Remakes are not inevitably bad, but they are naturally prone to laziness. Flatliners might as well be an original picture for its possible new audience. It’s not like its 1990 predecessor ranks that high on lists of “’90s Movies You’ve Got to Watch!” despite a cast including Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and the other Baldwin. (No, not Alec; not Stephen; the other one. Adam isn’t even a Baldwin brother!)
A group of medical students led by Ellen Page try to research the afterlife by “flatlining” and charting brain activity while they are dead. Suddenly, they are supercharged by their death experiences, remembering childhood talents and medical minutiae from their studies. Too bad all that valuable research gets tossed out after the students begin to be haunted by their guilty pasts.
The hook behind Flatliners remains powerful, but no new filmmaker will discover the new version and want to remake it in 30 years. The film’s potential to take a metaphysical look at death and the afterlife gets swamped by what winds up as a traditionally blah ghost story. Even if Niels Arden Oplev (the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) were a stronger behind-the-camera talent than the sometimes unfairly maligned, yet oft justly disliked Joel Schumacher, he has lesser parts with which to work. His cast has little chemistry—Page does not even seem to be in the same dimension; Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev are forcibly paired off—and play unappealing, flat characters. When the first act ends, so does almost anything interesting about Flatliners.