Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Homeless Nerd Reviews: Riddick

At a glance- sci-fi action, monsters, and attitude

What is it?  My philosophy for movies is that you have to look at them as what they are, not what you want.  For example, I love good dialogue in a movie (part of why I like old movies).  But with a movie like Riddick, you don't watch it for its snappy dialogue.  Now, you expect that there will be some good one-liners, but this is a special effects action film first and foremost.  So, as the third movie (not counting one animated film) beginning with Pitch Black (which I have only seen parts of) and then The Chronicles of Riddick (saw it, liked it well enough), this is all about the main character.  Riddick is a criminal and murderer, so everybody says repeatedly, but we never see him actually hurt innocent people or kill for just the fun of it.  He's a dark anti-hero, in a science-fiction universe that is not the happy, bright, lens-flare future of Star Trek.  Riddick is tough, surviving impossible odds, and can see in the dark.  And it seems like everyone in the universe is hunting him.  This is the bar that the filmmakers have set for the franchise, and the measure it must be held to.

The acting- Vin Diesel is Riddick, he's stamped the role with his own personality (and physique) to the point where I doubt anyone else could pull it off.  Matthew Nable is a mercenary who wants to capture Riddick, who happens to be worth more dead than alive.  Katee Sackhoff, from the new Battlestar Galatica series, is another merc.  And honestly the rest of them don't stick around long enough to get attached to.  Karl Urban does return as Vaako, but only for about 15 seconds.  Given that the film is more about the action than the acting, they all put in good enough appearances.

The story- Conan the barbarian rose through the ranks to become king, which the movies never addressed because it's not as exciting as running around slaying monsters.  I think something of that fantasy barbarian inspired the sci-fi barbarian of Riddick, who in the last movie also became king of the Necromongers.  Which, not being as exciting (though it could be if you did it right) means that he has to leave.  He makes a deal with second-in-command Vaako (mistake #1).  Vaako supposedly knows the location of Riddick's home planet, and for a trip there Riddick agrees to step down.  Of course, Riddick is betrayed and left for dead.  So our opening is Riddick, stranded alone on a dangerous planet, in the Man vs Nature, and Monsters, motif.  Eventually he finds an outpost used by mercenaries, and realizes he has to get off the planet as soon as possible.  So he activates a beacon, telling the mercenaries that he's there - and he is worth a lot of money so they soon arrive.  Two teams of mercs land, and Riddick tries to reason with them, then starts killing them.  For, dum dum dum, the planet is full of mud-monsters (part scorpion and part crocodile), and a gigantic storm is going to bring them out (along with the requisite darkness) and everyone needs to escape.
    Not having seen the first movie, I was told by my friends that it was a lot like the first movie.  The mercs are not good guys, you really don't mind watching them die.  Riddick is actually a pretty decent guy for being a murdering psychopath.  The planet looks fairly alien, and the monsters fairly scary.  We see Riddick showing his indomitable will to survive (he is very Conan in that respect), and his predatory cunning, and his voice-overs help make up for his general lack of dialogue.  There's no deep thought required, just watch the sci-fi barbarian, who in a world full of guns always ends up using a knife.  That simplicity, though, is a part of its charm.  You don't need to guess the mystery or contemplate the deep meanings, you just go and watch and enjoy.  I went to see it just to have something to do with my friends I was visiting after the hours and hours we had been talking and catching up.  For some casual entertainment, which was what it was meant to deliver, it delivers.

My recommendation- catch the cheap show, if you liked the series or the Conan movies, otherwise you won't miss anything if you skip it

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