Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Case for the Riddickulous

It must be that the Chronicles of Riddick, the sequel to Pitch Black (well, featuring Pitch Black’s “break out” character and star), was seen as a misstep in the path of the franchise, as just plin Riddick, the latest film in the series, pays a brief nod to that attempt at expanding the universe (with a very small appearance by Karl Urban, he of the furrowed brow) and then casts that all aside in favour of the man-against-nature-slash-horror feel of the first flick. 

It takes a little while to get started, mainly as it tries to convince you that this is not the Chronicles of Riddick (man alone in a hostile environment!) and then puts the current situation into the context of the last film.  Riddick (Vin Diesel, pumped to epic proportions and speaking in his lowest tones possible) has to overcome a few obstacles to get to the promised land up just a few steps (though I was not entirely sure why he didn’t just go around another way), and then it’s back to the Pitch Black basics.

He encounters a gang of bad ar$es, including an evil Spaniards, a hulking wrestler Diaz (who else but someone like Bautista could make someone look small?), a spindly cleric (Nolan Gerard Funk (great real name) along… for some reason), a seemingly reasonable man with a code and a mission (ex league player Matt Nable, as Boss Johns, looking as earnest as possible and, in comparison with everyone else on the film, the most restrained actor on set) and the awesome Katee Sackhoff as a beautiful hard nose le$bian Dahl who no man will tame… but then, she has never met Riddick. 

Riddick the character is meant to be awesome and smart and a man you don’t mess.  That does not make him likeable.  In fact, I was frequently rooting for the “other side” as Riddick really comes across as a know-it-all d!ck a lot of the time.  So they team him up with a CGI alien dog, who quickly becomes the most engaging character in the film and some of whose facial expressions are clearer than Diesel’s utterances.  

For the sake of the plot, the professional bounty hunters are all either idiots or overawed when dealing with Riddick, so things fall into his hands just in time for the planet to turn against the remaining humans and Riddick to prove the saviour.   

There is a bit of yelling at one point that I think was meant to bring some emotional depth to the characters, but Riddick is such a douche that the whole scene fails to fire any sympathy or any emotion whatsoever, except perhaps heighten the bloodlust for the deaths that will soon eventuate as things turn to custard.

[SPOILER ALERT – the next paragraph has a few hints, though they probably won’t come as a surprise at all considering the type of movie this is.] 

And when the custards hits the fan, as it were… well, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense and is robbed of some tension by an unfavourable comparison to the situation the survivors found themselves in in Pitch Black.  There is a long fast bike ride out to pick up important equipment that takes about 20 minutes to walk back; there are light-generating lightning guns that basically just illuminate the user, making them an easy target; and then there is the very unfortunate scene where it appears all Dahl needed was a good man in the muscular form of Riddick to show her the error of her ways (though she is surprisingly absent from the final scenes).   

Nonetheless, the film itself does what it says on the tin – it’s a big, dumb actioner with ridiculous amounts of machismo and testosterone floating around amongst all the muscles and baby oil.  Guns are REALLY loud, the English language mainly consists of swear words, padlocks are powered by nuclear reactors and alien life forms just can’t get enough human flesh.  What’s not to love?

Verdict:  Riddick is a complete non surprise in that it might not be particularly good, and feels a bit slow a lot of the time, but then it is just like Pitch Black in enough ways to make it enjoyable.  Not good, definitely not good, but fun.  6 night vision eyeballs out of 10.

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