Riddick: Furious Furyan and Faithful Fido Fight Foes

Camana Bay, Grand Cayman Island, Regal Cinema

Camana Bay at Night

We saw Riddick last week on Grand Cayman Island in a brand new Regal Cinema located in a beautiful planned community called Camana Bay. The theater had an excellent sound system that suited this movie very well.

Riddick (Richard B.), as fans know, is a character who first appeared in a tight little jewel of a horror movie called Pitch Black. In that film, Riddick is a convict who is being transported from one planet to another to stand trial. The ship crashes on a planet with binary suns so it never gets dark—except during a rare double eclipse. Then the monsters come out. A Furyan, Riddick can see in the dark so that gives him an advantage in helping to save the crew that was holding him prisoner. The story was good, the science was good and the acting, by Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell and Claudia Black, was also good.

Pitch Black became a science fiction cult favorite and it was duly followed by Chronicles of Riddick, a much less successful film on all fronts. Despite a better cast—Diesel, Judi Dench, Colm Feore and Thandie Newton—it lacked a compelling story and the science was terrible. We’re expected to believe that the dawn comes up like thunder, instantaneously raising the temperature from sub-zero to over 700 degrees Farenheit. And Riddick climbs a cliff in this heat. Right. Try setting your oven to 450 degrees and then put your hand on the side. (No, don’t. Really!)

@Riddick2013Film has a better story, pretty good acting and better science. All three movies were written by David Twohy, so I’m puzzled about why the scripts have been so inconsistent. But I was glad that Riddick was an improvement over the previous entry in the franchise. This new entry actually offers us several stories, with unpredictable shifts from one to another, which I rather enjoyed. The science has a major flaw, however.

It starts out as a story of man surviving a wilderness full of monsters. Then Riddick morphs into a 10 Little Indians plot line with a monster picking off, one by one, two teams of people who aren’t as smart or as tough as they think they are. Except that we’re rooting for the monster. Then it changes again into something closer to the original Pitch Black plot line.

Riddick, Riddick 3, Riddick 2013

Riddick and Friend

Along the way Twohy introduces an excellent addition to the story: a dog/jackal kind of creature that Riddick saves as a puppy and trains. I really liked the “dog,” which has no name, and applauded giving Riddick this scrap of humanity that makes him more sympathetic. The dog is also a brilliant piece of CGI.

The science was less successful, mostly because it fell into the same trap as After Earth, a movie we declined to see for reasons explained in a previous post. While a planet populated solely by vicious predators certainly raises the dramatic tension, it begs the question of what those predators eat. (Yes, I think about things like this while I’m watching a movie.) Carnivores in quantity require much larger quantities of prey, none of which are in evidence on this planet. Quite simply, they need more than the occasional stranded Furyan to eat.

Right here on Earth we have examples of animals and insects hatching and plants growing after a rainstorm. This upwelling of life usually creates a vital food supply for fish, birds, and carnivorous animals. An upwelling of carnivores alone would serve to wipe out all life—and then they would eat one another until the last survivors starved. This is not a good survival strategy.

NOTE:  Katee Sackhoff now totally owns the role of tough-as-nails, hard-nosed fighting bitch. Another role like this one and she will be completely typecast. I recommend a romantic comedy for her next venture–if not a Jane Austen film.

NOTE:  Mr. Twohy, how could you do that? Really? Ripley took better care of Jonesy.

NOTE:  Balancing a machete on your foot is one thing. Using said foot to fling it across the room while giving it enough power to cut a man’s skull in two is impossible. Skulls are hard. Most headsmen required several strokes to sever just the spinal column. While this gives the movie a moment of  explicit gore, it’s just not believable. Or necessary.

NOTE:  The Goldfinger/Pussy Galore line at the end was really gratuitous.  And offensive.  Even to a straight gal.

Riddick kept me engrossed, especially with the multiple plot shifts that prevented it from being predictable at any point. If you like science fiction action movies—especially if you enjoyed Pitch Black—I recommend Riddick. If you don’t like this kind of movie, you won’t see it anyway.

 

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