Theatrical Review: Saw 3D

When last we left off with Saw VI, Detective Marc Hoffman had been discovered as the one continuing the deadly Jigsaw killings. John Kramer’s wife, Jill Tuck was on her way fulfilling her husband’s final wish and taking care of Hoffman, who in his role as Jigsaw (Kramer’s successor) had been subverting the message that Jigsaw had originally intended with his deadly “games.” Hoffman had been left in one of Jigsaw’s reverse bear traps and managed to escape his final fate.

After two initial scenes, a short one that gives the promise to answer the series’ longest standing question of “Whatever happened to Doctor Lawrence Gordon” and an extended scene with another Jigsaw killing about to take place in an all-too-public location, we pick right back up, immediately after the final events of Saw VI. As with the other films in the series, this is a direct continuation, that answers some question and puts in some new elements while continuing it’s Grand Guignol thrill ride.

Saw 3D is the supposedly the final film in the series and it does offer a final resolution, though it’s also left itself a way to continue if the producers chose to continue. I love the series, I have since the start, and even though I’ll miss it, I do hope this is the final chapter.

Many critics dismiss the series as “torture porn,” it’s their way of telling us that they’re above something they perceive as this tawdry. I certainly get it, but disagree with it. I’m guilty of it in my own way as well, just reacting in horror whenever I see a new “comedy” come around with a Seth Rogen, or Zack Galifianakis or Jack Black or a new “romantic comedy” with Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Aniston. So I do get it, and grudgingly accept it, but am quick to defend the Saw series whenever I can. What’s been crafted here over the series of seven movies has been a highly intricate horror epic bathed in ridiculous violence. Sure the violence is ridiculous, but in my eyes, no more ridiculous in it’s own way than seeing a man fly in a comic book movie. This is a trapping that goes with the genre, it’s just a matter of how it’s used. The Saw series has always managed it well, though some fans will debate how well, between movies. But seen as a single piece, it’s been remarkably consistent and always well-crafted.

Even though the series has had three directors over time, the visual style and methods of storytelling have remained uniform and the look has always been on point. The over-arcing story is as intricate as any of Jigsaw’s deathtrap games. Charlie Clouser has provided strong and effective scores with each film, and you just wait for the signature theme to come into play when all of the pieces come together. On top of that, the series has never gone with any “star” actors, but those who have been part of it have been consistently strong and have willingly come back to play in this bloody sandbox.

The new wrinkle added this time is using a character who has falsely admitted to being a survivor of one of Jigsaw’s deathtraps. He’s now profiting from his lie and Jigsaw attempts to teach him a lesson. On it’s own, this would be another faction of the story, but because it’s also intertwined with answering the question of what happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon, it has a little more significance. The question of Gordon does get answered and while I doubt that it will be of any surprise to long-time fans of the series (it wasn’t to me), it’s still satisfying in that the final story does come full circle. There’s not really any cheats here either, as Dr. Gordon has been mentioned in every film, so eventually it made sense that events would come back around to him. Hearing that this would be the final movie in advance, I was hoping to see actor Cary Elwes as part of the show again, and he does.

Elwes is here for a few brief scenes, and does a great job in those few scenes. Also returning are Tobin Bell as Kramer, Costas Mandylor as Hoffman and Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck. there’s a few other familiar faces as well, either as background characters or some of the other Jigsaw survivors attending a seminar given by our newest character, Bobby Dagen, played by Sean Patrick Flanery. While no one will win any awards for this, it’s all solid work, though I do want to call attention to one player, that being Tobin Bell. Bell’s only here for a couple of brief moments but his presence is felt throughout the entire film. Bell’s been kicking around out there forever in various character parts and it’s been nice to see him get his due with this series. He plays the very best kind of villain, one that knows what he’s doing is absolutely and uncompromisingly right. He has has his own brand of charisma that’s certainly made sense to the others that have followed him. As I said, his scenes are minimal here (though that’s understandable, his character has been dead since Saw 3), but because this is the last of the series, I wanted to give him special credit for what he’s brought to the table.

Where this fails, though it doesn’t hurt it’s story, is that it’s presented in 3D and from what i understand, only in 3D. The 3D here is not necessary at all and it’s just not used well. Oh there’s a couple of scenes where it’s not too bad, but in comparison to other recent 3D horror movies like The Final Destination or Piranha 3D it still falls extremely short. If you’re going to use 3D in something like this, then wallow in it. Absolutely glorify the killings as much as you can and take full advantage of every trick in order to bring the impact. This doesn’t do it, and because of that and because seeing it in the more expensive 3D presentation is from what I understand the only way to see it, this gets a lower rating.

For fans, it’s still a great capper and it’s final scene is absolutely terrific. For the uninitiated, you’ll be hopelessly lost without seeing the other films, so unless you want to make that effort, don’t bother. With the exception of the poor 3D, I was captivated from the start and so this still gets a strong recommendation, but beware, you will have to pay a higher price for it.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

31. October 2010 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | 2 comments

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