Wednesday, 18 September 2013



Yet again another sequel for which I felt obliged to rewatch the originals. In this instance I didn't mind too much: it's been a long time since I saw either Pitch Black or The Chronicles Of Riddick, and in the event I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first one again, while being even more surprised by just how rompingly silly the sequel was. While the original is a pacy and enjoyable B-movie with lots of fearsome gribbley monsters, the epic sequel would have benefited more from its once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Vin Diesel at his most manly and Dame Judi Dench as an ethereal something if they'd been together more often. But Chronicles was nine years ago, and Vin Diesel was nine years younger: can the character still work?

Riddick starts brilliantly, with Diesel's escaped convict, murderer, fugitive and King Of The Necromongers left for dead on a bleak, inhospitable and uninhabited world which, once he's crawled out of his grave, he sets about taming. Fortunately (extremely so) there's an abandoned mercenary shelter not too far away, so when the approaching storms awaken yet more gribbley monsters, Riddick hits the emergency beacon and waits for rescue....Two ships full of mercenary bastards promptly turn up: the first crew of obnoxious scumbags want him dead for the bounty, while the second, considerably less hateful, crew need him alive since they're led by the father of one of the casualties in Pitch Black.

Much mention has been made, and much discussion has ensued, of a scene when they've captured Riddick (they can't kill him because he's got the fuel cells they need to take off) and are debating their next move when Riddick announces that he's going to "go balls deep...but only because she asked me to" into the "good" crew's second-in-command, who's already established herself as a lesbian. Is this homophobic? Is this rapey? Is this sexist? Frankly I'm not too sure about this: the threat is never carried out and most likely never would have been as Riddick has never been a sexual character. I'm not sure he's even aware of her sexuality at that point anyway. Those few lines of dialogue didn't bother me, though they did feel a little out of place in a throwaway SF/horror movie in which people beat up monsters on an alien planet in the distant future. That's not to say that the lack of a realistic context excuses the sort of attitudes that besmirch Twitter et al on a too-regular basis; but I don't think Riddick, either the film or the character, is endorsing those attitudes or even holding them. Rather, it's a scene in which Riddick and his captors are indulging in a dick-swinging contest, a childish game of "I'm more badass than you are".

For all that, Riddick is a lot of fun. Frankly I could have watched the early Extreme Survival sequences for hours, as Riddick sorts out the local equivalents of vultures and jackals, as well as defeating giant water scorpions by systematically immunising himself against their venom. Once the disposable badasses have arrived, it slackens a bit since they're generally pretty boring, but it's fun to watch Riddick running rings around them, infiltrating the camp unseen and picking them off one by one. Furthermore, the final sequences, featuring a splendid moment of Riddick lamping unspeakable alien beasts by the thousand on a storm-lashed rock, are marvellous. It's a return to the scary Pitch Black rather than the bonkers Chronicles, and I'd like to think there's a fourth instalment in the offing at some point.


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