A slightly empty remake that loses emotion but brings some new angles
- Flatliners review by BG
You can imagine why someone would want to reinvent 'Flatliners'. The Kiefer Sutherland original is now 28 years old as I write this in 2018 (yep fellow 80s kids, it's been that long, lol) so its ripe ideas might be missed by a new generation who might not want to troll back through quarter of a century of movie history looking for supernatural thrills.
The idea of young doctors wanting to experiment with seeing what happens when you die, and ending up haunted by their sins, is a potent one. It's ripe with possibilities. The original only mined some of those possibilities, and often descended into cheese (despite being very enjoyable).
2017's version has an equally talented cast, including Ellen Page, James Norton (currently rumoured as a Bond candidate) and Diego Luna (Rogue One).
Despite attempts to round everyone out, only Luna's smarter, quieter professional seems like a rounded human being, and Kiefer Sutherland brings a welcome nostalgic touch as well as a fearsome bite as an impatient superior. Page feels like a blank slate with 'movie character grief issues', Dobrev's 'Marlo' simply seems insecure, Norton's 'Jamie' feels like he should have 'I'm the wild one' stencilled on his forehead, and Kiersey Clemons' 'Sophia' is appallingly written, for reasons I'll mention in a moment.
The film follows the original's template by suggesting that something supernatural has been irked by the gang's experiments, and they must set about trying to make sense of the eerie visions and disturbances that start to plague them.
To its credit, it pulls some shocking surprises that I don't recall being in the original, and introduces an alluring reason to keep attempting the experiment. But some of the fixes for the characters' woes feel too easy - like they haven't been earned. One in particular feels completely conflicted and self-serving. Sophia is repeatedly shown as an easily cowed victim of emotional abuse, meaning that her sin feels unlikely and hugely out of character. It's also done for an astoundingly selfish reason, and her apology feels equally self-serving and insincere - surely something that the forces in play wouldn't accept?
Problematic writing like this plagues the remake. The actors are high quality but their roles feel cold and remote. You never invest in them as strongly as you did with the 90's cast.
The tension isn't always up to scratch either. Some sequences carry a frisson of fear, but others feel slack or illogical.
It's interesting to see what they did with it, but Flatliners is one of those sequels that are about as necessary as a light-up kettle. It's flashy and expensive, but there's already an older version that does the job just fine.
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