Everyone’s a criddick

Riddick (2013)

Yeah, I know. There’s a bunch of “important” films out at the moment and I’m reviewing some lunkhead sci-fi thing from last year. Well, here’s the thing, I’m not exactly paid millions for this gig. In fact, I’m not paid at all, so going to see every film that has had award gold mentioned anywhere near it would be insanely costly. Plus, I’m probably one of the only people outside of Vin Diesel who actually likes the Riddick saga and wanted to see where it went next. So here is us, on the raggedy edge. Don’t push me and I won’t push you.

“Somewhere along the way, I lost a step. I got sloppy. Dulled my own edge. Maybe I went and did the worst crime of all. I got civilized.”

Betrayed by the Necromongers, Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is left for dead on a desert planet. After a while, Riddick forms an escape plan and finds a way to alert some bounty hunters to his location, all of them hoping to collect the big fat price on his head. The motley crews that show up include your standard violent mercenary types and a man with a personal beef to settle with Riddick. The basic film is solid, although clunkily adheres to the three act structure with audible crunches whenever the film changes gear. I’ll watch Vin Diesel in most things. He’s a fun watch and is notoriously geeky underneath all his dudebro cred. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag. None of them are particularly bad, it’s just that there’s not enough personality to go round and a lot of them fade into the background. Jordi Mollà pops up as Santana, a grizzled mercenary who likes big knives and non-consensual fun. Matt Nable plays Johns Snr. a man related to the Johns in the original Pitch Black. Katee Sackhoff is decent in the role of tough merc Dahl and Dave Bautista shows he’s got some presence to him outside of his hulking appearance and can surprisingly sell some comedic moments, making me anticipate his role in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy even more. Also Karl Urban shows up wearing way too much makeup.

Riddick is ludicrous, corny sci-fi, but that’s what the series has been since Chronicles of Riddick. It’s an ’80s throwback, full of over-the-top action and slow-motion leaps through the air. If you can’t get on board with that, then Riddick won’t be for you. Don’t go in expecting a modern, flawed character. Riddick is an invincible badass. This is a film series that has names like “Crematoria” for a burning planet, “Furyans” as a race of warrior people and mentions of an “Underverse”. We’re not talking about highbrow sci-fi here. Riddick has a CGI dog sidekick, for instance. It’s Mad Max, Aliens and a fuckton of other films thrown into a blender- and that’s no bad thing. The first half of the film is the best, showing Riddick surviving the planet’s various hostile wildlife in near silence, with only occasional bassy voiceovers to fill in the gaps. It proves that a) Riddick is a decent character and b) Vin Diesel is charismatic and fun enough in the role to carry of the Wall-E style opening. The second act is Riddick acting all mysterious, evading capture and picking off faceless mercenaries one by one. It’s not without its charms, but it falls flat after following the strangely brave first part.

The third act of film is basically an extended tribute to Pitch Black. Sequels are usually overreactions to the perceived flaws of the previous film, so Riddick bypasses Chronicles almost entirely and focuses on its franchise spawner. This would be fine, but the script is clunky as hell, so instead of having thematic links to the original, it’s pretty much the same film. Riddick’s chained up, it’s dark and wet outside and there are vicious aliens wanting to kill folk. It’s here that the wheels start to fall off. I’ve already seen Pitch Black, I don’t need to see it again with slightly better effects. It all builds to an ending that comes out of nowhere and makes no damn sense by any stretch of the imagination. It’s genuinely jarring and baffling. Characters just act in a contrived way just so we have a vaguely happy ending, ignoring any kind of motivation or personality they had up to that point. Director and writer David Twohy needs to have his wrists slapped for that one.

As is often the case with this sort of film, the main token female character is indicative of the film’s problems as a whole. I think Sackhoff does well considering, but there’s something really off about the writing when it comes to her and how others react to her. Dahl is a tough female merc who owes a lot to Aliens‘ Vasquez. As the only female, she has a gratuitous shower scene, has to fend off rape and is apparently a lesbian. However, Riddick thinks he can change that. Chained up, he growls about his intentions to kill a dude before saying he’ll be “balls deep” in Dahl by the end, after she asks him all “sweet-like”. This is meant to be badass, but falls extremely flat. I mean the notion that you can heterosex a lesbian straight is pretty fucking disgusting and having it appear in a 2013 film is just wrong. I know it’s a throwback flick, but that attitude reminds me of the Connery Bonds. Y’know, the era when he seduces the “immune” Pussy Galore and tells a native islander to fetch his shoes. The fact that this actually comes to pass is the worst thing. They could have done something subversive with it, but nope- she literally asks him all “sweet-like”. Goddamn. As I said, the ending is a bathtub of weaksauce, but that element to it is the most obnoxious.

“So what is the best way to a man’s heart?”

“Between the fourth and fifth rib. That’s where I usually go. I’ll put a twist at the end if I wanna make sure.”

So, apart from a poor show feminism-wise, Riddick is actually a decent watch. I enjoyed it for what it was. There have been a bunch of reviews calling it stupid and corny, but I think they’re missing the whole appeal of the series. I’ve got a soft spot for less than stellar sci-fi.To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to the teased sequel. If they keep the OTT violence and sci-fi sensibilities, we could be in for a fun ride. Let’s just work on the women this time round, eh?

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