RIDDICK: An In-Depth EF Review
Riddick film Review: My thoughts on the film as it performed in the box office, as a piece of cinema, as a sequel, and (effectively) as an Independent film entry. Read on after the jump to see my verdict on this third entry in this franchise.
Opened: #1 3107 Theaters
Current Box Office Numbers:$27,828,525 (as of 9/8/2013)
Metacritic: 49 of 100 & 8.0 User Rating (at time of review)
Rotten Tomatoes: 58% Critics & 67% Audience Approval (at time of review)
I’ve been a fan of this film series since its inception. PITCH BLACK was, by all accounts, an interesting and different film, that I had thought would've been a solo entry. What otherwise should have been a modern cult classic in the making (on its own); turned out to gain a sequel in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK. I wasn't completely fond of Chronicles, it seemed to me like an over the top expansion of a universe that we were seemingly interested in, and ended up not really wanting. Containing overarching aspects of the various characters, which were extremely forced in my opinion. But I took it all in, none-the-less. I wasn't expecting to come back to a third installment; which didn't seem like a necessity, or likely. I do like the character, and I had hoped to see more of him, but not in the same setting as Chronicles; however, without such a saturated universe getting in the way of the visceral character I wanted to remain, Riddick seemed like a good return to the core of the character.
That’s why I became interested in this film. It was a return to the original concept. More so, Vin Diesel who absolutely loves and believes in this character, had to (himself) finance and bring this production to life. Or at least begin the funding process for this project on his own. I have a deeper respect for him, because it takes a lot of faith in your own work to put your own personal money in, taking most of the risk. Especially when the previous entry didn't succeed as fiscally as the studios had hoped. A bomb would be more appropriate a term to state for Chronicles; compounding the risk Diesel had to take to make this film happen.
Because of this fact, I viewed this film with a hopeful mind towards its success. Not just because I love the character, and had an affinity for the first film, but because I want Mr. Diesel to succeed; where a massive studio failed. To see if Diesels direct vision of Riddick, whom he believes in, would fare better under his control than with a massive studio undertaking and budget.
This film is an exercise in what I call “Back to Basics”, the character is returned to the original scenario we as an audience loved, while giving connections to the second entry as well; then moving on to focus entirely on its title character. Which in the end is all anyone watching this film wants to see. Because the audience wants to watch its resident “…Zulu Warlock” in action (for the most part).
The beginning of the film dragged on for a very long time. We saw a distinct aspect of the characters development focused on a few issues he was immediately confronted with. His being marooned, with injuries, and dealing with the local predatory wildlife. While seeing him in a vulnerable state, as opposed to an invincible killing machine, is refreshing; the story lingered on this aspect of the film for an excessive amount of time.
The script also spent an incredibly long time developing a relationship with his “Dingo Dongo” companion, which started out as a very cute and adorable pup, and continued with a jump into adulthood, furthering the development of this animal as if it was a completely separate character. Some of this was similar on many levels to other films where the protagonist was developing a relationship with something other than himself amidst isolation. Which is understandable, if It was not still being developed, or solely focused on, roughly 30-31 minutes into the film.
While the relationship he created with this animal was important for a new view into Riddick’s persona, this took too long to tell on film. His overt development of his understanding of the predators of this planet was also generically pushed into overtime in terms of character development. Some of this aspect in the story may have been developed after the fact to lengthen the film (originally) and turned into a continuity issue later on that had to be expanded to allow it to develop.
The writing was tenuous at various points of the film. If this were a novel I was editing in my company, I’d expect to read various perspective changes that didn't make sense. To some degree, nonsensical dialogue tied to continuation of the story that had almost no purpose. For some reason I keep getting the thought in my mind of Kevin Smith on stage telling his story about Bruce Willis killing a full days of shooting; ripping out pages of dialogue calling it “Chuffa”…
The overall cast were a hodgepodge of interesting cameo’s of actors that brought their respective characters to life in interesting and unique ways. I was extremely interested in seeing Dave Bautista in this film, because I wanted to see his acting ability prior to Guardians of the Galaxy; being the only other references for his skills I had were his on screen persona in WWE and his role as Brass Body in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. Bautista handled himself well overall, and perhaps didn't have enough lines to appear weak on screen. The few he had were relatively memorable, funny, and almost necessary to establish credibility to his and Riddick’s character (needed or not).
