Rule The Dark
In 2000, a curious low budget science fiction film (Pitch Black) was released that quickly gained a cult following and propelled actor Vin Diesel into the limelight. Simple story, simple structure, simple goals, yet actually quite fun. Four years later, the big budget Chronicles Of Riddick was released and immediately fell on its face for being a bloated stupid mess. Nearly ten years later we have the release of the third instalment (sort of): Riddick. Chronicles Of Riddick closed with ex-convict Riddick in charge of an entire army of space douchebags. But he got paranoid and needed some sort of quest, or to take an oath, it’s not entirely clear and is over in about a minute. Either way, the budget was gone and they needed to get him away from the huge space armada. Cue an obvious betrayal and Riddick is stranded on a desolate world, coming to the conclusion that he “got too civilised.” Fearing the monsters that lie dormant under the surface, who only appear when it rains, Riddick activates an emergency beacon and two sets of mercenaries arrive. The first is your typical, low rent killers with a vile tossbag for a leader: Santana [Molla]. The second seem more equipped and better prepared but have little to no desire to kill Riddick, until he answers a series of questions. Having narrowly defeated one of the creatures that will attack when a coming storm passes over the outpost, Riddick dispatches a few of the mercs before approaching them to strike up a deal.
The character of Richard B. Riddick is much like Marvel’s Wolverine. The guy’s a gruff type with a history of violence but the second you put him front and centre, most people don’t know what to do with him. He’s not really a hero, nor is he a villain and so you get this once captivating individual and you try to flesh out some of the answers and reasons for his actions. Unfortunately, the more you learn about someone like Riddick, the more you strip from the overall presence and mystery that was initially so intriguing. Oh, he’s just some highly-skilled semi-charming murderer; fair enough. Then along comes Chronicles Of Riddick and you’re fed a lot of bullshit about superhuman bloodlines and mystical powers and suddenly your unique killing machine is a little too magical and cosmic; which detracts from his murderous actions ’cause he’s too heroic now. So how does one step back? Simple, you literally abandon Riddick on some rock, a la Pitch Black, introduce a series of ridiculous predators and strip him down to his muscular nudiness to embrace his animal side. The concept is a fairly base one and holds a reasonable amount of potential but without any actual direction or drive, the whole thing comes off as incredibly bloody boring. I’d say unrealistic but that goes without saying. The amount of infections, weight-loss and trauma he would have endured is just absurd.
The rest of the film is a sort of predictable transitionary chapter with no need for a big-screen adaptation. Had this been released like Chronicles Of Riddick: Dark Fury then it might have been appealing but by almost completely retreading the first film (albeit without interesting supporting characters) we know where the film is heading and watching it unfold so slowly and obviously becomes agonisingly painful. That isn’t to say the entire movie is a flaming wreck but every glimpse of narrative hope is dashed away with some cheap nonsense. One contributory factor is the insanely stupid dialogue. Forget clichés and exposition, we’re talking contradictory statements like “I know what they are, they’re called the Vannu.. the serpent” followed by “Whatever the hell they are, they die quick” from the same character moments later! Everything Dhal [Katee Sackhoff] says is irritating but I’ll expand on her character later. The best examples, however, come from Jordi Molla as Santana. Literally everything that falls out of this guy’s face is immensely moronic. “Everyone’s got a box, man. You know?” “How about you stop treading all over my dick” and a whole ream of faux-tough sounding shit that I’ve clearly exorcised from my mind. So with an awful script, the only other saving grace would be the visuals. Granted, the environments are fairly pleasing but a handful of the alien races are of such video-game quality that it verges on embarrassing. The costumes are predictably silly but serviceable and the firearms and ships lack any sort of originality.
So far we have crap story, appalling dialogue and mediocre visuals. To top it all off, the shitty paint by numbers characters are given shitty paint by numbers portrayals by a handful of muscle-headed ‘actors’ who have been solely hired for their looks, rather than their abilities. There’s not a single shred of suspense and this is largely owing to the fact that I couldn’t give a damn about any of them. The first team of mercs are useless and consist of stereotyped hierarchy positions: boss, heavy, tag team, rookie, etc. What’s worse, there’s a scene in which a captive bounty is let loose before being shot down. The wet behind the ears preacher kid assures her that no one will touch her, she simply has to leave. The implication being that she has suffered a great deal of abuse during her captivity. So immediately, these guys are all scumbags. All of them. Don’t care if any of them die. The second group.. I dunno.. they have matching outfits so maybe they’re more official but I got the impression they were still some sort of merc security force or something. Anyway, they’re equally stupid and the big reveal that their leader is the father of Pitch Black character, Johns, is moderately amusing at best. So fuck if they live or die. Come to think of it. I couldn’t even tell you most of their names. This does give rise to one of the strongest elements in the film, specifically Riddick fucking with their heads and generating a wonderful amount of fear. But this is short lived and you’re left urging the bald, goggled lead to take them all out, one-by-one; God knows it would have been easier for him to get off the planet that way.
If you’re the kind of cinemagoer that looks for low-level escapism then Riddick strikes enough positive notes to stand out from the other low-level escapism pieces. And when I mean low-level escapism, I’m referring to the works of Uwe Boll and films like bloody Sharknado. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something more layered than a thirteen year old boy’s first attempt at storytelling, then you’ll see it for the shitbox it truly is.
6th September 2013
The Scene To Look Out For:
Riddick trains a puppy. Riddick trains a goddamn puppy. That sentence alone irritates me so fucking much. He gets a puppy so it can grow up to be an adult dog and we can have something for him to talk to rather than resorting to voiceovers. And the second that thing turned up, I knew it would get killed and avenged, both on a level of obvious scripting tropes and the formula ensured that most if not all of the cast would get killed by aliens, so the dog would have to go fairly early on. Either that or the brief cameo by Karl Urban, who turns up, looks fairly bemused before finally pushing out one line, which surprisingly wasn’t, “I’m Judge Dredd and Dr. McCoy, I don’t need this shit.”
I hated Dhal. Everything about her character was irritating. Pitch Black had a host of interesting female characters and while Chronicles Of Riddick didn’t, at least we didn’t continually circle the “I’m gonna fuck you, lady” macho bullshit, followed by an equally bullshit outburst of violence from the tough broad. ‘Woah! Don’t mess with her, man! She’s a badass.’ No, she’s just an archetypal strong-woman in a science fiction, whose strength is still steeped in over sexualisation and rape fascination, clearly written by a dude who hasn’t the first clue about women – strong or otherwise. Stapled by the fact that every character interaction with her sounds like this, “Then I’m gonna go balls-deep in Dhal. But only ’cause she’s gonna ask for it so sweet like.” Oh, you also get a very brief glimpse Katee Sackhoff’s breasts. Why is this relevant, I hear you ask? It isn’t. Whatsoever. No need for it. Why is it in the film? To sell tickets to fanboys and Battlestar Galactica fans who will pay to see her naked. Fact.
“I don’t fuck guys.. sometimes I fuck ’em up though”
In A Few Words:
“The tiny amount of saving graces really aren’t enough to save this monstrously pointless film. Any positive argument made can be immediately superseded with ‘grow up'”