I’ve been kicking around this review for almost a week because I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about one of the subplots.
Here’s the nutshell.
- Good B monster movie, I’m going to shy away from great because while the dialogue is much snappier and better written than most, it fails to live up to Tremors or Predator (my top two B monster movies). I did have a good time. Enough that I’ll forgive Diesel for the hot mess that was Chronicles.
- Like Pitch Black, it remembers to develop characters – both in Riddick’s journey and in the mercenaries who for the most part are allowed stories in addition to memorable moments that make them more than dead meat.
- Continuity that enhances the story and our expectations of characters. Boss Johns gets a special shout-out. I think I love this man. Instead of being the cartoon realm that most of the mercs inhabit, Johns is a real man with professionalism and a keen understanding of the world he works in. This makes his ultimate realization of the truth work.
- There are a few moments of cheesy cgi, budget constraints force this, and a few predictable beats (when the dingo-dongo dies – I warned you about the spoilers – the cg for the dingo-dongo is pretty fantastic though, I’d take one even if he would eat my actual dog) but my audience laughed out loud at more than one moment.
***Heavy spoilers from here out***
Her entire character is written more tongue-in-cheek than true misogyny and I think I forgive Twohy for this, because at the end of the day, Dahl is a bad-ass.
She is a sniper and Johns second-in-command. He does not reflect on her gender when he relays this to the other merc captain. She just is.
Very quickly Dahl also relays that she is not sexually interested in any of the men and when Santana challenges her ability to give him orders, she does not tie this refusal to her gender but his unwillingness to take orders. The audience knows that his refusal is all about her gender, but her team is above that. They are professionals who need to do a single job: find Riddick.
This fails slightly in the following scenes where Dahl bathes topless (of course this is a shout-out to the male audience but it is an obviously voyeuristic moment as she knows that at least one man is spying on her, possibly two.
The hiccup is, of course, Santana’s attempted rape. The scene cuts with him in the dominate position which implies her failure to survive against a male opponent. We learn a few minutes later, this was not the case, but Twohy backs off from letting us watch Dahl dominate Santana (I’m guessing this would be too emasculating in the context of a movie geared towards men). But we are led to understand that Santana failed spectacularly.
Dahl is the one who takes Riddick down when the mercs and their technology fail.
The scene (teased in the trailers with Riddick in chains) is not as much about Riddick being sexual with Dahl as it is him pissing on the ground (a la his dindo-dongo) and letting the mercs know who exactly is the dominate male. Although all of his dialogue is directed at Dahl’s lesbianism and his assertion that he will ‘have her’ in the end. It intends the same purpose as his threats of violence. It is Riddick posturing and waiting for the others to back down.
But equating painted toenails with heterosexuality is….. sigh…..
The last scene with Dahl made me laugh. She is lowered to Riddick and clips him to his harness, straddling him, and thus finalizing his desire to be between her legs ‘balls deep’ as it were. But Dahl is in on the joke as well.
In the end, her sexuality does not matter. Whether her lesbianism is a defense mechanism or a real world choice, it doesn’t matter to Riddick or to the movie. She is a competent soldier who remains with Boss Johns and has been an equal partner in the movie itself. Sackhoff is no waif designed to be pretty and completely unrealistic (any movie starring Kate Beckinsale or Jessica Biel has this failing). Her Dahl is an active participant in this world.
Twohy gets more right than wrong, its a welcome change in this genre. Hopefully this collaboration will give us at least one more journey with Richard B. Riddick.