Monday, 16 September 2013

Riddick Review

As Vin Diesel remortgaged his house to get this film made there’s an air of romance around the character that essentially launched his career. Richard B. Riddick was first introduced to us with Pitch Black in 2000 and it was a modest success at the box office which gained a bigger following in the home entertainment market. It was a great sci-fi thriller that chilled the audience and created what would be an iconic character looking at us with his special, enhanced eyes. This then gave Vin Diesel and director David Twohy – who’s directed all three – a chance for a sequel which gave them the ability to increase the scope, advance the mythology, but The Chronicles of Riddick was a disappointment for audiences and critics alike. Riddick is now back nine years later with Riddick and the trailer shows that it’s a return to Pitch Black but that’s very misleading.

At the end of The Chronicles of Riddick he had become the King of Necromongers but as the king, he gets betrayed and left for dead on a deadly planet that is most definitely not his home planet of Furya. There he must survive but once a rain storm is coming in that brings out scorpion-serpent creatures, Riddick must activate a beacon for bounty hunters to use them as a taxi service out of there. The scope is much grander than Pitch Black again therefore it’s not a return to that smaller action-thriller. It again progresses the mythology they’re creating too with a different planets, different creatures and different weapons but it’s not as vast or cataclysmic as The Chronicles of Riddick. It’s ended up mixing both vehicles. The original a tiny hot hatch, the latter a jack-knifing lorry; this then is like a sporty estate car like an Audi RS4, economical but good fun sometimes.

There are problems that are hard to ignore in it. It has a second act lull, it’s been falsely marketed misleading audiences and, as highlighted by Empire’s Helen O’Hara, it’s extremely sexist and misogynistic – that post does contain spoilers by the way.  It has a really bizarre structure where we get primarily Riddick for the first act but then it’s about these mercenaries more than the eponymous character in the second. That lack of titular character makes the second act messy and out of place. It’s extended for no clear reason considering it has nothing to actually do; the mercenary characters end up making one really stupid and essentially pointless decision that’s supposed to be tense. They aren’t even interesting either, the film is largely inhabited with characters that aren’t well drawn gaining no reaction.

As was said before – and said better by Helen O’Hara – there is far too much misogyny in the film where there are only two female characters with actual dialogue. One of which is in it for about a minute or two and is an unnecessary addition to the story. Then there’s Katee Sackhoff‘s character Dahl (pronounced “Doll”) who plays the standard tough chick routine who has to fend off creepy and rapey Santana’s (Jordi Mollà) disgusting advances. Twohy and Diesel may believe that this is an empowering portrayal because she kicks ass but that’s a deluded one, there is nothing there that is remotely empowering, intriguing or even believable about her character. In the future, she’s still treated secondary, it does paint a bad picture for Santana but it’s uncomfortable, squirming listening to disgusting lines that come from his mouth and one incredibly messed up line that comes from the anti-hero himself, Riddick.

Riddick is by no means a failure but it is in no way the success of the first which managed to create characters that had more of a purpose than all of these ones combined. Characters which were different, intriguing, survivalists, cowards, manic, panicky, broken, innocent. These are all painted with the same badass brush that bronzes Batista’s biceps. Sorry, Dave Bautista. Regardless, this entry expands on an already interesting mythology, creating interesting CGI hybrid creatures in a heavily CGI land but the CGI is blurry, choppy because of the lack of budget. Some mixture of real locations with a greenscreen would be far more compelling and would capture an authenticity that’s not seen here. There are a few interesting action beats, some tense moments, a perhaps exploitive but effective relationship with a canine, a couple of laughs and some good lines but it all revolves around a clunky three act structure strung together by rain and you can feel how faint that connection is.