We skip ahead in our scheduled storytelling to tell you of "Riddick", which I watched with Mcwetboy and Fritzkat on Sunday afternoon at the already-moribund (attendance-wise) World Exchange Theatre.

You may have noticed recently that I have a tendency to judge movies much more leniently than some; that I am willing to defend movies with poor dialogue or an unimaginative plot because of various justifications, as we saw in my essay on "Pacific Rim."

Well, there are indeed movies out there that I consider Bad.

"Riddick" is Bad.

It is assembled, I said to Mcwetboy afterwards, as "Rule of Cool" writing. Every scene tries to be something Cool, and I could see why it was Cool, and in some ways even appreciate how very Cool it was. The problem is that there is nothing there but Cool.

Specific example: the title character is played by Vin Diesel, and written, as a complete Badass: with superior fighting and survival power, incredible healing powers, apparent immunity to shock (that is a common superpower of Hollywood violence participants, but in no movie before have I been as aware, "He should be in shock right about now" --- although, to be fair, I do not often watch R-rated movies) and the ability to outsmart and outfight all his enemies and make them look lost and dumb while he was looking Badass.

The problem was that he was Un-Relatable. And by that I mean, given how the term is bandied about, that there was very little in his behaviour that mapped to how I know real human beings to act and think: there was never any fear, or doubt, or a wince that maybe this wasn't the smartest idea, or even the confession of his weaknesses to his (beautifully CGI-rendered) space-dog that no one else could see. This was a writer's wish-fulfillment fantasy puppet walking the landscape. Or a sociopath.

Speaking of the sociopathy and the puppies, specific example of the first thing that made the movie Problematic with a capital P (and by this I mean, given how the term was bandied about, is that members of groups that very often aren't treated with respect --- weren't treated with respect in this movie, either):

It follows the title advice of "Save the Cat" --- it shows you who to root for early in the movie by making the Good Guy (Riddick) save a puppy. Aww, puppy, goes the audience and roots for the Good Guy.

It shows you who to hate, also early in the movie, by making the Bad Guy (Santana) kill a black woman.


"Damn," I thought, as soon as the black woman appeared on screen, as the Bad Guy's prisoner that the Kindest of the Bad Guys is told to release, "we already know Katee Sackhoff is in this movie, so by the Hollywood logic I know this movie follows, if there are two women, one is going to die." But I didn't expect her to die so quickly; she is let go and runs away, and at that moment Santana the Bad Guy shoots her, to the horror of the Kindest of Bad Guys. Clearly, her only point to existence in this movie, the thing the actress Keri Hilson signed up for, was to die in order to show how evil the Bad Guy was.

And she was black. And I knew, on a deep level, why Hollywood didn't dare have the role be played by a man of either race (not enough indignation; men of all races will already die left and right in this movie) and didn't dare have it played by a _white_ woman (too MUCH indignation --- what if she was prettier than Katee Sackhoff and test audiences would rebel?) or by an Asian woman (the test audience would just be puzzled as to what that could signify, as if all the Asian women I know were created that way for larger plot reasons). Black women in Hollywood are ideal for being killed off so the audience would be just angry enough to go "evil!" and not angry enough to get out of their seats and do something about it. Black women exist for no other reason.

That makes me sick.

The antagonists that the designated puppy-saving Good Guy faces are of a mix of races: white, black, Native American (Raoul Trujillo's character), Hispanic, Arabic-looking... However, the survivors of this carnage are all white except for Vin Diesel. And all pretty. The movie doesn't _quite_ have it that the Black Guy Dies First, but in the end, the black guy dies too.

There were many scenes where the movie was shot like a conventional horror film, except that the monster the band was facing outside was Riddick, the guy we know is the Good Guy, because he saved the puppy, and because oh yeah, he does the voiceover. I guess the movie may be trying to say something profound about how there is no easy moral decision about good and evil, they are so similar, that the only way you can tell is which one saves puppies on camera and which one kills black women on camera (sarcasm).

Katee Sackhoff, BSG's Starbuck, plays the designated only surviving woman. Unfortunately, while BSG, for all of its flaws, gave her character depth, in this one she plays a very flat super-competent mercenary sniper, who fights off Designated Bad Guy Santana's attempts at rape while loudly protesting that she is a lesbian. However, when Riddick proclaims his intentions to have sex with her, she acts as if she is at least interested.

Now ironically enough, before we went into the theatre Fritzkat was bantering about the previous Riddick movies and how Vin Diesel is to lesbians what Angelina Jolie is, allegedly, to straight women: the one example of the dispreferred gender that they would shift their Kinsey rating for*. That the movie made this explicit is...well, if it's that well-known, then it's funny, but still, Problematic. Even the movie's attempt at a strong, competent queer woman having to deal with sexual harassment and coming out on top (even though that involves repeatedly punching the teeth out of her harasser, while having her boss and coworkers back her in this --- nice trick if you can do it) still turns her into a heterosexual sex object. How would a lesbian feel about this movie telling her that she is basically only a lesbian until the nice proper puppy-saving badass psychopath comes along and tells her otherwise?

*checks: as of this writing, I still have no desire whatsoever to kiss Angelina Jolie. Even if Ms. Jolie saves puppies.

Also, the scene of Sackhoff topless (showering) was completely gratuitous --- although a hand reaches towards her, and we are supposed to wonder if it is Santana or Riddick, and I still have no clue whether it was Santana or Riddick (they should have gotten manicures of different OPI colours, at least, so I could keep track). As was the gratuitous full-frontal nudity shot of the handmaidens that were supposedly lying in Riddick's bed back when he was Lord Marshow...that was how I heard this name...who either have strange headdresses or strange skull diseases, and are supposed to represent the joys he gave up in order to somehow be deceived into being left for dead on this planet by "the guy with the fucked-up face."

Wikipedia research reveals that Riddick the character according to canon had no formal education. I am glad that this characterization is consistent with his handwriting and vocabulary.

Also, the movie falls to the notorious orange-and-teal disease of overdoing the colour filters so that everything appears either orange or teal.

The fight scenes, of which there are many, are shot quite chaotically, from wildly shifting cuts and angles, so that we the audience have no idea what is going on. I suspect this is either a flailing attempt to just stay R-rated, or, more likely, the director being as competent at shooting fight scenes as J.K. Rowling is at writing them.

Things that I liked about this movie: the creature design. The special effects team did earn their keep yet again. The creatures were beautiful. Even if the reptilian-vulture's wings could not possibly have borne it up.

Things that I have no opinion on in this movie: the musical score. I was kept too busy either admiring the creatures, or disliking every humanoid in this movie and wishing they would all drown together, director and screenwriter included.

From: [identity profile] clevermanka.livejournal.com

Well, damn.

You're not the first person I know to say this movie was awful awful awful which makes me so sad because I love Vin Diesel and the first Riddick movie (Pitch Black) was a pretty good SF horror flick.


From: [identity profile] indicolite.livejournal.com

Yes, that was what Mcwetboy and Fritzkat said, too; they own Pitch Black and the Chronicles.

Tor.com (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/09/riddick-movie-review#more) did provide a review today, joining in my opinion of the women/queers treatment in this movie, and clarifying that it _was_ Riddick stalking Sackhoff's character; there was a reference line that I missed. Also claiming that the sexual creepiness was way out of character with the earlier movies, which is a point in favour of the earlier movies.

From: [identity profile] thetimesink.livejournal.com

Add "damn" to that. The first two are decent 'go to' flicks for late night TV...


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