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Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday September 7, 2013 MYT 12:32:44 PM
By DAVIN ARUL
The bad, bald antihero goes back to basics, hails a taxi and gets caught in the rain. No, really.
THE coolest thing about convict/killer Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) when moviegoers first saw him way back in 2000’s Pitch Black was his no-prisoners, no-baggage attitude.
Riddick was the kind of antihero that genre fans could really get behind: he didn’t take crap from anyone; he was a stealth predator with the added cool factor of being able to see in the dark; and mostly, he did as he pleased, stopping just shy of crossing any lines that would render him unsympathetic in our eyes.
The elaborate and bloated follow-up, Chronicles Of Riddick, tried to give him an origin and a past and a future, tossed in with some mumbo-jumbo-spouting villains who eventually crowned him their ruler.
It didn’t work because, face it, you just don’t give a back story to a force of nature without neutering him through excessive exposition.
Nearly 10 years after that misfire, Diesel has used the leverage of his Fast & Furious franchise success and 46 million Facebook Likes to get this third movie made.
With series creator David Twohy once again back writing and directing, Riddick has been touted as a return to form for the bad boy. Indeed, in his gravelly-voiced narration during the film’s best part – its first 40 minutes or so – Riddick admits that he lost a step somewhere along the way.
So, the movie’s first act sees him trying to regain his edge, after being stranded on a hostile planet where even the water seems homicidal.
And then some odd things happen with both the structure and pacing of the film when two groups of mercenaries show up on the planet, one looking to put Riddick’s head in a box and the other seeking information that’s in that shiny cranium.
The interaction among the mercs, the cat-and-mouse games Riddick plays with them, an approaching threat that harks back to the first movie … ah, it becomes clear now: what better way to reboot Riddick than Pitch Black redux?
Actually, there are many other ways Twohy could have resuscitated the franchise than just trotting out the whole nocturnal-predator-swarm-in-the-rain-and-darkness angle again.
While going this route does give Riddick a chance to do what he does best, and brings certain plot threads of Pitch Black nicely full circle, it smacks of over-familiarity.
And then there’s the pacing. I’m not sure why Twohy and Diesel felt compelled to stretch the film’s relatively modest US$38mil (RM125mil) budget to an almost two-hour running time when a lean and tight 95 (or 100, tops) minutes would have been just right.
The padding shows, with some really unnecessary banter, crude sexual references (mostly directed to or spewing from Katee Sackhoff’s ambiguously oriented character, an a**-kicking sniper named Dahl) and characters who stick out like sore thumbs (especially a young religious type who really … serves no purpose in the story) standing around a lot doing stuff that … serves no purpose in the story.
It looks as though, just like Riddick himself, the franchise is still afflicted with a bit of the excess from the last movie.
And speaking of Riddick, well, he is as always a magnetic figure, thanks to Diesel’s easy charisma and familiarity with the territory.
From setting a broken leg (his own) to a desperate standoff against a horde of hungry beasts to keeping his kill-you-in-five-seconds promise to a particularly idiotic bounty hunter, he is state of the bad-ass art. And he’s even picked up some touches of nuance (by this I mean Diesel) in the way he reacts – more subtly than you’d imagine – to loss and betrayal, both real and perceived.
Riddick fans, if they can get past the rough spots, will undoubtedly find a good number of “Whoa!” moments to make the waiting worth their while.
Such a character really does deserve better, so I’m hoping Riddick does well enough that we can get another instalment in the series, one that is its own animal, the kind of breath of fresh air that Pitch Black was back those baker’s dozen years ago.
After all, it’s well within the realm of possibility to scale the heights without using the same old tools again.
Vin Diesel promotes Riddick on Facebook
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