The Geek Life: Riddick (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Friday, September 06, 2013
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life kicks it with Riddick.
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Let’s be honest first and foremost. I never saw the Chronicles of Riddick. There it is, I said it. Nor have I seen any of the animated adventures. What I did see, so many suns ago, was Pitch Black. Initially, it looked like a Sci-Fi channel original movie, but I took a chance on it. It was a great twist on the Assault on Precinct 13 story, a story which has been done to death. It is hard to believe that 13 years later we are really getting a third installment to the Riddick story. We could go into the highs and lows of it’s star, Vin Diesel, but the iron giant is back so let’s move on to Riddick.
What could possibly propel my interest in a third Riddick movie? I do love a good Sci-Fi yarn, but the last time I purposely watched a Vin Diesel movie was the original Fast and the Furious. Even then, it was on DVD via Netflix. However, with his recent up-swing in his career and his possible casting (is it official yet?) in Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought I would give the third Riddick movie a shot.
I didn’t venture out and watch the Chronicles of Riddick or all the animated shorts beforehand. Instead, I took the gamble that Hollywood and producer, Vin Diesel, would make a film that was easily accessible to someone who hadn’t seen the other material. Hey, and why not? They do it for Superhero films all the time. Why shouldn’t I get to be the one who hasn’t seen everything for once?
Riddick finds himself stranded on a desert planet that is washed with so many CGI water colors that you have to either accept it or leave the theater. I accepted it, though I did long for the brilliant desolation of Oblivion. Are there really no brilliant unique surfaces left on the world? In a brief narration, Riddick fills us in on how he dulled his own edge and got civilized. This enabled those around him, especially Vaako, Karl Urban (reprising his role from Chronicles), to remove Riddick from power. Thus establishing the first part of this three part story, survival.
The first third of this movie is likened to Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away (2000) mixed with Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Barbarian”. Diesel re-establishes his character as a methodical, patient survivor who will do what must be done. His ability to live off the land and tame it is what he needs to do to survive. Why it is like Cast Away is because Diesel’s performance is basically a one man show. There is a CGI dog to interact with and numerous creepy crawlies, but it is Diesel that sells you on what you are seeing, much like Hanks making us believe he is truly alone, Diesel captures your imagination in all that you see. The CGI and Riddick are very real. The Robert E. Howard part of the tale is told in flashbacks that establish how this Sci-Fi warrior had nothing, took it all, and then had it taken from him. He is a warrior, a king, a thief, a killer and a legend. All that matters when the bounty hunters arrive to collect him.
The second part of this tale slows down a lot and it is to establish two groups of mercenaries that arrive to capture Riddick. There are, of course, all the arch-types and, outside of Dave Bautista and Katee Sackoff, they are easily interchangeable. Bautista was another reason I wanted to see this film. His next project will either make or break his career as an actor (Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy). After witnessing him in Riddick, it may be better that Bautista have a Chewbacca like role and only chime in every once in a while. He’s a presence, but one that can easily be ruined with the bad dialogue. Sackoff will never play the damsel in distress and that is fine. However, if she always plays the badass warrior woman, will we ever see what she is really capable of as an actress?
Riddick plays an incredible game of cat and mouse with these mercenaries. Clearly, he’s the anti-hero we are rooting for. The second act drags a bit, but, like Riddick, we know that the real horror/ ride is about to take place.
Getting back to the roots of Pitch Black, director David Twohy unleashes a Sci-Fi nightmare on Riddick and the mercenaries. There are ties to Pitch Black, but nothing so grandiose that it is essential to see the movie before you see Riddick. The third part of this film is all about surviving. Everyone has to trust one another to get off this rock and, of course, promises are made and broken.
The thrill ride that is Riddick is marked with some great highs and lows. Diesel delivers a one man performance that makes you long for his Sci-Fi version of “Robinson Crusoe”. The climax is nothing short of epic and Graeme Revell’s score backs it up. The best parts really are when Diesel is left to carry the movie on his own. This could be why the end of the movie frizzles out instead of ending with a bang. Overall, Riddick is worth seeing and makes you long to see Diesel as the giant talking tree, Groot, in Guardians of the Galaxy. Hopefully, that will officially happen soon.
Robert Trate writes three columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.