Sep 10 2013
Joffrey’s gonna throw a fit if you don’t get up, Riddick…
Whether you appreciate the franchise or simply enjoy a good shoot-em-up creature feature, this summer capstone sci-fi flick Riddick offers decent bang for your buck. Disappointed by Chronicles like nearly three-quarters of the audience? Allow Riddick to redeem itself.
Without giving the entire plot away, Riddick is left to die on this unnamed planet by his former Necromonger allies/subjects. After a short, explanatory flashback with gratuitous boobage, the audience is made painfully aware of Riddick’s new “civilized” manner, and how it caused him to reject his animal nature in search of comfort and leisure. Two teams of bounty hunters arrive to capture the ever-resistant fugitive, exchanging words and blows and the occasional joke. Chaos ensues when, true to form, other predators are revealed to be much more dangerous than Riddick. Fortunately, our hero is quick to revert to his primal instincts, much as this film does in an attempt to recapture the atmosphere and energy of the first installment. They’re so alike it’s mind-boggling.
In fact, let’s line up Pitch Black and Riddick in a side-by-side comparison, shall we?
Our hero, Richard B. Riddick, is marooned/crashed on a seemingly desolate world
With a holy man
A blonde potential love-interest with strong lesbian implications
A bounty hunter named Johns
And a doe-eyed, devoted companion
And also some other Soon Dead’s and Gonna BiteIts.
Then it gets dark
And two-legged creatures with sharp teeth start to come out in swarms
So they release the prisoner
Who uses his night-vision
To get the nodes back to the ship(s) with his super-strength
And along the way some people get dead
But you know who’s gonna live at the end, because Riddick.
What’s surprising is that for as similar as the two films are, there are enough differences that they end up being separately enjoyable. A departure from the previous Chronicles, or what my husband refers to as “Conan in Space”, Riddick uses the formula that made Pitch Black work: desolate planet, bounty hunters, things that go bump in the night. Although predictable, Riddick remains true to the canon and character that makes it click. Reverting to an “R” rating also helps here – you can’t have a character with Riddick’s violent background saying “fudge” when he resets his own broken limbs. Another fault of Chronicles corrected with this continuation.
Star Vin Diesel has stated he intended the Riddick series and universe to echo the likes of Tolkien’s, with Pitch Black serving as a standalone Hobbit-esque prequel, and Chronicles and Riddick as LOTR-like epics. The mythology behind Riddick’s Furyan nature is something briefly explored in Chronicles, but as deep as this back-story goes, I was relieved to see a departure from the supernatural, with the exception of new aliens. I don’t even know if I can give a fair character analysis of Diesel’s “acting”, since he essentially is Riddick, minus the glowing eyes – he embodies the supernatural character, breathing new life into a franchise many had given up for dead.
A motley crew of mercs.
Blow’s Jordi Molla was great as Santana, a hunter who promises to retrieve Riddick’s head in a box when collecting the bounty, which is doubled if the Furyan is returned dead. Members of his team include WWE’s Dave Bautista as Diaz, and what may as well be several “red shirts”, including Glee’s Nolan Gerard Funk as a priest/teenage innocent. Papa Johns’ (rugby player and filmmaker Matthew Nable) team shows up, seeking answers and revenge for son Johns’ untimely demise 10 years prior, and in tow are Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff as Dahl, Bokeem Woodbine as Moss, and more fire-power than Santana’s team knows what to do with.
Ultimately, it was enjoyable and redeeming, if somewhat formulaic and predictable. At this point, the audience is already privy to most of Riddicks tricks and moxie, so it’s entertaining to sit back and watch the carnage from our all-knowing vantage point outside the ill-informed mercs onscreen. And if you thought his protective instinct with Jack/Kyra was adorable, wait til you meet the jackal/hyena thing he picks up – it’s not overdone or cheesy, either. Like Riddick says, it’s an animal thing.
Rating: a solid 3.5 out of 5 – it’s not going to blow your mind, but it won’t leave you shaking your head, either.
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