29 October 2010

Game Over- SAW 3D Review

Yeah, it's Saw VII. I might charitably call it Saw VII 3D, but it's certainly not Saw 3D. Hey, after the week I've had over on Den of Geek, doing Saw week, I think I'm allowed to call it whatever I want. Assuming of course that this film is as inaccessible as any deeply story-driven gory soap opera that you enter at the seventh instance, you might want to catch up with my brief summations of the first six films in this blog post from last year, if you don't have time to read through my lengthier Den of Geek critiques.

Righto then, Saw VII. Jigsaw's long-suffering ex Jill Tuck is immediately seen forsaking all badassery she mustered at the end of the last film by running away like a wuss when she sees demented bumbler Hoffman survive the reverse bear trap she put him in. Aiming to broker a deal for her release to his vengeance, Hoffman wreaks citywide mayhem with the traps and games, encompassing the already under-resourced police as well as a self-help guru who claims to have survived one of the Jigsaw tests.

One thing sticks out in how Saw VII fails to offer up a single shock in its entire running time. In the midst of so much grisly routine and misanthropic treatment of characters, one mistake could have redeemed the whole film had it been averted. Twisted Pictures should never have announced the return of Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon. Elwes almost serves as the franchise's Mount Doom with his bookend appearances- with him, Saw was made, and only with him can it be unmade. If they'd only kept that as a surprise, the film would have been worth its salt.

Instead it's just obscenely functional for a film so hyped as the final end of a franchise that fans have followed fo the last six years. So much of its essence has been lost in that time that even Saw VI seems like a return to form in comparison to the ornery incomprehensibility of some of the instalments in the middle. However, while that film improved for its partial reintegration of the late John Kramer, there's a near-criminal lack of him in this final instalment.

Tobin Bell is the gnarled heart and twisted soul of the entire series. It goes rapidly downhill once we're watching Costas Mandylor woodenly trudge along in his shoes, and Hoffman only becomes more unbearable at the very end. I also feel sorry for Betsy Russell, who rounds out her patient and competent run on the series with a scream queen turn, running down corridors and hiding behind cabinets.

But naturally, Saw films are not about the acting, or at least they haven't been since the days of the mighty Elwes and original co-creator Leigh Whannell. They're more about stock characters being put through unfathomable trauma- sometimes baddies, and sometimes goodies, but never relatable. With the character of Bobby Dagen, who becomes a hit on the talkshow circuit and bestsellers list at Jigsaw's expense, we make steps back towards the idea of redemptive torture being the object, but it's quickly subsumed by the same succession of unimaginative sideshows we've seen in the fourth film, or the fifth film, or any other film except the first two, really.

Of the 3D, there's really little to say, except that it might bolster the box-office enough to justify continuing the franchise, even beyond its apparent conclusion. There are still dangling threads that could be resumed, looking at how tenuous some of the series' latter instalments have gotten. It may turn out to be the finale as much as The Evil of the Daleks turned out to be "the final end" for the Daleks, back in 1967. If anything is popular enough, it'll get picked up again. For me though, this is the end. Game over, as it were. I will not see another new Saw film, because I'm pretty much done with them.

In the same way as a dumb blockbuster will eventually seem quiet if it's loud enough for long enough, nothing in Saw VII fazed me, even with all of its sick-making gore. It's a disaffecting and demoralising film that reverts back to its worst excesses after the forward step made by its immediate predecessor, trying to skirt by on being a little more comprehensible. Cary Elwes is the most classy presence and his return could only have been more welcome if it hadn't been announced in advance.

Otherwise, we're looking at a finale so removed from the original point that it's more geared towards wrapping up its dense mythology. It achieves that well enough, but it's difficult to imagine Saw VII being anyone's favourite addition to the series.

Saw VII is now showing in 3D at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Saw VII, why not share your comments below? If you do want to read those lengthy Den of Geek critiques, find the links below...

Revisiting Saw and Saw II
Revisiting Saw III and Saw IV
Revisiting Saw V and Saw VI

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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