Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Saw 3D

Saw 3D (aka Saw 7) has been marketed as the “Final Chapter” in the Saw film series, but whether or not the filmmakers continue the flagship torture porn franchise, as a spin-off, prequel, or yet another sequel, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, two things are certain:

  1. Saw 3D is the most violent and disturbing Saw film to date.
  2. The 3D is completely unnecessary.

If you’re on the fence about seeing Saw 3D, make sure to check out our ‘Saw’ Movies: The Complete Guide in 6:66 feature to get caught up. We’ve included summaries of each film, as well as a one-stop video mash-up revisiting the key events from the Saw series so far.

In case you’ve missed our prior Saw 3D coverage, here’s the official plot synopsis:

“As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen, a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.”

None of the Saw films have been able to capture the smarts of the original Saw – which was more of a suspense horror-thriller as opposed to the excessive and convoluted torture-horror installments that followed. The film was focused around the carefully crafted, but simple, scenario Adam and Lawrence found themselves in – not the increasingly complicated traps featured in later films. It was two men in a room with competing goals – each was given the tools necessary to reclaim their lives.

While later installments have upped the gore and showmanship, they’ve also lost sight of the fundamental “rule” of the game – to test guilty people’s will to live. But what about the countless victims who had no say in the matter whatsoever (the merry-go-round in Saw 6 comes to mind)? Saw 3D bends the franchise rules more than any other film in the series. There’s no doubt that it will please fans, but it’s unlikely to convince any moviegoers who had previously abandoned interest in the Saw films.

Bobby Dagen is a better “victim” character than the more on-the-nose leads in recent installments, such as the crooked real-estate group in Saw 5 and the uncompassionate insurance CEO in Saw 6 – who some audience members, no doubt, viewed as real-life “villains” of the U.S. recession. Instead, Dagen is a self-help author who made millions by sharing his story of rebirth – after surviving a Jigsaw trap. It’s no surprise when Dagen, as well as his PR team, awaken in a Jigsaw game.

The overarching story about Hoffman and Jill Tucks’s battle for Jigsaw’s legacy is intriguing – but save for one logistics-related twist, mostly predictable. Ultimately, it would have been more interesting if it had been grounded in the overarching franchise plot – instead of a disconnected “revenge” story. Dagen’s game is referenced a few times in the Hoffman/Tuck storyline but, for all intents and purposes, neither plotline has very much bearing on the other.

However, story hasn’t been the focus of the Saw franchise since the original film – any of Saw 3D‘s promotional materials will tell you priority number 1 is the traps. Fans of the franchise will be happy to know that this addition to the franchise delivers some of the most disturbing “game” scenarios to date. They’re actually less over-the-top than previous movies, relying on intimate one on one trials – instead of “unwinnable” challenges such as the choose who lives and who dies variety. In Saw 3D, Dagen has a real emotional connection to the people he’s attempting to save and is directly responsible for whether or not each one will survive – creating a number of frantic and enjoyable moments of suspense.

There might actually be too much emphasis on whether or not Dagen can save others – as for some reason, Dagen is rarely placed in the same level of danger as other people (i.e. Jeff from Saw 3). Remember, Jigsaw’s “mantra” is testing a guilty person’s will to live. In this film, some guilty people have zero control over their fate and innocent people are, for some reason, also at risk. From moment to moment it’s gripping, but the devil is in the details – and the immersion breaks-down as a result of some questionable choices. Lazy filmmaking choices that challenge the basic premise of the “game.”

Saw 7 (aka  Saw 3D) is being pushed, according to the marketing, in “Heart-Pounding,” “Mind-Blowing,” and “Eye-Popping” 3D. However, unlike the comedic/marketing genius of mixing personal injury with 3D in Jackass 3D, Saw 3D has very little to back up the marketing hype. There is only one moment in the film that is genuinely more disturbing as a result of the 3D effects, where the camera assumes a first person POV, placing audiences in one of the traps. The moment will certainly have moviegoers squirming in their seats, but it’s hardly worth the cost of the 3D upcharge – considering the remaining 3D moments are relegated to throwing brain chunks or blood at the audience.

If you were thinking of giving the Saw franchise another go – believing that this installment would do something interesting with the 3D tech, you’ll very likely be disappointed. It’s hard to imagine anyone being satisfied by the 3D effects in Saw 3D – even die-hard Saw fans.

Saw 3D is a satisfying installment in the Saw franchise. The film doesn’t come close to the original but it’s certainly better than some of the prior sequel installments. It also does a satisfactory job of closing up most of the remaining Saw storylines – though it’s hard to imagine that the filmmakers are actually done with the franchise. That said, should they decide to keep going, I’m hopeful that they’ll choose a spin-off of sorts (instead of a prequel or another sequel) – as the final minutes of Saw 3D definitely serve as a fitting conclusion.

If you’ve enjoyed Saw films in the past, Saw 3D is about what you’re expecting – but do yourself a favor and skip the 3D.

Here’s the trailer for Saw 3D:

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If you want to talk about details of the film without worrying about spoiling it for others, or you just want to know what happened, head on over to our Saw 3D Spoilers Discussion post.

Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant.

Saw 3D is playing in 3D and 2D (as Saw: The Final Chapter) in theaters now.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)