Saturday, September 7, 2013

Movie Review: RIDDICK

Director: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Matt Nable and Karl Urban
Rated: R

When the chains come the first 5 seconds.

Riddick is a true sequel to Pitch Black.  We're back to simple, clear stakes storytelling surrounded by effects, action, suspense and monsters filling the runtime.  As a matter of fact, the only convoluted or complexity in the film comes when trying to tie it to the previous entry, funny enough.  However, that world looks a lot more appealing in its cheaper form, too.  Oh and we get a Karl Urban cameo, so it can be forgiven.  If Pitch Black was Alien, then Riddick is clearly Aliens.

Richard B. Riddick has been living for many years, embellishing in his Lord Marshall status among the Necromongers.  Expressing his desire to return home to Furya to Vaako, an agreement is struck that Vaako will take Riddick to Furya in exchange for becoming Lord Marshall.  Upon landing on what he is told is Furya, Riddick realizes he is tricked and avoids an assassination attempt while being seriously injured and left for dead on a desolate planet inhabited by deadly poisonous creatures.  After nursing himself back to health and domesticating himself on the planet, Riddick finds a communication station.  Realizing its time he leave in search of home, Riddick baits himself out there for bounty hunters hoping to acquire a means to transport himself away.  Little does he know, his bounty is now worth double if he's dead.
So, as I said before, this is Aliens.  We get our protagonist to an environment similar to what we were introduced to him in.  Surrounding him is a bunch of fighter "badass" mercenaries providing for a more colorful and memorable cast.  While many of them are merely hollow stereotypes, the performers and spirited dialogue make each of them distinct.  I have to admit though, I was quite impressed and amused with Dave Bautista's turn in this movie.  He actually has some chops and is quite good and delivering humor and menace.  Riddick meanwhile spends the movie slowly transforming back into the character from Pitch Black.  And if anything, he gets even dark and more ruthless than that iteration.  He says some really nasty things to people, especially Sackhoff's "Dahl" which makes one wonder if we really should be rooting for this guy.  Its entertaining and brings for the raunchy laughs, but it also serves us a reminder that Riddick is not your typical hero.  He's not one.  And this film does an even better job of letting you know that than even Pitch Black.
The film works and entertains on a B-movie level and that's why I'd say its an overall success.  The one thing separating this one from the others is that it actually has a bit more of a lighthearted tone and lets the viewer laugh quite often throughout the film.  There's a mix of action violence and comedic violence that pushes the nerves just the same.  Its a good balance.  The biggest problem with the film comes with an overlong first act.  it almost feels as if its in real time.  We really take forever watching Riddick recover and familiarize himself with his surroundings.  He even raises a dog-thing in that time.  I would have done what Stallone would have, montage it (and throw a random robot in for good measure)!  There was also many scenes and dialogue between the mercs that could have easily been combined, shortened or cut to pace this thing much better.  This movie runs about 15 minutes too long.

Riddick has a very low budget.  And while I do like a lot of the production work on the film, I can't deny that some of the cheapness did show.  I even wondered during the opening Riddick of Arabia, if that's how they were saving money.  Vin Diesel in front of a green screen by himself accompanied by a CG dog-thing and then have people really quick and end it.  Well, I was wrong as the rest of the cast does stay for a long time. I will say while I can see some of the inexpensiveness I was really impressed with the marriage of practical work and CG.  All the tech in this film just kind of makes sense.  With one look you can easily understand what its for or how it works.  And then I swear some of the creature work was practical too, which I dug a whole lot.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Riddick.  It's totally a Saturday afternoon film.  While it is very similar to Pitch Black, I was surprised at how different this movie played out from what they showed in the trailers and from Pitch Black.  Like i said Alien/Aliens.  You'll get that when you see it.  I don't know if I can tell you to rush out to see this, but if you want to continue with this universe, you should show your support with your $.  Its really just about what Pitch Black was.  Its nothing you really must or have to see, but if you do, you're gonna like it and probably follow along on another adventure.  It's a breath of fresh air following Chronicles and is much more in the vein of what I think the fans of this series would want.  Keep them cheaper, keep the stories smaller.  Once you make many episodes there will be that larger story you wanted.  I don't know if we'll see Riddick return or not, but if this is it, I'm ok with that too.

Grade: B for B-movie

Next: Ranking Riddick's Chronicles

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