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A mess of a film. Here we have the Nietzschean, pulpy anti-hero, Riddick after 3 films (Pitch Black, Chronicles of Riddick, and the animated short by Peter Chun) and 2 video games, yet the character and the world Diesel and co-workers have created still hasn't lived up to its promising beginnings. Though the film does try as well as it can with a There Will Blood-ish beginning, where Riddick must rely on his power, cunning and surroundings to survive- some almost extraordinary use of silence and space to create a hostile world that makes Africa look like a theme park- it evolves into a simplified reimagining of the situation found in Pitch Black, where the characters have to fend off against creatures during an ecological nightmare in closed up spaces, ultimately going outside to look for a specific piece of technology they need to power up the remaining ships and escape.
I found that Pitch Black was a great, pulp film, complete with solid character development and form, which Riddick provides in moments. The character of Dahl for example, is the most interesting given that she is the only female in a group of men in isolation, so we get to see how she survives by force and by being a lesbian, thus severing any attraction. This changes once she meets Riddick, the animal, who reignites in her lust for the opposite sex, mainly Riddick, something she may have forgotten. Twohy and Diesel seem to covertly want to critique sexual freedom and feminism, with the idea that the animal side of humans is the dominant one; how, when isolated from ideology and culture, as the characters are, we revert to our survival instinct of reproduction, our true selves, and thus the triangle of men on top and women at the bottom is unconsciously formed.
Of course, what I'm saying goes against sexual freedom and feminism, but check out the final image of Dahl and Riddick: Dahl lands on top of a battered Riddick via a rope, with a smile on her face, whisking him up on the ship thus saving him, who for once and for all was vulnerable and weak. It is a strong, erotic image, but also a very feminist image, thus the reason why I originally said it is a mess of a film. If the film is trying to show human complexity with the character of Dahl, then it is a mess for that very reason, since it only focuses on her and not on others, who are rote, simplistic characters. If the film is covertly critiquing feminism, then why is the final image such a feminist one? The film is schizophrenic in what it wants to say. I’m guessing the ideology of Diesel and Twohy was too controversial, so they eliminated it with a final image that goes against everything that came before it.
Another reason the film fails is that there are no stakes. Riddick is always one step ahead of the game, always smarter than his enemies, always stronger, except in the final moment of the film, but by then it is too late. Even though in Pitch Black he was always fighting psychologically (Johns, the pilot), philosophically (the preacher) and physically (the harsh planet and its creatures), firstly, it was the introduction to the character, so we didn’t know him completely, and secondly, he was evenly matched in all those areas. In Riddick, it is the opposite. Everyone, including Dahl, is weak when compared to Riddick. How is this interesting? What is left to do is explore the cinematic medium, which again Riddick provides in moments, specifically the survivalist beginning, and the end where everything is dark and wet, and illuminated by glowing weapons or far off energy sources. Sadly these moments are few and far between, so that leaves the film to present itself with uninteresting mise en scene that you’ve seen better in other films.
Just as Dark Athena and the Peter Chun short failed to truly explore the Riddick universe, this film does the exact same thing. By reverting back to basics, just as Dark Athena and the short, we cover no new ground, which limits the expansion of a new sci-fi franchise that has potential. I’m guessing they tried with Chronicles of Riddick, and seeing how that failed, they went ahead and concentrated on what works, namely, one location action and development. Maybe that’s the only way this franchise will ever find its power, but it is in my opinion that more could be done and done successfully.
Nothing too special, but I liked it.
I still don't know what the heck was going on with Dahl, though. Either the character was a complete mess, or just too complicated for such a simple story and thus seemed like a very badly written obligatory female character who was aboard just to show her boobs and so that the men would have someone to call 'doll'. Lame.
The series continues to derive from superior sci-fi films to little success.
Very slow, the film is basically three long sequences - Riddick fending for himself, the hunt for Riddick by the crew, and (spoiler) the crew allowing Riddick to team up with them to take out the threatening creatures of the planet a la Pitch Black.
Compared to its predecessor this film is surprisingly small in scale and ambition which lost entertainment value for me personally (not enough action sequences).
Good to see Karl Urban make a cameo appearance though.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!