I expected to at least sort of like Riddick, the new science fiction action thriller featuring Vin Diesel, whom I enjoyed in xXx, and Katee Sackoff, my favorite crush from Battlestar Galactica. Having seen one movie in the Riddick franchise, I wasn’t expecting high art. I know that Riddick’s a seedy escaped criminal and an antihero. But an antihero is still a hero (Breaking Bad’s Walter White notwithstanding). And Riddick is no exception: he’s good looking, he has surgically enhanced vision, and he tends to step up and save the day in the most badass way possible when the situation calls for it. He’s also been shown to like kids and animals. Besides, who wants to root for his nemesis, The Man?
So I set my expectations appropriately low and set out to enjoy Riddick for a vapid, fun thrill ride featuring sexy people, slimy aliens and cool-looking dystopian landscapes. Alas, low expectations were not enough to prepare me for this loathsome film.
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It started out well enough. Riddick is stranded on a hostile planet where he was thrown off a cliff and left for dead by a rival “necromonger.” Here he must fight off vicious tiger-dogs and giant four-legged poisonous scorpion-fish while navigating treacherous terrain and seeking a way home. He becomes increasingly hardcore as he sets his own compound fracture, injects himself with fish-poison to build immunity, and tames an alien dog as a companion. His antics are unbelievable at times and his one-liner bravado trite, but I expected that.
When Riddick stumbles upon a military base and activates a help beacon, two sets of competing bounty hunters arrive to capture him. One is a motley crew of cocky mostly-brown dudes who prove too inept to handle the job. The other is a team of shiny, mostly-white professionals who have come to avenge their leader and show the other team what for. But both groups agree that Riddick is detestable, dangerous, shrewd, and worth more dead than alive. He has single-handedly killed dozens of trained men on other occasions.
Katee Sackoff, of the shiny group, plays Dahl, an attractive lesbian sniper. She wears black leather, she has muscles, and she immediately starts kicking a lot of ass. She’s a force to reckon with, we’re shown. We’re also shown her boob as she gets washed up in the restroom.
But if you’re weary of rape innuendo between the leading men and ladies of film, never fear. This film contains no such innuendo. Nay, innuendo would be too subtle, and Reddick doesn’t mince words. Once the bounty hunters capture and chain him, Reddick, our protagonist, our loveable criminal with a heart of gold, simply tells an angry Dahl that he intends to rape her as his final act of victory once he has broken loose. He plans to do it just after he beheads another bounty hunter who has been tormenting him. And he plans to go “balls deep.”
I feel like I’m being a little crass here. Except that I’m not the one who wrote the line, “I’m going to go balls deep into Dahl.” Lest we hope he’ll change his mind later, he states earnestly in this context that he is a “man of his word.” And in a couple of unrelated situations, proves it.
Does he get to rape her? I won’t tell, but this movie falls into a category I refer to as The Grudgefuck Romance: The more righteously angry a woman is at a man, and the meaner he is to her, the more likely he’ll get her by the end of the film. Bonus if she’s a “strong character” – that just makes the victory sweeter. Besides, what could possibly be sexier to a tough, successful, attractive woman than an unveiled rape threat?
Excuse me. I feel like I need a shower.
To be fair, Riddick’s only treating Dahl as the movie itself does. Though she’s superficially tough, she is at turns watched bathing, held down and almost raped by a rival bounty hunter, and to really put the icing on the ol’ cake, accused of lacking mathematical skills. The color of her toenail polish is compared to that of her nipples. She is sent to fetch things and she sits out most of the major fighting scenes. And one can’t help but notice that naming her Dahl gave the men in the film an excuse to call her “doll.”
Once rape was proffered as an appropriate interest for our protagonist, I was nearly too annoyed to properly hate the movie’s many other flaws. A sampling:
- The inept crew is made up not only of non-white guys, but stereotypical ones. A loudmouthed Hispanic. A strong, quiet Native American. Some other angry and stupid misfits.
- The vast majority of characters are utterly forgettable.
- The movie starts out with Reddick narrating and then unceremoniously abandons the idea.
- The final combat scenes are blurry and confusing.
- Riddick’s self-administered fish-poison immunity doesn’t actually come into play when he is forced to slay hundreds of the creatures on a rocky hillside in a storm. In fact, they become oddly easier to kill than in earlier scenes.
- Two teams of people with financial incentive, bruised pride, and vengeful motives keep getting Riddick good and cornered and then choosing not to kill him. In one scene, they approach him armed and in great numbers, but instead throw aside their weapons and walk toward him in some kind of choreographed macho face-off. In another, they tranquilize and chain him, only to chit-chat with him until things have a chance to take a turn.
- Riddick’s actions are equally baffling. He claims he wants only a ship and a chance to escape, but when he gains his opportunity, he sneaks around scaring people instead. And though it’s established that he could easily decimate his enemies with his brawn and his tricks, he never exercises this option.
About two-thirds of the way into the movie, I wondered to myself what kind of ending could make me happy, and came up empty-handed. Everyone dies, perhaps?
In short, Riddick is dumb. It’s racist, misogynistic, poorly written, pointless, and it left me feeling kind of gross. Save your $12 and your faith in humanity.
The “Shae Hates Movies” Rating System:
4 – Could have been worse
3 — Mediocre
2 — Loathsome
1 – If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out