Final Destination', which is due to hit store shelves on April 7th. Coming on a BD-25, video will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p VC-1 ...
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