Final Destination
Rating -

Drama/Romance (US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 113 Minutes

Robin Williams: Chris Nielsen
Cuba Gooding Jr.: Albert
Annabella Sciorra: Annie Nielsen
Max Von Sydow: The Tracker
Jessica Brooks Grant: Marie Nielsen
Josh Paddock: Ian Nielsen
Rosalind Chao: Leona

Produced by Barnet Bain, Ronald Bass, Alan C. Blomquist, Stephen Simon, Ted Field, Erica Higgins and Scott Kroopf; Directed by Vincent Ward; Screenwritten by Ronald Bass

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Perspectives on the afterlife are frequently imagined as attractive, breathtaking places that go beyond what we dream and slip into what most would consider impossible places to imagine. They are viewed as worlds of passion and grace, beauty and imagination, and nostalgia and wisdom.

It may be a place where anything is possible, but people from all different areas of vocation have often demonstrated their beliefs of the afterlife through light, sound and vision, as if they're souls who have seen it's existence. Artists sketch phenomenal scenarios decorated with towering mountains, breathtaking valleys and open fields of colorful flowers. Painters transfer their imaginations and beliefs of it onto a canvas which in itself is a limitless occupation, just as long as the paint is there and ready to use. Heck, even Philosophers have offered their notions on what exists on the other side. Some describe it as a desolate, dry place where there's no feeling, no color, no life, and no ambition. Others describe it as a bold, marvelous place of awe and ambition.

But perhaps there's no better way to picture these places than through the movies. For directors, screenwriters, producers and visual artists, it's an opportunity to test the limits and possibilities of visual richness and imagination. For us, it's an opportunity to view what other people think exists beyond life. Sometimes, these visions are quite what we anticipated. Sometimes, it's a visionary landscape beyond what we expect to see.

The minute "What Dreams May Come" arrives on screen, you know that you're in for a real treat. Here is a movie of such intense visual colors and design, it stirred nostalgia in me that not even the dinosaurs of "Jurassic Park" or the aliens of "Alien Resurrection" could. In simpler words, this is the most visually stunning and appealing movie to date. It offers us an absolute limitless view of the afterlife, boldly mixing color and art in the landscape, just as it mixes feeling and importance in the characters.

This could have possibly been one of the greatest movies made. It's already a masterpiece of art and imagination, but nothing more. If it wasn't for the meaningless directions this plot takes, "What Dreams May Come" could have been absolutely flawless. Yet, the story manages to make numerous mistakes, deadening the pulsating power of the visual worlds that surround it.

Still, it's an impressive piece of work; a sight for sore eyes, as most would say. It stars Robin Williams as an art-lover named Chris Nielsen, who, one day, meets up with an attractive, vibrant woman named Annie, played by Annabell Sciorra. Chris is convinced that this is his soul-mate from the first time he lays eyes on her, and Annie feels the same.

Now flash forward a few years. Both of them are married and have two children, whom are adored by both of their parents. One day, setting off for school, they are (supposedly) killed in a car accident. We never actually see this happen, but the narration of Williams' character tells us so at their funeral.

Flash forward a few more years. Still suffering from the loss of their children, Annie and Chris find themselves apart on their anniversary. Annie has an important engagement at the art museum, and Chris himself is tied up in work. On his way home, he stops off at a sudden car accident within a driving tunnel. He gets out of his car, goes to an overturned vehicle with a victim barely hanging on for life. The next moment, he's hit by an oncoming car flying through the air. After floating in a subconscious state for another fifteen minutes of the movie, he then realizes his death and leaves behind the woman he loves, who is now depressed and torn up on the inside.

So now, free of all his meaning to stay on Earth, he wakes up one morning around a landscape made of oil paint, resembling a painting Annie had created for him. This is his afterlife, a place for redemption and peace, and a place for beauty and wonder. It is his world, free for him to do whatever he wants to it.

The movie then develops into several, complicated stages of storytelling, all of which have their own special values in relating with the scenarios. To put it bluntly, in dark, tense moments, the landscape shrouds in darkness and mysteriousness; at the bright, cheery moments, everything is colorful and purely vibrant. The afterlife changes its moods just like a person does.

Of course, it's no wonder, since most of the story afterwards takes so many different and gloomy turns that it's kind of weird. After Chris is informed that his wife has succeeded in committing suicide, the movie develops into a quest, where Chris bounds all other afterlives in hopes of finding his beloved Annie before she's swallowed up for eternity in her own, desolate hell.

There's nothing wrong with the landscapes, but there is something wrong with some of the direction. The other important characters who we meet in the afterlife are not who they seem to be. Cuba Gooding Jr., for instance, is actually Chris' son in disguise. He appears in this form because, due to past experience, this is probably the only way his father will listen to him.

And just as we learn these little tidbits of information (mainly the relationships between characters), there are flashbacks to moments that explain the situations a little better. Ian, Chris' son, is revealed in one scene, and in the next, the picture flashes back to a moment when Chris tells his son that he has to leave his school and be educated somewhere else. Ian tries to convince him to stay, but Chris only hears what he wants to hear.

The movie is filled with several different sorts of these quirks (meaning characters are actually others in disguise), which eventually culminate at an instance when Chris reaches his destination and finds Annie. It won't be necessary to reveal the ending (I know, I've revealed too much already), but you probably won't like it anyway. I didn't.

These repetitive story twists do not help my nostalgia for this movie. It degrades it to a level of pity and sorrow; meaning, it's not appreciated as much as it should be.

This is, undoubtedly, a huge shame, especially taking into context that it is, after all, the most visually stunning movie I have ever laid eyes on.

If the story had been less predictable and repetitive, this could have been the greatest film of the year; perhaps even the greatest of the decade. Instead, it settles down into a nest of the other overrated 1998 movies, which include "Saving Private Ryan" and "Armageddon."

Still, emerging from a cloud of frustration, it's a treasure of the imagination; a spectrum that reminds us that anything is possible when you are making movies.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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