Riddick (2013)

Riddick (2013)

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One man and his dog.
One man and his dog.

Twitter Plot Summary: Riddick’s been left for dead on a hostile planet. To escape he has to activate a beacon that draws in two mercenary groups.

Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller

Director: David Twohy

Key Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, Conrad Pla, Danny Blanco Hall, Noah Danby, Neil Napier, Nolan Gerard Funk, Karl Urban, Andreas Apergis, Keri Hilson.

Five Point Summary:

1. Karl Urban. Nice make-up pal.
2. Is that a golf ball?
3. Ahh, obligatory misogyny. Of course. No women allowed and all that.
4. Aha, a reference to Fast and the Furious. Very clever

5. Hmm, shades of Pitch Black there…

I really enjoyed Pitch Black, it had that B-movie, independent schlock sci-fi vibe to it. I was less keen on Chronicles of Riddick which was heavy on universe building, but had higher hopes for this belated second sequel as it appeared that it would get back to basics and have Riddick fighting to survive on a world out to get him. That is mostly true, but it still lacks that killer punch that made Pitch Black such a great little film. Lots of individually good elements that are spoilt by rampant misogyny and a story that’s not quite sure what direction it wants to go in other than that “hard-R’ rating that is oft-missed in today’s cinematic climate. That’s a 15 rating in the UK, by the way.

We pick up after the events of The Chronicles of Riddick. The main man himself is tempted away from his responsibilities by the possibility of visiting his home of Furya and left to rot on a planet that… well, isn’t Furya. Here he decides to get back to basics as the accompanying voiceover gets all self-referential and starts babbling about losing his way and so on. Soon he realises that there’s a lot of nasty creatures on this inhospitable world and, after discovering a mercenary shack in the desert, activates the beacon inside which calls in two teams of mercenaries, determined to take him in dead or alive.

The humour went down well, on the whole. The banter between Santana’s crew is typical “working man” level compared to the more professional attitudes of Johns’ team. Spoilers for anybody who’s watched Pitch Black, by the way – Johns has a very specific reason for being on the planet – the clue’s in the name. On the other end of the spectrum is Santana (Molla), who intends on taking Riddick’s head home in a box, like a gruesome packed lunch. He’s the most misogynist of them all, drooling over Dahl (Sackhoff) who isn’t adverse to just punching him in the face.

What a lovely xenomorph.
What a lovely xenomorph.

It needed a lot less misogyny, it has to be said. Sackhoff’s Dahl only seems to exist to act as an object of lust for all of the other characters, despite initially appearing to be a strong and entirely plausible character. An altogether gratuitous and, dare I say it, pointless, topless scene further cements this blinkered view of women. Once that scene’s out of the way she has almost nothing else to do and is relegated to face in the background, as if the male-centric audience this is aimed at won’t have any interest in her now that they’ve seen the money shot, as it were. A real opportunity wasted there. What could’ve been a modern Ripley ends up being another one for the bonfire. Don’t even get me started on the treatment of Santana’s prisoner either – yeah, we get it, these are bad guys, but there are better ways of making this point.

On the “surprisingly good” list is Dave Bautista. I doubt many would have had marked him down as being an impressive acting talent given his previous history of being a pro wrestler, but he’s actually very good. Remarkably good in fact, to the point where he doesn’t seem like a pro wrestler who’s arbitrarily switched jobs. Vin Diesel is, of course, his usual droling self, although if his voice gets any deeper we’re at risk of losing any hope of understanding what he’s saying.

Those hoping for a return to something more like Pitch Black get what they wanted, to an extent at least. It’s a movie of three parts – Riddick surviving on an inhospitable world, Riddick playing cat and mouse with the two mercenary teams looking for him, and a third act that replicates Pitch Black. The key difference here is the creatures that are after Riddick. It’s explained why they’re on his tail, but not in enough detail for my liking. The build-up to this Pitch Black-lite story is rather good, though. Riddick learning how to survive on the planet is a good introduction to the character for people who might not have seen the previous two films and emphasises how nasty this place is. The next section with the two mercenary groups is equally good, with Riddick standing in for the Predator and lurking on the edges of the frame (not literally, that would be weird) and picking them off. Then night falls and, knowing what’s coming, Riddick links up with the survivors and things get nasty. Rated R nasty. And just a little bit more misogynistic.

I think I was perhaps expecting a bit more from it, especially given how much the trailers seemed to imply a return to Pitch Black’s roots (thanks for that, trailer). The clear three act structure also works well, creating an episodic feel and evoking the style (but certainly not the tone) of the old Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers serials. It fails in terms of the misogyny. I know films are, on the whole, male-centric, but it adds nothing to the story and just glorifies bad attitudes towards women. As discussed above, Dahl had potential from the off and this wore off as soon as her sexual preferences are established (other women, as it happens) and she becomes a lust object for everybody else. If we can lose all of that women-hating nonsense, or at the very least tone it down considerably, then I’d be happy to see another film following Riddick. Somehow I doubt we’ll ever get a Riddick film without some form of terrible gender bias, so I guess it’s a case of liking it or lumping it. I like it (the film, that is), but only just.

Favourite scene: Riddick getting back to basics and taking down a giant scorpion thing.

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

Silly Moment: Riddick’s threat to kill Santana is realised. It might be silly, but it’s also a highlight of the film.

Score: 3/5

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