Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cap'n Howdy's (Back)Log: Riddick

 Earlier this summer I thought I'd take a break from just reviewing movies that were new in theatres. The Cap'n is many things, but a newspaper movie reviewer isn't one of them. You can figure out if you want to see a movie or not yourself and if you need help there are plenty of resources out there. Of course, the problem with this is that I still saw most of those summer movies, and now I have a backlog to work with, some of which I feel more inclined to write about now. I probably won't write up all of them, only some, though - trust me, you'll find out what I though about R.I.P.D. when I get to the (SPOILER) "worst of" list at the end of the year. One such movie that bears mentioning is Riddick.

 I found it funny that the people where I work thought this was the second Riddick movie, although they couldn't seem to remember what the first one was. I think that David Twohy and Vin Diesel approached this third Chronicle of Richard Riddick the same way: "Hey guys, remember how badass Pitch Black was? You were all really impressed with what we did with a low budget and it was dark and violent and sometimes scary? Yeah! That was great. How about we make another movie like that? Cool? Okay, well, we know most of you don't like to talk about this, but we're going to spend a little time wrapping up The Chronicles of Riddick. Not long, because we know that everybody thought it looked like the Syfy Channel version of Dune and it was too convoluted for its own good. We'll keep it short and get to the good stuff, and we'll even get Karl Urban to come back for like 90 seconds. Didn't he kick ass in Dredd?"

 Now I personally believe that Twohy and Diesel and probably a medium size contingent fans like The Chronicles of Riddick more than I did, but Riddick definitely feels like a "getting back to our roots" movie - stripped down, mean, violent, and definitely no Judi Dench as a ghost or whatever those people could do. There are barely any Necromongers so I won't have to type the word "necromonger" but one more time in this review, and Riddick (Diesel) even uses their silly armor to do something badass (he uses it as a splint for his broken leg and literally screws it into the bone with his bare hands). At times it gets maybe a little too close to Pitch Black for its own good, but this third movie is an improvement from where I'm sitting.

 So the last time we saw Riddick was sitting all King Conan on the "you keep what you kill" throne of the *ahem* Necromongers but ruling doesn't really suit this dude. He wants out, and Vaako (Karl Urban, who must've had like 10 minutes of free time from Star Trek or something) senses an opportunity. Vaako promises to take Riddick to his home world (for more information on this and many other things that take up two hours, please refer to The Chronicles of Riddick), but instead sends some fluky with him to a planet designed to kill anybody dumb enough to end up on it. Riddick figures out the ruse quickly, but not quickly enough not to end up on at the bottom of a cliff with a shattered leg.

 This brings us to the first portion of Riddick, which is arguably the best: survival. With a minimum amount of dialogue and voiceover, we see our favorite space anti-hero (sorry, Han Solo, you sold out to the Rebellion) learn how to navigate the terrain, perform some painful amateur surgery and how to account for basic things like water and food. He runs into the indigenous life forms and most of them want to kill him, but Riddick is no chump. He even kind of rescues a dog-like creature and it follows him back to his cave. His first night there he technically buries himself alive under rocks. From his vantage point, he can see that there's a part of the planet that isn't constantly hot and covered with sand, but in order to get there, he has to get past these really nasty scorpion looking things that live in water.

 His solution is clever and appropriately foolhardy- he kills a smaller one and starts inoculating himself (and the dog thing) with the poison, even though we (and he) aren't really sure that's even going to work. It does, but it turns out that just avoiding the poison isn't enough, because those bastards can cut you to pieces, too, or just impale you with their stingers. It's a hard fought battle just to kill one of them, so you feel like Riddick's really earned it when he and his buddy run up those steps.

 This brings us to part two of the movie, which is maybe more fun if you don't like "lone survivor" movies: cat and mouse games. Riddick finds a bounty hunter outpost and decides getting off the planet might not be such a bad idea. Why? Because there's a massive storm coming from the direction he just left, and even a cursory glance at the ground below makes it clear that the scorpion things that live in water like to migrate during monsoon season. Uh oh.

 Riddick activates a homing beacon, and two teams of mercenaries arrive in a staggered fashion. The first is led by Santana (Jordi Moll√†) and his number two, Diaz (Dave Bautista). They're a bunch of mean, dirty, nasty mercs that want Riddick's head and (literally) nothing else. He's worth twice as much dead as he is alive, but catching him is more than the team is up to. Fortunately, the better armed, better organized Boss Johns (Matt Nable) arrives with his number two, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) and the teams grudgingly agree to work together after Riddick threatens both of their ships. (Riddick asks them to leave on ship for him and everybody lives, so you can imagine how they take that).

 There's a lot less of Diesel in this part of Riddick, but it's okay because we know he's out there and have the benefit of knowing what he can (and will) do to them when they invariably disregard his offer. In the meantime, the crews are interesting enough to spend time with, particularly Bautista and Sackhoff, but also Bokeem Woodbine in a smaller role that unfortunately ends sooner than it needed to. There's some sneaking around and a sketchy moment where Riddick is spying on Dahl while she's taking a shower that maybe didn't need to be in the movie. I'm not sure on that one. Since we're on a ticking clock of sorts that only Riddick knows about, the tension for the audience is higher than for the mercenaries but ultimately the stand-off between Riddick, Santana, and Johns is but a prelude to the third section of Riddick: assault.

 If you've seen the trailer then you know that the rain does get to the outpost and that everything goes out in the window in favor of just surviving, made all the more complicated by the fact that Riddick has fuel cells from both of the ships and hid them pretty far away. That means that they have to go get them, which involves some hover bikes and betrayals and revelations that tie this movie to Pitch Black more directly (hint: one of the names of the mercs should sound awfully familiar) all while hundreds of scorpion monster things are out there, attacking and tearing the outpost to shreds.

 Surprisingly, this is the shortest - or felt like the shortest - part of the movie. I didn't even realize that the climax of the film was the climax until the next scene, when everything is being wrapped up. I guess it's because the last chunk is basically a mini-redux of Pitch Black with similar rock formations and vaguely similar monsters and rain, which is not the best choice in my opinion but hey, it works. It's definitely the weakest part of the film but you do see characters pulling together in ways that seem more organic than when the assault begins. To be honest, the only reason it doesn't really work is simply because it reminds me of Pitch Black so much, because as the story is structured, it's a very good payoff of the set up for these monsters early in the film. It's just that we've seen this already. Or some of us have - I guess the ones that can remember which Riddick movie they already saw.

 It's pretty open-ended during the epilogue so there's a chance we could see another Riddick movie (Twohy and Diesel indicated they'd be making another one) where he goes to find his home world and probably take revenge on Vaako (good for Karl Urban fans but bad news for me not using that "n" word in future reviews), but it doesn't have to be. So if they end up not making a fourth movie, Riddick ends things on a high note and almost all is forgiven for having to watch The Chronicles of Riddick. 2 out of 3 is pretty good from where I'm sitting. It's maybe a little on the lower budget side but it never looks as obviously green-screened as Chronicles. I guess you can watch this on Blu-Ray in January (I will amend this review when it comes out) in what I will assume is an "Unrated" cut, which should be impressive since Riddick is a pretty hard "R" as it is. This one is worth your time if you like your science fiction dark and violent and action-y.

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