Riddick: 6 out of 10

I barely remember Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick, but those few remaining memories are fairly fond ones. Both movies were entertaining and better than expected, the first one in the sci-fi-horror genre and the second sci-fi-epic; and I heard fairly positive things about the video game Escape from Butcher Bay as well. But that said, I didn't have any particular intention to go see the new movie, Riddick, until well after the (mixed) reviews started coming in. And I'm happy I went, because this is a solid, medium-budget action-sci-fi movie.

The film generally has three parts. The first part shows the titular Riddick struggling to survive on a hostile planet upon which he has been left for dead; this is a mostly-silent affair, with regular threats and montages and the occasional cute puppy. This was the most "sci-fi" and "acting" part of the movie, and was rather understated and interesting. It could have gotten boring, but it didn't outstay its welcome.

The second part of the film brings down the rest of the cast, two crews of bounty hunters that have come to kill Riddick, but turn out to be stalked and taunted by Riddick instead. This is familiar ground for many an action movie, and it was fairly well implemented. The characters were distinct and (mostly) plausible, the dialogue was simple but generally amusing, and the knowledge that this was only part of the movie gave it an interesting focus, since we didn't have to see every character die.

The third part has everybody that's still alive struggling to survive as the planet's ecosystem turns on them - basically, Pitch Black again. This was perfectly serviceable sci-fi-horror, and I have fairly little to say about it. It fits in well with the other parts, and it again ends before we have the time to get bored with it. That's all I could hope for.

My biggest gripe had to do with how Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) was handled. While it was refreshing to have a woman (lesbian!) sniper bad-ass in amongst the standard mercenary-bad-ass crews, the writers still used the excuse to treat her as a sexual object, and only occasionally to good effect. Sure, it was nice to see her turn the tables (read: punch) on those trying to harass her the first couple of times; but did we really have to see a rape attempt get so far?

(For that matter, did we really need to have the rape attempt at all? If the goal was to show us how despicable the attempted-rapist was, we had already had this shown to us earlier in the film, and we were shown this again just a few minutes later; did we really need a full three this-character-has-to-die crimes? Sheesh.

I'll admit, I was less bothered by Riddick himself treating her as a sexual object. Not only did the banter make some sense in context, but he didn't actually "turn her straight", even though that's what the banter was about, and I saw no particular impression that he wanted to. I'm chalking this up to the fact that Riddick is meant to be an ass, more Conan than John Carter of Mars. Anyway, digression over.)

In short, this was a perfectly solid sci-fi-horror movie. The plot was simple and nothing special, the special effects were perfectly adequate, the characters were fine, the connection to the franchise was virtually non-existent, and the aliens were striking enough. I'll probably see the next sequel if/when it ever comes.

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Trailer thoughts: the trailers before the main movie clearly understood that this was a sci-fi action adventure, but were otherwise nothing horribly memorable. There were two stand-out trailers:

  1. Next year's Robocop remake. This was a stylish trailer, showing the new look and design while contrasting it directly with the original; and it had Samuel L Jackson talking, which is a plus. But it was also a "give us the whole plot" trailer. Still, it wasn't so bad as these things go, and it did the job of making me at least somewhat interested in a year's worth of marketing. 6/10 for the trailer.

  2. Gravity. I was decidedly unimpressed with the teaser trailer for this movie, but this was much better, even though this full-length trailer is essentially just a longer version of that teaser from the other character's POV (Sandra Bullock instead of George Clooney). I think that the difference was that they had a chance to acknowledge my concerns before: yes, of course they don't stand a chance. I now intend to see this movie. 7/10.