“You either die a hero, or you see yourself live long enough to become the villain.” Those wise words were ironically spoken by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, arguably the greatest Batman movie (if not comic book movie) of all time. The filmmakers and studio couldn’t take their own advice, though.
Plenty of Batman movies (of varying degrees of quality) have premiered since that one. The Dark Knight Rises, The Lego Batman Movie, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, and The Batman. And there will likely be plenty of other adaptations of the Caped Crusader in the future.
In truth, it’s impossible for Batman to end on a high note. When he has an artistic and financial triumph like Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, it just leaves fans craving more. Plus, he’s too well known to leave alone for long.
Impossible to End Well
It’s the same with many other popular series. The original Star Trek crew could have ended with the excellent Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Instead, they passed the torch to the Next Generation crew in Star Trek Generations, a perfectly decent movie, but not as great as the previous entry. And the Next Gen crew could have ended on a high note with the “All Good Things” two-parter rather than suffering box-office failure with Star Trek: Nemesis and whatever Star Trek Picard has turned into.
From the beginning, Marvel movies were chided as nothing more than popcorn flicks. But there was always a spark of brilliance in their intertwined storytelling across numerous films that no one else was able to match. Since Avengers Endgame, though, it’s all been downhill. Phase 4 has been forgettable at best, not exactly inspiring confidence in the future of the franchise.
The same goes for The Matrix, Indiana Jones, and even Toy Story. And don’t get me started on Star Wars. You could argue the Back to the Future Trilogy bucks the trend. But once Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale die, I fear it’s popular enough to warrant a reboot. Basically, every movie series we might have loved as kids is doomed to fail. There is too much money to be made by returning to the well one too many times.
Exception to the Rule
Out of all this doom and gloom, there is one shining beacon. One movie series (I know of) that has bucked the trend of ending on a down note and leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Or failing to end at all. To be honest, it’s a movie series I don’t particularly care for, and therein lies the secret of its success. It’s the Final Destination series.
The first film, released in 2000, was about a group of American teens and a couple of teachers who get off an airplane heading to France just before it takes off. One of the students had a vision of the plane exploding immediately after takeoff, killing everyone onboard. Unfortunately, death doesn’t like to be cheated. So it hunts down all of the people who left the plane and kills them through seemingly accidental means.
It’s a depressing affair, and its same formula was followed to a T in subsequent sequels. However, the final film, Final Destination 5, did something brilliant that forever changed the trajectory of the series. Rather than promising eternal sequels, that film found a way to end things once and for all in an astonishingly satisfying way. I don’t want to ruin the secret if you’ve never seen it, but let’s just say that it ties the series up in a neat bow that makes it utterly pointless to keep telling further stories.
What Distinguishes Final Destination from Other Movie Series
There are several things that make the Final Destination series special:
- It Ended on a High Note – That alone is a miracle. Very few, if any, other movie series have managed to end on a high note. How could a series primarily known for its contrived, grisly deaths actually manage to surprise and impress with its final film? It created likable characters and gave them an emotional farewell at the end, something none of the earlier films managed to accomplish.
- It’s Not Good Enough to Care About – None of the Final Destination films are worthy of much thought or a revisit. They hit that perfect note of being memorable because of their beginning and end, with nothing of note happening in the middle. But those two bright points still make the series quite incredible. In the end, there are no new ideas to explore that haven’t already been touched on across its five films.
- Fans Aren’t Pining for Further Sequels or a Remake – There’s no sense of nostalgia surrounding Final Destination the way there is around other horror films or films in any other genre, for that matter. Basically, it would be hard to picture a studio wanting to make Final Destination 6. And they already called the fourth entry The Final Destination. So the whole thing is played out.
- It Ended in the Best Way Possible – As I noted earlier, the ending of Final Destination 5 is a stroke of genius. That film shut the door on sequels in such a brilliant way that any screenwriter or director would find it all but impossible to try to pry it open again. I can’t believe I managed to sit through four admittedly mediocre or bad movies to get to the fifth one. But that final entry made up for a lot of the nonsense and repetition.
Impossible to Replicate?
I highly doubt we’ll ever see another Final Destination film. If we do, I’ll have to eat crow. But for now, it’s the only movie series I know of that has ever managed to escape the trend of endless sequels of questionable quality. It wasn’t profitable enough to justify more sequels, and it managed to fly under the radar. I don’t know if anyone else will be able to follow in its footsteps. It doesn’t seem possible. If that’s the case, then at least Final Destination has an apt title. It managed to reach a fitting end no other film series has achieved. It died as a hero.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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