I completely forgot, when coming to see this film, that Katee Sackhoff was in this movie. While some of her characters aspects were a bit forced, over the top, and ridiculous; to say the least. I enjoyed her none-the-less. I was also shocked to get a little nudity from her in the film. Which was delightfully unexpected.
Among the most interesting of characters was Santana, played by Jordi Molla, who was completely over the top, as he usually is in his character depictions. But overall was enjoyable, especially his interactions with Sackhoff.
What truly amazed me about this film were the best practices employed to bring it to life with a budget of $38 Million. While I can completely understand Vin Diesel was probably on deferment for his own pay (he was the initial funding source for this film), adding pay for himself once a studio came on to take the final costs of production would not have increased this budget over $100 Million. The visuals, the set designs, the general scale of the film was a feat of filming organizational skills that most studios in Hollywood may need to study deeper in the future. In comparison to others in the industry that cost 3-5 times more, and do not look as clean. Favors were most certainly called in on this production under Diesels producorial charge. That is something he can be proud of. Had this film cost $130 Million as R.I.P.D. did, or Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance; which wasn't as high in costs as you’d imagine, but still nearing the $60 Million mark. Riddick would have failed fiscally without any sight of recovery, placing Mr. Diesel in heavy financial disarray, if not debt. Both R.I.P.D. and Ghost Rider looked relatively poor by comparison, in terms of their visuals. While Riddick is not trending to do 3 times its budget and move into high financial success at the Box Office, it still has a lot of room to regain all of its budget and move into the black. Especially when the home and digital markets come into play.
What Might have Hurt This Film…
Its R Rating: This was absolutely the strongest problem the film had to deal with. With the budget under control, and only a few scenes of nudity that could have been easily cut out of the film; Riddick would have gained (historically) double if not triple its audience. There is a scene where there are multiple naked woman with the illusion of a lot of frontal nudity. We don’t care of Riddick is a pimp, we care that he’s a badass killing machine with a Zen-like demeanor. Those few seconds of nudity removed could have easily garnered this film twice its budget in its opening weekend with a PG-13 rating. The R rating was almost absolutely unnecessary.
Too Long: The film itself is just under 2 hours, yet it felt like it dragged, simply because it took excessive amounts of time to build on a character we already knew, and understood. It tried to show us a “Softer Side of Sears” aspect to him by building a relationship with this pup companion in the film, and didn't really exercise an extreme amount of retribution for said animal, upon losing it. what was the point in endearing him to the character and to us, if a large cosmic can of whoop-as isn't going to be opened? The length is a sign of a producers hand, in this case Vin Diesel, who obviously pushed out a "Producers Cut" as a theatrical release.
Breaking the 4th Wall: I mentioned issues with perspective changes, that if this were a novel it would be problematic; any editor would force re-writes due to those issues. While The early scenes linger for nearly 11 minutes of only narrative, without dialogue. It flashes back to help frame his present situation, to then return to a purely narrative pattern. Leaving Riddick alone, again, to (essentially) talk to himself and his pup companion; which increases in age from pup to full grown from one scene to the next. The narration given has a few moments when Riddick is breaking the 4th wall intentionally with irrational comments, that literally stutters you out of the escape of the film.
Once the movie (actually) gets started, which is about 25-30 minutes in, you get immersed in what feels like a proper PITCH BLACK sequel, and that part of the film is fun, action packed, anxious, and filled with randomly interesting characters that help you understand Riddick out of context. The film then gains its connection to PITCH BLACK through a father-son connection from one of its principal characters, Johns, and even though the connection is not as strong as it should be, it’s acceptable, and somewhat believable. We get to see Riddick be vulnerable, we get to see a bit of his lighter side; more of his humanity; and most importantly, more of his survival instincts. Which is what ultimately makes this film enjoyable.
There were some odd dialogue aspects, and some generally unresolved plot points that seemed to have been forgotten in the end of the film. Overall it wasn't so incoherent that you wanted to hate it. The action is great, and the aliens were interesting and plentiful enough to make up for some of what was missing.
3.5 out of 5 Movie Geeks will love it!
Because it let's you escape to go get the popcorn from the concession stand to make it a true "popcorn film", without actually missing a whole lot of the movie. While it's not a waste of time to see in the theaters. It's a film the fans of the franchise will definitely put in their Blu-Ray collections.
Have you seen Riddick yet? Are you planning to? Did this review help you? Do you agree, disagree? I want to hear from you! comment, share, tweet, pin, whatever tickles your fancy. @EmanuelFCamacho
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