Riddick: Movie Review

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****Spoiler Warning****

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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***

Image Let’s talk about women, or just one really in Riddick.

   Dahl (Doll)

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.

dingodongo

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Oblivion: Movie Review – Part 2

***Spoiler warning***

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“Are you an effective team?”

This is what Sally repeatedly asks Vika regarding her relationship with Jack. What is an effective team? By the terms of Oblivion, it is a heterosexual relationship where Vika is unwilling, refuses even, to leave the confines of their palatial home while Jack explores the world below. Even when Jack is in danger, Vika remains in place. She longs for his return but is completely without agency.

In this future version of Earth, we have regressed to the 1950s. Take Jack’s return. He works in the ‘garage’ on the repair of a drone while Vika prepares dinner. She, in fact, comes downstairs to call him up. Like Donna Reed, she remains impeccably attired and in high heels. Following dinner she initiates sex via a naked romp in the pool.

But Jack dreams of another woman. And conveniently the hand of God intervenes to bring her back into his life.

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Julia crash-lands in Jack49’s space and he manages to save her from the drone in the nick of time. Although these moments stretch credulity. What happens next is poor scriptwriting at its worst.

What was Julia’s rank/occupation? I gather that she is an astronaut, but of her actual job that earned a spot on the shuttle? Nothing.

The information we gather about her character is that she loves Jack and he loves her. That’s it. Nothing else about them is offered except for the house on the lake. She does not question his character nor offer him information about what is going on. Not once does she ask what the hell happened between going to sleep and the insanity she has woken up in. Being with Jack becomes her new central focus.

As I noted in Part 1, Vika’s partnership with Jack is now the threat. For him to retain his ‘true’ wife the ‘other woman’ must be removed from the story. This is obvious in the next scene in their home. Jack could tell Vika what he’s found on the planet. Instead, we get his half-hearted attempts to draw her out. He provides zero evidence to Vika to justify his requests, but the story can’t sustain her survival. She is eliminated and he can now return to Julia without the distaste of adultery on his conscience.

(A wise eye might notice that Melissa Leo (Sally) is the actress closest to Tom Cruise’s age (she’s 2 years older than him), while both Vika and Julia are played by women in 31 and 34 respectively.)

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The only other female character is unnamed in the movie (Zara on imdb.com) but she has no speaking parts and instead of utilizing Zoe Bell’s stunt prowess, she is saved by Jack in a fight with the drones.

But back to Julia.

Jack loves Julia and Julia loves Jack. The audience hears this ad nauseum, but they do not exist as people. Once Julia accepts Jack as her husband, creating an ‘effective team’, they make love and return to save the day. Instead, the resistance is ambushed by drones (more realistically they open the doors and let them in). The faux drone is damaged and it is obvious that someone will have to fly the bomb to the Tet.

Julia offers. Why? Because she loves Jack. A woman who was smart and successful enough to be an astronaut will now lay down her life for her husband’s clone because she loves him. Oblivion can’t even dress it as saving the Resistance, this is all about Jack. We’re drilled this in when Julia introduces herself as Julia Harper, accepting her husband’s last name and affirming his dominance over her. I have no problem with taking a spouse’s last name. I have a problem with the narrative shoving the agenda in our face as her complete and ultimate submission of a woman followed by her locking herself into a Sleeping Beauty casket for love.

Vika has died for Jack and now Julia shows herself willing to do the same.

And when Jack saves her, where do we find Julia? In the home he built her, as content to remain there as Vika was to remain on the station. Sally as the requisite Big Bad is dead. But Julia now awaits the return of her husband to his home, a mindset validated by the appearance of Jack52 a clone who only caught a single glimpse of her. Vika’s gilded cage was too artificial, Julia’s is supposed to be more natural, more desirable, a return to simplicity and the domination of man, or of this man.Image

This may be the first science fiction movie that tempted me to vomit a little upon its ending….and I’ve seen Battlefield Earth.