Sunday, 8 September 2013

Riddick Review

I'm not sure where to start with a review of Riddick, which we watched last night in a packed theatre. There were no drink fumblers this time and no talkers. Although, at the quietest, most tense part of the movie, there was a bag crinkler! The bottom line is, was I entertained? Yes. Did I think the movie was good? Yes. Did the movie have flaws? Yes. Was it a waste of $16? Nope! 

It is an R-rated movie, so the language is naughty, the violence squishy and red (think Robocop), and there's some briefly frontal female nudity, so be warned. Also, mild spoilers ahead.

I am shameless in my affection for Vin Diesel, so that was a big plus for me right there. I'd watch a movie of the man reading the phone book (even better if Matt Damon co-starred). The Riddick character is unique too, being neither all good or all bad. 

The beginning of the movie catches up with Riddick as he waits for his leg to heal after being deposed as Lord Marshall of the Necromongers - it turns out he wasn't doing that great a job. It does help to see the first two movies because the third contains a lot of references to them. After the success of Pitch Black, Chronicles of Riddick was an overblown CGI fest that kind of tanked the series for nine years. So just as Riddick tries to find his earlier success by becoming uncivilized again, so too does the movie with a bare bones budget and setting. It is similar enough to Pitch Black without being a complete remake. Riddick thankfully abandons the cheesy red, yellow and blue filters and is mostly yellow in hue. This is a nice change from the blue/orange colour schemes newer movies are bathed in.

Realizing his only hope to get off planet is to bring a ship to him, he activates an emergency beacon and then waits for the mercenary murder spree to begin. This middle part was my favourite and done really well - the mercenaries are jumpy, but overconfident. They are a brutal, ragtag bunch who are disgusting in their awfulness. It's easier to write a hero part than a villain, but their leader, Santana, is as gritty and ugly as they come. Maybe just a few notches down from Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, if you need a comparison. They are joined by another mercenary group, who have all the trappings of being good. Meanwhile Riddick haunts the place, and yes, there's even a shower scene. Such little nods to horror films abound. The movie trips and falls in the last act, however. Endings seem to be a problem for Hollywood lately. The ending to Elysium could have been less ham handed, for example. Skyfall and Star Trek: Into Darkness made viewers sit through multiple possible endings.

It is possible to still enjoy a flawed movie though. Riddick reminded me of Aliens and Predator and had that gleeful violence and deadpan humour that 80s movies are known for. The scene with the Necromongers at the beginning could have been cut along with a few characters. In trying to be faithful to Pitch Black, it feels all over the place.

Riddick is the kind of movie where thinking too much about it will drive you crazy. There were a lot of odd choices in the movie that could have definitely been done better, especially in the dialogue between Riddick and Dahl (Katee Sackhoff). Dahl is never a damsel in distress, and I loved how she kicked butt. 

Yet I'm not ready to write Riddick off as completely brainless either with thoughtful set choices and minor details. The gritty, rusty mercenary outpost was a nice change from the bright and sleek sets found in other movies, and I liked how the motorcycles had English horse saddles for seats. One ship sports a heraldic shield, suggesting valiance, honour and a family history. Early on, Riddick comes across the last vestiges of a civilization and makes a tomb like sleeping place there. There's a nod to the resurrection later when he has escaped from it. The problem with Riddick, maybe, is that there was far too much choice for the filmmakers. They didn't want to save things - scenes, characters or dialog - for another movie. They threw it all in a pot and hoped for the best. The end result is palatable and pleasing, but not quite gourmet.

But don't take just my word for it - Rotten Tomatoes has plenty more opinions, from critics and average folks alike.