A ludicrous script is usually the hurdle you find yourself trying to jump in an effort to enjoy an action-heavy science fiction in the character of Riddick. Surprisingly, it isn't the story that holds Vin Diesel's third Richard Riddick movie back, but what launches it forward through a dust cloud of other shortcomings and malfeasances. Kicking off with a wordless first act involving the lone criminal's determination to survive on a wasteland planet and progressing very gradually toward and through an intergalactic bounty hunter team's stakeout for the wanted man, we find ourselves adhering reluctantly to the slow-burning but densely packed drama. It'll get you. The claustrophic, death-on-the-horizon mission facing the band of lowlifes hunting down Riddick — and the intercepting troupe of more ostensibly "righteous" law enforcement officials (there's a guy who speaks calmly, a woman, and a kid who prays, so you know they're the good ones) — coughs up pissing contests, gender politics, and strategy debates in the valley of meaty sociological sci-fi like classic Star Trek episodes. Meanwhile, Diesel is hiding out in the adjacent caves, plotting his next move.
After a uniquely primal introductory chapter, wherein we're engrossed by the vivid hell that is "Not Furya" (Riddick's affectionate name for the world within which he is prisoner) in the same way that we connect to the first chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we're relieved to welcome in some new characters (and, of course, actual dialogue). While Diesel can muster charisma taunting Jordi Mollà's bounty hunter creep Santana or Matt Nable's stoic (with a breaking point) officer Johns, he's not the sort of actor who can carry long stretches of wordless, pensive survival on his own. Luckily, he gets a dog pretty early on, so that picks things up a bit.
But problems are not absent when the film duodecuples its population. Once the talking kicks up, so does the occasional weaving of mythos. Even those familiar with the old films will find themselves boggled by the convoluted, cantankerous backstory building that pops in obligatorily, wishing that the film would just get back to the quavering stakeout. However, there is a far bigger issue at hand.
While the heated issues presented Within the tiny world of the battling teams sent to the planet to hunt down Riddick are a banquet for the viewer, some of the problems actually traverse beyond the screen, and All of them involve sole female player Katee Sackhoff and her character Dahl. It says everything that the only woman in this film bears a handle that is homophonous to "Doll." While we can expect the no nonsense officer to be treated with a dearth of respect (and worse) by money hungry, lustful bounty man Santiago, the film itself doesn't seem to have a much more forgivable attitude toward the character, her gender, or her sexual orientation (which is, inscrutably, one of the most revisited topics of conversation).
Present through the movie as soon as Dahl steps onscreen, Riddick's misogyny will get in the way of its otherwise enjoyable and interesting foray into gritty sci-fi, but stands as its sole indefensible problem. Had a more diligent, progressive eye in the edit bay relinquished David Twohy's screenplay of this outrageously persistent repulsion, we might have a film altogether triumphant. With a cherished character readily available for returning fans and a new stock of interesting set-ups for any genre aficionado, not to mention palpable tension — and, yes, the dog — Riddick really only suffers from its misshapen approaches toward gender and sexuality. It's one problem, but it's a damn big one.
More Reviews:'Getaway' Is a Train Wreck'The World's End' Is Funny, But Something More'You're Next' Amuses and Occasionally Scares
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
Everyone's got an opinion about the way Netflix presented the first season of House of Cards. Some say it set the precedent for the future of TV. Some say it redefined the "spoiler alert" as we know it. Some say it was downright risky. But those are just words. A study (or quick data pulled from Google) from Feb. 19 essentially concluded that releasing all episodes at once ruined the show's chance to grow because it hindered the social media factor. As someone who sits behind a computer screen all day, following trends and interacting with colleagues via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and several social media sites that are barely past beta testing, I wholeheartedly agree.
The format of the show did affect my engagement with social media. I barely commented about any of the House of Cards episodes — even that raunchy final scene in Episode 7 (your eyes are probably all !! right now if you know what I mean) — because I didn't know who I'd be talking to and didn't want to spoil anything. Instead, for the first time in a while, it forced me to talk at length out loud about a current show with a real live actual human being. Perish the thought!
RELATED: Richard III's Bones Identified Right As 'House of Cards' Debuts
I am constantly reading stories that highlight the downfall of my generation: How all we do is keep our eyes glued to our phones and computer screens, which leads to the conclusion that we have lost the ability to communicate, go on "offline" dates, or interact with our bosses. It's a nonstop double standard of "learn fast, grow, and change the world" met with "slow down, get off your devices, and have a real connection with someone." Critics are fast to negatively judge Netflix's strategic gamble of dumping all 13 episodes at once for mass consumption, but the fact that I had to actively find someone to chat with through each omigod moment brought the kind of conversation I realized my life was missing. It was like (pre-Twitter) high school, when I'd call my best friend at the commercial break and we'd gasp in unison about whatever life-altering Joey Potter moment had just occurred. (Thankfully she never married a Scientologist.) The data may prove that binge-watching House of Cards forfeited the advantage of sharing thoughts digitally, but it helped us to gain something far more valuable: human interaction.
And it's not just about House of Cards — though how could you not dash to find someone when Underwood did that thing to Russo that I guess I still can't mention here — it's about binge-watching in general. When I sat home and faked sick so that I could speed through Felicity, Breaking Bad, Lost, Friday Night Lights, and other pop cultural touchstones, I made sure I had a pal to recap with. If not a friend binging at the same time as I was, then someone who loved these shows so much they were willing to go through all the details with me even years after they originally aired. Doing so made discussing Felicity and Noel's dorm room Boggle kiss, or Jesse and Walt's nice lunch with Tuco and Tio Salamanca, or everything about Coach Taylor that much greater.
