Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review: Riddick

Release date: September 6, 2013
Running time: 119 minutes
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi MollĂ , Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine
Who to see it with: A fan of B-movies


Riddick starts off slowly, with our star abandoned on a desert planet and forced to survive in this harsh environment. Riddick, alone and against all odds, goes on to fill the audience in and recount what happened to him. Unfortunately, it's not very interesting to hear Riddick's account of these events and the writing and delivery aren't compelling. I didn't really have much sympathy for him, so seeing him struggle on this planet just didn't hit the right note. Additional characters are added later, including a companion for Riddick and some mercenaries trying to locate him, adding some variety and excitement to the cast. Unfortunately, aside from Riddick's companion, none of the characters are interesting enough to add some enjoyment to a pretty slow movie.

Earlier this year, Pacific Rim came out and felt like a video game movie--in a good way. Unfortunately, Riddick also feels like a video game movie, but for all the wrong reasons. The writing is mediocre and the delivery is pretty terrible, with throw away lines and pretty obvious and unnecessary statements (many involving how badass Riddick is). Like a video game, most of the jokes are B-movie-esque and fall flat. The story could have been interesting, with Riddick on his own and forced to survive, but is slowly-paced and not very exciting. It starts off sluggishly with the aforementioned Riddick in the desert scene and, although it picks up, it can't overcome the slow start. Part of this is that the story is longer than it has to be and could have used some trimming. The best moments are when Riddick is hunting the mercenaries, making me think that Riddick should go back to a horror-esque movie like the original Pitch Black. The tension built up in the hunting scenes is very good, but much of the action consists of quick scenes and Riddick disappearing and reappearing. Sure, it adds to the Riddick mystique but it makes for disjointed and quick fights. This is not helped by poor special effects. Even for a movie set in space, the creatures are unbelievable and are obviously CG; especially apparent when swarms of these enemies fill the screen. This is a shame because the actual sets (the non-computer generated ones) and make up effects (blood and ichor) are actually pretty good. Riddick feels like a B-movie with a large budget. But, unlike some movies that can embrace the cheese and tow that line, Riddick tries too hard to be a badass action movie. 

Don't see it.

I don't think Riddick necessarily works best in horror, but the character is more effective when part of a decent ensemble like in Pitch Black. The other films often surround him with dull adversaries and place them in mediocre action sequences. Aside from a couple of characters, almost everyone here offers little more than a quirky personality trait. That applies to PB too, but it's redeemed by its slightly more developed heroes, engaging horror premise and formidable alien opposition. Riddick's disappointing action can't make up for its lacking writing and simple characters. 

If nothing else, Riddick's straightforward survival plot is better than The Chronicles of Riddick's odd, overly ambitious attempt to turn Riddick into the hero of an epic sci-fi adventure. TCoR fans may be disappointed that its ending's repercussions are basically abandoned, but I think the filmmakers wisely stuck to their strengths by dropping that plot baggage and taking an action-oriented approach. The story is largely standalone, and past film references present enough information that new viewers won't feel lost. Riddick reminds me of cult 80's action films but, aside from a few scenes, it lacks the quotability and style that makes those films memorable despite their often questionable quality. There's a solid idea in focusing on Riddick's fight against both man and an oppressive environment, but its execution doesn't bring the tension or fun needed for a good action movie.

Don't see it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review David. Didn't expect this movie to really be smart or thought-provoking, just fun and stupid. Thankfully, that's exactly what I received.