OCTOBER 26, 2007
At this point in the Saw franchise, I am beginning to have trouble choosing a favorite (or least favorite) among them. Like Saw II before it, Saw III is so entwined into the storyline of the previous film, it’s hard to single it out for any one characteristic (good or bad). Like the others, it has its pros and cons, but nothing so major that sticks out.
As for the good: Bousman’s direction has improved (though the film is very dark at times, everything seems more fluid, and the blue tint to the Jigsaw scenes is about the only thing in the film that can be considered distinguished), and the acting in this film is across the board good (having a classy kind of guy like Angus MacFayden certainly helps). And, while it doesn’t specifically say how long it’s been since II, Amanda (Shawnee Smith) has grown her hair out, and she looks as good onscreen as ever. Also, she must have some amazing healing powers – in II all evidence of her jaw injuries from the original were gone, and now, after having her head repeatedly bashed into a wall by Matthews, her face is flawless. (UPDATE - Saw IV reveals that the time in between is about 6 months)
Also, the Jeff character is probably the series’ best, and his ‘test’ in turn is probably the most compelling. Unlike Detective Matthews or the guys in the original, Jeff is a tragic figure, one we can firmly sympathize with. And while the film is the most violent/graphic in the series (at times approaching the sort of pointlessness the franchise is often unfairly accused of, especially in the overlong brain surgery sequence), most of Jeff’s tests have genuine psychological aspects built into them (such as when he has to burn his son’s toys in order to save the other guy), making them vastly more interesting.
However, as said, the film has a bit too much plain ol’ torture. Before we really begin the plot, we are subjected to THREE torture scenes, including the death of one of the series regulars (and the last “good guy” to appear in all of the films to that point). The tests are overly graphic compared to the previous films, and while this sort of makes sense in the grand scheme of things (Amanda’s “cheating”), it doesn’t make it any less excessive. It’s worth noting that this is also the first Saw film to include nudity, which doesn’t really add anything to the scene if you ask me (is liquid nitrogen LESS terrifying if you have a blouse on?).
Also, the end of the film, while a nice surprise, contains far too much flashback during the big reveal, to the point where I feel I am being treated like an idiot. They literally flashback to things we saw just moments before, and more than once. Plus, I think by now the people watching Saw movies kind of know they have to pay attention, which even further eliminates the need for such lengthy “reminders” (incidentally, this is the longest film of the series as well). And it gets even longer! I do not have the new "director's cut" DVD, only the original unrated one (what if someone wanted the theatrical version?). Bousman told me to my face that this one wouldn't be double-dipped, so I refuse to buy it, even if I am intrigued by what is different, since it runs about 6-7 minutes longer (which would suggest the added stuff is more than just gore). But I am a man of principle, dammit! Also, I don't have time to watch it again.
The most impressive thing about these films is how relatively well written and plot hole free they are, considering how quickly they are made, not to mention how much they have to remain consistent with in order to sell the “Jigsaw Puzzle” aspect of the film in relation to the previous ones. Tomorrow I will be seeing part IV (the first in the series that neither Leigh Whannell or James Wan had any part in), I am curious as to how well the new writers do with all the multiple storylines, not to mention the death of Jigsaw himself.
What say you?