I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Riddick”

Thanks to Meghan-Annette for suggesting this film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

After watching “Myra Breckinridge” I found myself explaining to people on social media that I was mentally fine after enduring that film. However, the fact that it’s been more than a month since I wrote a post for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” suggests that watching “Myra Breckinridge” did break me a bit, but any suspicion of that may be backed by how I feel about “Riddick.”

“Riddick” follows interstellar outlaw Riddick (Vin Diesel) who has been stranded on a planet after being asked to go home to the planet Furya. As you can imagine, he is not taken back to Furya. After battling various creatures on the planet, Riddick signals a distress beacon to try to get back to Furya. Two mercenaries arrive, one led by Santana (Jordi Molla) and the other led by Johns (Matthew Nable). Both have reasons for getting Riddick, one for getting a large bounty if he is returned dead, the other for personal reasons.

The main problem with watching “Riddick” on its own is it’s the third film in a trilogy. Even with the plethora of flashbacks, I found myself going, “Wait, what’s going on?” On the other hand, it makes a lot more sense for me to feel lost watching the third film of a trilogy or than the first film of a trilogy or a stand-alone film. That said, “Riddick” largely suffers from being a slog to watch because the pacing is very slow due to flashbacks as the title character remembers how he got where he is now.

If you come for a movie where Vin Diesel is in Tough Guy Vin Diesel mode, blowing shit up, that really doesn’t happen in the movie. There’s a lot of conversation and huge portions of the movie where Vin Diesel is not on screen. Yet somehow it works because once you figure out the premise of the film, it’s fairly straightforward, even if it feels like you are watching three different films, each one of which could be a fantastic film. Tough Guy Vin Diesel surviving on a planet would be a fantastic film. Tough Guy Vin Diesel negotiating with the mercenaries would be a fantastic film. The ending would be a fantastic film. Unfortunately, all three of those concepts are pieced together to create one film, but somehow this is the most enjoyable of all of the films because at least all three of those films are interesting, even though they essentially just exist. It’s different from “Myra Breckinridge” where we have stock footage, combined with a campy take on Gore Vidal’s novel, combined with whatever the hell Mae West is doing because even though it’s also from Vidal’s novel, it feels like a completely different movie. All three of those films are trainwrecks a viewer can’t look away from, creating the greatest cinematic trainwreck to ever exist.

This may be a sign of how my brain is a little worn from watching the last two films in this series. The problem is there’s nothing compelling about this movie. There’s nothing that will make me rush out and tell my co-workers to watch this. It’s a perfectly competent science-fiction movie and that’s really the best I can say about it. The special effects are great and there’s something oddly enjoyable about watching Riddick spend time with an extraterrestrial hyena.

The jarring moment in the film comes in towards the end when Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is holding Riddick and says something along the lines of, “So when are going to have sex?” (I’m paraphrasing.) This sticks out because the characters keep pointing out Dahl is a lesbian. Earlier in the film characters keep saying Dahl will have sex with Riddick, which comes off as a form of torture by forcing a prisoner who is gay to have sex with another prisoner. But then she is attracted to Riddick, which comes off more as the film asserting to us how masculine Riddick is. There could also be the possibility Dahl is suddenly feeling sexual feelings for someone of the opposite sex, but this unlikely since bisexuals are cinematic unicorn.

Ultimately, a lot of this seems like a way to show how Riddick is an alpha male of science-fiction. He can fight bad guys, be stranded on a planet and play mind games with people who want to kill him, all without blinking an eye. The problem with this movie is it doesn’t succeed at being a great movie or a terrible movie. Fewer things are more disappointing than a bland movie.

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