Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Riddick [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  ChiTribune (3 Stars) RE.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars w. Expl.)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Riddick [2013] (directed by David Twohy, screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on the charcters created by Jim and Ken Wheat) is part 3 of a decade-long Conan-evoking sci-fi survivalist drama featuring Riddick (played in all three cinematic installments as well as on the various video-game versions by Vin Diesel).  And certainly on the plus side of the current film, the first 25 minutes or so contain (as many of the reviewers cited above also attest) some of the BEST use of CGI ever.  One really feels like one is stranded with Riddick on an utterly alien desert planet where "everything's out to kill him" from vulcan-eared hyena-like jackal-dogs and giant reptilian "serpents" with even larger scorpion-like tails.  (After about 15 minutes of mayhem on this red-tinged, bubbling, volcanic world, Riddick takes a surviving pup from a pack of those hyena-like jackal dogs that he's taken-down and raises him as his faithful canine companion.  HONESTLY, HOW UTTERLY COOL IS THAT? ;-)

Things go downhill, IMHO, in the film when Riddick realizes that "rain is coming" (which he understands to  mean that something even worse that what's already beset him will follow).  So when he comes across an abandoned "merc" camp ("merc for mercenary"), he activates the camp's distress beacon and ... since the beacon immediately scans/determines Riddick's identity ... soon not one but two bands of bounty-hunters come to "retrieve him."  Interestingly enough, Riddick was deemed such a menace to the civilized order existing up there among the stars that the bounty for him was twice as high for bringing him back DEAD than ALIVE ;-). 

The two bands of bounty hunters that show-up to retrieve Riddick were, naturally, not exactly the most savory of types.  One was headed by a particularly vicious Hispanic accented man named Santana (played by Jordi Mollà) who arrived with a clear plexiglass box to put Riddick's head in after "taking care of him" (probably a mistake to arrive like that, given Riddick's deadly reputation...).  The other band was headed by a cooler-headed Anglo-American looking merc (need one say more ... the real villains in these kind of stories are ALWAYS "non-Anglos...")  named Boss Johns (played by Matt Nable).  He arrives with, among others, a really tough-looking professed lesbian named Dahl (played by Katee Sackhoff) who Riddick promises to "take" (hence probably rape ...) "after it's all over."  YES PARENTS, THIS FILM CERTAINLY BECOMES "NOT FOR THE KIDS..."  In the midst of one or the other of these motley crews is a naive Scripture quoting teenager, who, honestly it's hard to understand what exactly he's doing there.  But he is present, and he's occasionally asked to say some nice words over one or another of the adult Mercs who had died one or another randomly awful death.  Much (often mayhem...) of course ensues ...

So what possible value could a film like this have?  Well, as I mentioned above, the portrayal of the planet itself is simply breathtaking.  Then, YES, this film is definitely not for kids, and yes the Mercs are portrayed as certainly "dregs of society."  But then, one would imagine that "mercs" today aren't exactly the most "politically correct" of people as well (they certainly weren't known to be so in the past ... They haven't been called the "Dogs of War" for nothing...).

So this is a really hard-boiled tale that I would hope that _no one_ would take moral lessons from.  Still I found the CGI portrayal of the planet itself astounding and if combined with (honestly) "kinder gentler" portrayals of the infinite possibilities for adventure existing out there in the cosmos, this could be actually inspiring to viewers.  Just do leave the random and evil mayhem behind...

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