Final Destination 2 (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Having to rely on a middle-man sucks, even for Death. The problem is, while He gets His due, someone else – usually a guy in a hockey mask or wearing Lee press-on steel nails – steals all the credit. And at least one intended victim always gets away. Jamie Lee Curtis and Heather Langenkamp in particular have been slippery. So, after years of pulling the strings behind the scenes, Death has finally decided to take matters into His own hands. That's where the Final Destination movies come in, since they mark the feature debut of Death Himself as a serial killer. No more sitting around playing chess in Bergman films.

It's difficult to say whether the second Final Destination is better or worse than its unworthy predecessor. It's certainly dumber and less coherent. But, by the same token, there's an element of gory craft evident in some of the death sequences that wasn't present the first time around. I particularly liked the opening, which features a spectacular car wreck and several emphatic corporeal departures. The whole point of the movie isn't really whether there's going to be a next victim, but who it will be and how they will die. After all, you can't cheat death… or can you?

Therein lies one of Final Destination 2's innumerable flaws. It postulates that there is a cosmic loophole in the whole process. Death has a list, but apparently He doesn't check it twice if a birth occurs in the meantime. Of course, the specifics of the loophole are so nebulous that the ending is doomed not to make any sense, but that doesn't stop the filmmakers from forging ahead with their agenda. After all, the point of the film is the dead, not the living. And, if there are a couple of people around at the end who haven't been impaled, incinerated, or crushed by an Acme 10-Ton weight, will anyone care? (Since survival has something to do with procreation, I expected the alpha male to impregnate all the women.)

Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) is just about to pull onto the freeway when she has a horrifying premonition of death and destruction. In a panic, she stops in the middle of the ramp, blocking traffic and not allowing anyone behind her to merge. So, when the accident occurs, Kimberly and several others who were marked for death aren't where the Grim Reaper expected them to be. Ironically, this happens on the first anniversary of the events from the classic original Final Destination. Instead of loudly exclaiming, "Damn! Not again!," Death doggedly goes to work rectifying the mistake, taking out the victims one-by-one. A freaked-out Kimberly locates the only survivor of last year's carnage, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), in a padded cell, and persuades her to join this crusade. So, with the aid of a cute policeman (Michael Landes), Kimberly and Clear pay a visit to the Candyman (Tony Todd), who once again babbles inanely about Death's designs. Once they leave him, everything definitely isn't satisfying and delicious.

Strange as it may sound, Final Destination 2 actually overlaps some territory covered in Minority Report. Kimberly frequently has premonitions about how her fellow doomed victims are going to die, and she uses these to try to save them. In actuality, however, the act of responding to the premonitions sets in motion the events that lead to squashings and eviscerations. The circular relationship of cause-and-effect is central to Minority Report, and it's in play here. The difference is that Spielberg's movie engages the paradoxes while Final Destination 2 seems unaware that they exist. But that's what happens when screenplays are aimed at audience members who have willingly submitted themselves to frontal lobotomies upon entering theaters.

It's hard to guess which will cause more titters – the lame dialogue or the pasty performances. However, while none of the actors show anything in the nature of promise, I have to admit that there might be hope for director David Ellis. Granted, there's only so much he can do with the material, but the death scenes – and the associated "fakes" and red herrings that are intended to build suspense – are presented competently, and occasionally even with flashes of style. There's a fairly wide variation to how people die – pigeons, elevators, fire escape ladders, air bags, and a gas grill all have roles to play.

The primary reason to give Final Destination 2 a wide berth is its utter lack of respect for its audience. The movie mandates complete gullibility and vacuous attention in order to work on any level. It doesn't bother me that the movie revels in death, but there's nothing beyond the carnage. Without characters or a coherent plot, why bother? This Final Destination ends up in the same graveyard as the first. Unfortunately, I suspect the Grim Reaper is already sharpening His scythe in preparation for Final Destination 3.

Final Destination 2 (United States, 2003)

Director: David Richard Ellis
Cast: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, Terrence Carson, Keegan Connor Tracy
Screenplay: J. Mackye Gruber & Eric Bress
Cinematography: Gary Capo
Music: Shirley Walker
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
Run Time: 1:28
U.S. Release Date: 2003-01-31
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1