Baron of Books Review of
Once again. We play for blood.
Y’know. It’s such a titular line in the trailer for the movie Riddick. But the blasted line doesn’t come until half-way through the movie.
As you’ve no doubt guessed, I recently watched the new-to-theatres Riddick. Third live-action movie in the wonderfully messed up universe that is generally a sort of unwilling home to the title character. Richard B. Riddick (played by Vin Diesel).
Realize that I was a bit . . .cautious of this movie for a few reasons, most of which turned out to be groundless, once I sat down and watched the thing. Oh yes, there will be a few spoilers for the previous two movies here. If you don’t want to be spoiled, skip this next paragraph or two.
Firstly, if you know anything about the last two movies, especially the previous one, it ended with the slightly murderous, semi-likable Riddick in charge of a fairly substantial force of Necromongers. Think death-worshiping cult that would really love to introduce absolutely EVERYONE to their chummy god in the afterlife. But as the previews showed, this new movie focuses on Riddick, conspicuously sans Mighty Army of DOOM.
The other thing that got me a bit worried was it looked like a simple rehash of Pitch Black. Riddick and reluctant chums stuck on a world which has more than its fair share of carnivorous nasties bent on chewing up anything remotely human. But I quite enjoyed the last two movies, and thus pushed though my misgivings, and believe me, it was quite worth the push.
Those spoilers I mentioned? Done now. You can start reading again. The movie starts in a suitably chilling manner, reminding everyone that Riddick is an escaped convict with a penchant for survival and brutally killing things he doesn’t like. Left for dead on a desert world, battered body and a mangled leg, things look grim for our . . .well, hero’s not really the right word. Our guy. Yeah, let’s call him that.
For a man with special eyes, handy for seeing in the dark, he is seriously outgunned on a sunny desert world. And the first part of the movie focuses on this mighty-man-brought-low having to deal with being alone again. Recapturing the predator, animal side of him he believes he’s lost.
Things go reasonably well for our guy Riddick. He finds a . . I guess you could call it an alien puppy, in whom he sees the same drive to survive he has. The two bond whilst fighting some seriously creepy looking . . .I don’t even know what they were. Nightmare baby of a scorpion and a worm, maybe. These venomous alien beasties like to hide in pools of water and nab unsuspecting victims. They also are quite aptly positioned between Riddick and a rocky stairway that leads from the desert to a slightly more habitable part of the planet.
After stalking and gauging the creature’s weaknesses, Riddick (now suitably back into his gruff persona) cuts his way past the largest creepy alien and, puppy in tow, gets to the proverbial land of milk and honey. From there it seems as though things are golden. The aliens seem content to stay in their tepid pools of water and leave he and his puppy alone. And before you know it, the puppy is all grown up and the two are trekking across the land.
But no, danger looms on the horizon as a massive storm is sweeping ever closer to their nice little spot of land. Bringing with it the water-loving aliens. Who apparently like to travel via horde, rather than in kill-able ones and twos. Riddick quickly sees that no matter how scary he is, the horde of venomous aliens really doesn’t care, and he needs to find a way off world before the storm hits him in the next few days.
Fortunately on the world is an aged mercenary outpost with an emergency beacon. Which leads to both a problem and an opportunity. Riddick has a bad history with mercenaries and bounty hunters. The bounty on his head just keeps growing, due in no small part, I imagine, to the fact that Riddick keeps killing those that try to return him to prison. To activate the beacon would definitely bring a ship down to the planet, considering the beacon has him in its system as a high-value target. But of course, any ship that comes down is going to be chock-full of heavily armed mercenaries who are quite intent on dragging him back to prison, dead or alive.
Obviously, as this movie isn’t called “Rid—oh he got eaten by the horde”. He hits the button and summons the mercs. And here is where the movie truly started to shine, for me. For not one, but two teams of mercenaries land on the planet searching for him. The first group is what one normally thinks when the word “mercenary” is spoken. Ragtag, thuggish, brutal and needlessly cruel, lead by a half-crazed man by the name of Santana. This group charmingly swears to put Riddick’s head in a box.
The second group is the far more interesting of the two, a four-man team of competent, lethal and (pleasantly surprising) not psychopathic men and one woman. Led by a man named Johns, this team is more mysterious, claiming they want to capture Riddick, but they’re not in it for the cash.
After that, things get violent in the way Riddick movies usually do. But while it retreads old ground, it does it with a certain amount of style.
Riddick being the title character of course gets some interesting development. Especially through the interactions with the dog. Vin Diesel plays the role well, fitting into it perfectly, treading the line between brutal killer and sympathetic survivor. Especially pitted against Santana’s crew (who are shown to be over-all creeps), it’s refreshing to see him fight people who probably have it coming.
Frankly though, I think the show is stolen by Johns and his second-in-command, Dahl (played wonderfully by Matt Nable and Katee Sackhoff). These two form a tag-team of mercenary awesome, surprisingly human in their endeavors, sticking to each other like glue. Dahl especially is amazing, and yes, I am a bit biased because I loved Katee from the Battlestar Galactica series. But here, pitted against the sadistic bestial nature of Santana’s crew, with the knowledge that her comrades stand behind her if things get messy, she shines brightly.
Obviously there were a few things that irked me (be surprising if I ever found a movie that didn’t). Santana’s shown to be a creepy rapist who keeps a woman locked in his ship. But one of his crew is apparently a bible-fearing Christian. I frankly didn’t understand how the young man in Santana’s crew was still with them, in a situation like that.
Also, Dahl is shown to be clearly “not” interested in men, and yet Riddick makes a particularly . . .sleazy sexual joke in a way that you can’t quite tell if he’s being serious or not. Which adds to the over-all ick factor and interrupts the playful, almost comrade-like vibe the two have, even being on opposite sides.
What I truly liked about the movie was the world-building. The glimpses into Riddick’s universe show a rich, storied history, especially concerning the mercenaries and their interactions with each other. Also, the fact that Riddick, such a strong, rebellious character, is shown to still need help, sometimes. Reinforcing that when the chips are down, it doesn’t hurt to have a friend at your back, whether it be an alien dog or a mercenary with a code of honor. It was refreshing to see that.
Over-all quite enjoyable, with some laugh-out-loud moments, a few cringes, and one very definite “fist-pumping” moment near the end where you want to shout and say “yeah!” (no, stop giving me those looks, I seriously considered it).
If you like Riddick and the universe from which he came, or if you’re just into competent science fiction/fantasy. Give it a watch, dear readers.
Regards, The Baron
Theatrical Release Date: 6 September 2013 (USA)
Writers: David Twohy, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Stars: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff
Motion Picture Rating: Rated R
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
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