31 October 2010 | DonFishies
An awesome ending, but an otherwise forgettable and disappointing finale
It was not a perfect movie by any means, but Saw VI was the first Saw movie that really surprised me. Where the other films quickly became standard exercises in torture and brutality, it was the first film in the series that really made an attempt at building and elaborating the overarching storyline that had been developed over the entire series. Instead of merely hinting at things, we were getting full explanations, things began to make sense, and the movie on the whole was just a very satisfying and very enjoyable film. But much like its predecessors, it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger moment – leading us directly into Saw VII, or as it is more sadly referred to, Saw 3D.
After barely surviving a trap meant to murder him, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is out for revenge on Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell). But Hoffman is not just out for her blood – he has set-up a new game for Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a survivor of a Jigsaw trap and self-help guru.
If that does not sound like much, it is because there is not much to Saw 3D. Outside of the long awaited (and unfortunately spoiled) return of Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes), there is nothing really notable about the film. Jigsaw, a character who must hold some sort of record for remaining the lead despite having died four movies ago, merely appears in an extended cameo. Jill was always a supporting player, but her screen time and presence has been drastically reduced even further. Hoffman's revenge ploy may drive the film, but he too barely appears. So much was tied up, answered and completed in Saw VI that this film feels merely like a film going through the motions to what should be the finale of the series.
Instead of focusing on any of these characters for longer than a few seconds at the time, the film pays attention mostly to Flanery's character and a new detective, Gibson (Chad Donella). Both are described and developed in the quickest and most superfluous of ways (although there could have been a touch more explanation for the importance of Gibson to the storyline), and then help fill in the gaps on the way to the film's conclusion. Neither character or actor is strong enough to carry the movie, and having them help drag the film's running time out just made the film weaker at every interval. Worse yet, the script and story give no reason for the audience to invest any sort of feeling towards either character. Each Saw film hinged on one or an assortment of characters going through some form of game set up by Jigsaw or Hoffman, but there was a grand purpose in the end for why they go through that struggle. Here, the actions of these two characters seem inconsequential. You may hold out hope that there is some reason for their inclusion and participation in the grand finale, but in the end, there is nothing.
The deaths are a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the film seems to have wisely amped up the victims "working together" motif for almost every trap scene in the film. It makes for a couple of interesting moments, but inevitably still ends with the requisite brutally gory deaths. And a few of the traps are interesting as well – particularly one involving a love triangle, saws, and a public display. And for fans of the series, one notable death involving a rather specific "device" will undoubtedly give cheers, laughter and nausea all at once. But outside of these notable tidbits, the creativity, originality and even the morbid "fun" that come from these traps and deaths seems to have been sucked out of the film. Much like the storyline, it all felt like filler padded out to fill gaps. It was a disappointment to say the least after the go-for-broke style of Saw VI, and only shows that the filmmakers are really starting to show how exhausted their imaginations are in this once gloriously and creative realm. The much hyped 3D does almost nothing for these traps and death scenes either. It is an amusing addition at first, but after getting a character's innards thrown at you for the third time, it starts to get a bit old and silly.
But for everything else that is done so wrong, and so haphazard, the filmmakers manage to concoct an incredibly satisfying and wild shock of an ending. On one hand, it is without any doubt, the standout sequence of Saw 3D. Remember the awesome twists this franchise was originally known for? This one takes the cake, and brings the film more in line with the original films than the later ones. The sheer surprise and audacity of it all is just too good, and feels like it belongs in a significantly better film. It practically cheats the audience into sitting through such a horribly disappointing film just so they can get to this one moment of sheer greatness. On the other hand, it stands as an awesome conclusion and finale to the entire franchise. If the ads are correct and this is indeed the final chapter of Saw, then this may just be one of the most enjoyable and entertaining endings ever created. It just may force you to rethink everything that has come before it.
I hate to say it, but Saw 3D is the worst and most disappointing film in the franchise. It will leave a rotten taste in your mouth, and just feels rushed, disjointed and convoluted. Saw VI showed a renewed creative vigor that just failed to connect with this film. The ending is the film's only real redeeming moment, and nearly makes up for everything that precedes it. Let's just collectively hope a reboot does not ruin its greatness.
(This review also appeared on http://www.geekspeakmagazine.com).