Film Review: Flatliners (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

Flatliners, 2017

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland

 

A sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, Flatliners is about another group of five medical students who recreate the same experiment from the original where they stop their heartbeat (effectively killing themselves) to see what it’s like in the afterlife before being brought back to life. It’s set in the same hospital, and Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners (1990)), the only cast member from the original, returns, although this time he’s a doctor in the hospital, not a patient with the experiment.

I will say I prefer this to the original; it improves on what they set out on (how to end the visions, for a start) and was, at times, quite creepy. Four of the five flatline (as it was in the original) and, for the most part, the plot played out exactly the same (although they didn’t forget someone’s visions, as they did in the original). They establish that there is an afterlife (and through one’s flatline we see what happens after you’re under for too long) and that the key to ending it isn’t necessarily atonement, as it alluded to in the first.

The acting was pretty fine throughout, nothing too special but nobody was particularly terrible, and the writing helped; again, it wasn’t brilliant, and it gave us a couple of bland characters, but it was alright. And, for the most part, the presentation looked impressive; the visions, the lights, the setting, the camera angles, they all worked well together for the atmosphere they were trying to create. There were a few weird camera angles which confused, and borderline manipulated, the scenes somewhat, which was a bit unfortunate.

But for all the good things (however few and far between), there is one big problem I have with this film, and it’s nothing to do with what the film did wrong, but what the film didn’t do right: it’s a sequel. For whatever reason 27 years after a mediocre original, they decided (with Michael Douglas again being a producer) to make a follow up, and it being a sequel is something that harms this film. In the original five medical students invented this idea, and executed it without anyone anywhere else having done so before (they do some research so we find this out). It’s now been 27 years since those students worked on it, and ended it, and, in the present day, there is still nobody doing this experiment (again we know this because they do some research). So, in the exact same hospital another five students create this idea: two groups of five students, each independently coming up with this idea that has never been done before. Then, to further it being a sequel, they bring Kiefer Sutherland in to reprise his role, and do not use him in the way they should have. Why didn’t Kiefer catch on with what they were doing? Why didn’t they have the gang confess to him only to have him suggest atonement (you can even have the first character atoning at the same time so the new group work it out for themselves but they can still have Kiefer help)? On that note, one person apologises in this film and suddenly they have an answer, there was no basis for her theory but they insisted they had an answer. Did they just assume that nobody would have seen/remembered the original so didn’t want to make many connections? They could have used Kiefer’s character so much more and allowed him to spot their workings, or help them in their survival, or, better yet, advertise this film as a remake. A remake wouldn’t have had these same problems, as you’re simply retelling a story, but a continuation with two sets of students doing the exact same experiment with the exact same personal traits in their friends with absolutely no correlation or connection or anything just comes across as ludicrous.

It looks good, and certainly tells the story of the implications after they flatline better than the original, but nothing special stood out in this film, and branding it as a sequel then missing so many obvious tricks to use just really lets it down.

 

Plot: * * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * * *     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼

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