Review

Review: 'Riddick' Is Shockingly Interesting, Shockingly Sexist

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Sep 04, 2013 | 1:45pm EDT

RiddickUniversal Pictures

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.

RiddickUniversal Pictures

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.

2.5/5

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