On the Big Board
||If you've seen either of the first two, you've seen this recycled, mass-produced one too.
||The DVD has a choose your own adventure option. I recommend choosing to turn it off.
||There is three month old milk in my fridge that is fresher than this concept.
James Wong and Glen Morgan's fates have been intertwined since the halcyon days of Johnny Depp/Richard Grieco debates on 21 Jump Street. The duo later worked together on The Commish and Booker, but it was on The X-Files where the duo ascended into the public consciousness. The episode many consider to be the show's high water mark and/or sickest moments, Home, was their creation. There were other high points as well; so many, in fact, that the network gave them their own show.
Space: Above and Beyond lasted only 23 episodes before the network killed it, but Wong and Morgan (presumably) made a lot of money on the endeavor and their parents still loved them. So, not all was lost. They simply made a call to old buddy Chris Carter, and he put them back on the writing team for The X-Files and Millennium. During their down time, the writing partners came up with a new idea: "What if we took the board game, Mouse Trap, and turned it into a major motion picture with numerous convoluted, tragic death sequences?" The rest is history.
Final Destination tapped into the zeitgeist of teenage culture in a way that Scream had four years prior. It turns out that teenagers dealing with raging hormones, erratic sociological skills and crippling insecurities enjoy the premise of bad things happening to impossibly attractive people of roughly equivalent age. Fast forwarding to the present, we now know this concept as the mantra of Lionsgate Films, but it was quite revolutionary for the year 2000.
Even better, the horror film was uniquely popular with critics, a group who generally shuns the horror genre. In addition, it demonstrated fantastic legs in earning $55.3 million in domestic receipts after a relatively paltry opening of $10 million. Final Destination was so popular that something called Devon Sawa was briefly considered an up-and-coming actor simply because it (he?) was in the film. Amazing, no?
A sequel was an obvious choice to the fine folks at New Line Cinema. There was but one catch. Mr. Wong and Mr. Morgan had committed to a Jet Li/Jason Statham project of their invention called The One. The mega-expensive production earned only $43.9 million and was considered something a disaster for its fledgling production company, Revolution Studios. Perhaps coincidentally, said company has recently folded. Needless to say, the writers were less than enthusiastic to get back on the horse so soon after it had kicked their ass. Presumably, such paranoia stems from them knowing exactly what sort of fate would await a protagonist with a similar background in the Final Destination universe.
Enter director David R. Ellis. The minor actor was an inspired choice to direct a Final Destination project. After all, his work history mainly consisted of stuntman jobs, making him a real life version of The Fall Guy. Who would be better at coming up with provocative ideas on how to slay the helpless and prone? Sure, it was dramatically different in tone from his only prior outing as a director, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. At least he had a track record of taking over from the efforts of others, though.
All that was asked of Ellis was that he not destroy the franchise potential of the concept. In the process, if he could manage to maim innumerable sexy teens and work in several awkward Apple tie-ins, so much the better. To this day, BOP wonders about the underlying market message sent by Final Destination 2. It is loosely described as: "Use your lottery winnings to buy an iMac and fate will gouge your eyes out with a rapidly descending ladder." I fail to understand how this grows the brand, but Apple has sold 15 million iPods and is devouring Disney from within its own boardroom. Who am I to question?
But I digress.
What is important here is that critics failed to hate Final Destination 2 as much as I feel they should have. The project earned $46.5 million in domestic receipts, a tally in line with the original. That made a third project something of a certainty. The only remaining details to finalize were the storyline and the presence of Wong and Morgan. Once the latter occurred, long time followers of their work could feel reasonably sure that the plot aspect would work itself out.
That's right, kiddies! It's time for Final Destination at an amusement park. All of those hours spent on Roller Coaster Tycoon will finally pay dividends for you when you witness a young girl named Wendy defying the laws of space and time. The one-time-only psychic gets a premonition that if people don't jump out of line before a Millennium Force wannabe starts its trajectory, they will be catapulted into the atmosphere. After a brief epiphany about how Icarus must have felt, the unfortunate riders will be flung down to the Earth at an alarming rate and eventually explode in an orgasm of fiery destruction. Make no mistake, friends. Gravity is always the enemy. Most survivors are no more fortunate than the flaming flotsam and jetsam once the Grim Reaper mounts his pale horse and heads to Wong-Morgantown.
Final Destination 3 is what it is. (David Mumpower/BOP)