RELATED: Netflix's 'House of Cards': Is Traditional TV Viewing Over?
These game-changing shows did not need social media to gauge a following, just as House of Cards does not need people on Twitter or Facebook making dumb jokes about Robin Wright being a "MILF." What sort of engagement does that really prove, anyway? Though numbers from social media are tangible, it hardly determines whether someone is genuinely interested in a show or simply waiting for the next idiotic parody account. And if we're more concerned with a show's numbers than we are with how engrossed viewers are — and how much they are actually deriving from each watch — then, really, we're all just one embarrassing contradiction.
Whether or not the first season of House of Cards was a win on social media, it was not a "mistake." And it certainly doesn't mean people weren't actually talking about each episode, thoroughly and with emotion. In fact, there were fewer fleeting thoughts and sudden judgments and instead, more thought-provoking debates. On social media, there's always pressure to be witty and to say something that hasn't been brought up already — at least from what your timeline can tell — but when I'm physically facing a friend over a beer, we can discuss that cryptic spider comment for as long as we want, without a word count restriction. Perhaps, if the world can even handle such a backpedal, this is how we should be measuring a show's success after all.
[Image Credit: Netflix]
Follow Anna on Twitter @thebrandedgirl
From Our Partners:Bradley Cooper Dancing Is Surprisingly Awkward, Sweaty (Vh1)Kate Upton Bares All in Nothing But Body Paint: Video (Celebuzz)
An archaeologist! An archaeologist! My marketing team for an archaeologist!
Rarely is a team of artifact hunters the unwitting extension of a studio publicity team. But Netflix's House of Cards, the new political thriller produced by David Fincher and Beau Willimon about a Machiavellian pol (Kevin Spacey) who seeks to catapult himself into power via any shady means, got a major PR assist Monday when a group of U.K. archaeologists announced that they've located and identified the bones of King Richard III. So... wait, what's the connection? Well, House of Cards' central character, Spacey's Frank Underwood, is actually based on Richard. Which means that by early afternoon on Monday, "Richard III" was trending heavily on Twitter, even holding its own against multiple Super Bowl-related hashtags.
RELATED: Kevin Spacey Glowers in new 'House of Cards' Trailer—VIDEO
Obviously, Fincher and Willimon could never have anticipated that this news would hit three days after their miniseries debuted. Freud may have said that there are no coincidences, but then something as serendipitous as this happens. It's like how the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend scandal broke right after the launch of MTV's Catfish: The TV Show, and suddenly "catfishing" became the most notable new gerund to enter the pop culture lexicon in 2013. Or, to use a sadder example, how the new documentary about Ed Koch premiered the very day the former New York mayor died and suddenly became a memorial film. Interest in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert, not to mention plans for a big-screen adaptation, got a major assist when the previously unknown Susan Boyle rocketed to YouTube celebrity in 2009 with her Britain's Got Talent rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." And Paris Hilton's pursuit of fame got a sizable boost when her infamous sex tape hit the Interwebs shortly after the debut of her Fox reality show, The Simple Life. Okay, Freud might have been right about that last one. Can there be coincidences where Paris Hilton is concerned?
Still, it's pretty incredible that a monarch who died before Columbus discovered America has left such a lasting footprint on pop culture. Richard III is England's most maligned king. And yet he sat on the throne for only two years before being defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, an event usually considered to be the end of the Medieval Age in England. His successors, the Tudors, would paint him as a vile monster. They suggested he undermined the rule of his brother King Edward IV, then had his nephews locked in the Tower of London and eventually killed, in order to obtain the crown himself. William Shakespeare contributed to the propaganda by depicting Richard as a hunchbacked child-killer, whose ultimate fate was a kind of karmic payback. The Bard portrayed Richard as a model of terrible statesmanship, and pretty much the standard to which any storytellers depicting the pitfalls of power — including the team behind House of Cards — aspire. Richard has been directly portrayed in numerous plays and movies, including in a career-best turn by Laurence Olivier in 1955 and House of Cards' own Kevin Spacey in a recent mounting of the Shakespeare play at London's Old Vic.
RELATED: Netflix Plans Full Season Release of 'House of Cards': Is Traditional TV Viewing Over?
Some, though, feel that Richard has gotten a bad rap. His defenders say he was the target of a Tudor smear campaign and that his detractors today unfairly judge him by the standards of our time. Compared to other medieval rulers, however, his behavior wasn't that far from the norm.
Richard's bones were discovered in September in a coffin-less grave six feet under a parking lot in Leicester, England, about 20 miles from the site of the Battle of Bosworth, and exactly where Tudor historians said he was buried. Though the identity of the remains was only confirmed on Feb. 4 following DNA comparison tests with two descendants of Richard's House of Plantagenet, all of the other evidence pointed to him being the king. The bones were definitely from a man in his late 20s or early 30s, and we know Richard died at the age of 32. They were also carbon dated to between 1455 and 1540 and showed signs of the individual having possessed a diet rich in meat and fish, indicating that he was noble-born. The skull had a severe gash along its back, consistent with the historical account of the killing blow that claimed Richard's life — Shakespeare imagined him being killed after losing his mount, thus leading to the immortal cry, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" Most importantly, it turns out Shakespeare was right, after all: the skeleton's spine featured a severe case of scoliosis, meaning that Richard was indeed a hunchback.
RELATED: Late Night Last Night: Kevin Spacey Does a ‘Brilliant’ Impersonation of Al Pacino
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix]
You Might Also Like:
Biden? Ford? Surprisingly Hot Young Pics of Politicians
Who Wore This Crazy Hat?
Stars Who Changed Their Look After Love