If you read my recent post revisiting the original Flatliners from 1990, you’ll know I wasn’t anticipating all that much from the upcoming reboot/sequel/whatever this was. If you haven’t, here were my predictions on 2017’s Flatliners:
My best guess is that this film is designed with a younger generation in mind. They’re aiming to fill the seats with an audience that has heard of the original, but never watched it. It is likely the studios will throw those of us ‘loyalists’ a bone with updated CGI effects during the lucid afterlife and the creepy, paranormal spooks afterwards. At it’s core though, I’m expecting the plot to repeat beat for beat. Lets all plan for a bit of a snoozer.
Flatliners (2017) begins with an ageless Courtney (Ellen Page) doing the old distracted driving routine. As movie karma dictates, this results in her car flipping over a rural bridge into the rushing river below. Because this film is about sins of the past, we all assume the younger female passenger doesn’t make it out alive. We flash ahead 9 years, to which Courtney hasn’t changed much. For the first twenty or so minutes, I was trying to A Beautiful Mind the math on that flashback. Was that her sister? Was it her daughter? How old is she supposed to be now? (Answer Key: Her sister. Age? Likely mid-to-late twenties in present.. making her a teenager in the opening scene?)
Back to the future- Courtney is now a student Doctor, itchy to get the deetz from a recently ‘flatlined’ patient. And, much like Kiefer Sutherland’s character in the original film, she cajoles several other medical students into an unused section of the medical facility to perform some un-dead experiments. Her rag-tag group signed on board are Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), a fellow student currently being coddled by an over-bearing mother, and Jamie (James Norton), a trust-fund baby who for some reason has turned a small yacht into a lackluster bachelor pad. Though reluctant to participate at first, it’s all fun and games once Courtney induces herself in a sci-fi worthy but not all-together medically accurate contraption. This must be set in the future. Maybe?
While ‘flatlining’, Courtney‘s team aren’t so quick to revive her. They call on do-gooder Ray (Diego Luna) to come to the rescue, while Marlo (Nina Dobrev) tags along for the ride. Once Courtney has been revived, our death-defying crew celebrate with a flour and hale ridden party in which they bust one of the walls down in Courtney‘s apartment. There goes her deposit.
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They also take a small break from the action to try to give this film some sort of selfless purpose. Our crew so thoughtfully records their brain scans in which to provide scientific evidence of life after death. We watch Courtney’s scans and see some electric activity shooting around different portions of her brain. The team may just be on to something big, but instead we completely abandon ship. The audience would much rather enjoy Ray speeding down the road on a motorcycle, Marlo executing a car-escape worthy of a stuntcar driver, and Sophia showing her mom she’s in charge of her own life (despite her mother paying her entire way to medical school, I might add). The scientific value of this expedition doesn’t come up again for the rest of the film.. until a cathartic scene in which the evidence gets dumped into the river.
Oh, and did I mention Kiefer Sutherland has returned? Well, he has. Portraying a doctor in charge of the medical students, for some reason in which I haven’t quite determined.
We continue to watch our medical team get cooler and cooler. The partying drags on. At one point, Marlo even claims ‘Flatlining to be the latest party drug’. But being dead isn’t all glamour. Right on time in following beat for beat with it’s predecessor, the team realizes they may have brought something back with them.
Insert Jumpscare here.
Courtney becomes haunted by the ghost of her drowned sister. Ray is tormented by Nancy Drew and the Case of The Unwanted Abortion. Marlo gets a taste of her own jellyfish. (If this makes no sense, trust that I am totally still synopsizing the film)
Overall this film simply doesn’t justify its own existence. There are a few deviations from the original, but overall it pretty much repeats old news, 30 years too late. Ellen Page, though a talented actress, languishes in this film, trapped in a lifeless character (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little one). Kiefer Sutherland, who could have been a complete asset in bridging the gap between the two films, gives us no hint to whether we have returned to the same universe in which the original Flatliners took place. Nor does he provide any insight or heed to our characters. He merely exists. Overall, this film failed because it refused to venture into the unknown, and played safe with characters who wanted nothing but the opposite. The remake is neither gritty nor edgy, and to succeed it needed to be both.
Flatliners, the sequel/reboot stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons . It opened wide in theaters on September 29th, and is currently playing pretty much everywhere.