Film review: Riddick (2013)

“Riddick” with Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Batista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, and Karl Urban

Directed by David Twohy, Written by David Twohy

Riddick 3 PosterRiddick (at least in its current iteration) is the lovechild of actor Vin Diesel and writer/director David Twohy. Vin Diesel has played the title character in all the film and video game adaptations. However, not only has Diesel always portrayed the gravely rogue, Diesel also vied and won the rights to Riddick due to his cameo in “Fast & Furious” as well as levied his own home to procure the necessary investment required to make the third installment, “Riddick.”

As mentioned, “Riddick” is the third feature film starring the eponymous character; David Twohy and Diesel seemed to have amalgamated the better parts of the prior two films to create something entirely new and better with a relatively small budget. It seems as-if the personal investment of the film has been quite successful for the two, so here is to hoping that more Riddick is down the pipeline.

The film starts off by recapping the events of “The Chronicles of Riddick” and tying them into Riddick’s current predicament. After being Lord Marshall of the Necromonger fleet for five-years, Riddick has grown restless and inevitably takes the bait when Commander Vaako (Karl Urban of “The Chronicles of Riddick”) dangles a carrot that Riddick can’t resist. Vaako offers Riddick the supposed location of Riddick’s home planet Furya, which has been lost to all record. Riddick obliges, and ends up being double-crossed by Vaako’s right-hand man and left for dead on an unnamed, hostile planet buried beneath the rubble of a cliffside.

The real heart of the film “Riddick” begins here with Riddick’s survival and subsequent plan of attack concerning his escape from the planet. The first third of the film was the most enjoyable. Riddick is beaten and tattered with a myriad of broken bones (specifically a rather bad compound fracture in his leg), and is required to shed his near-kingly garb and mentality to become more primitive in order to survive. The film introduces a host of wild and creative creatures that constantly test Riddick’s endurance.

During these sequences, director David Twohy uses wide sweeping shots that show the horror and beauty of the alien world that Riddick currently resides.

Riddick 3

After quite a bit exploring and mending, Riddick finally stumbles across a co-op mercenary bunker belonging to any mercenaries planetside. In order for Riddick to acquire passage off of the planet he has to essentially call the men and women who want to kill him for his bounty. The remainder of the movie focuses on this aspect of the storyline. Two bands of mercenaries answer Riddick’s call, both with very different agendas, and proceed to hunt and be hunted by Riddick while the planet’s creatures rally in kind.

The only remnants of “The Chronicles of Riddick” are visage are the special effects and backstory. Some of the shots of the planet and creatures are incredibly intricate and eye-catching, while on the whole, the plot and relative structure more closely follow Riddick’s freshman effort, “Pitch Black.”

Ultimately, the film manages to blend the best of the both earlier entries by creating something that honestly has a lot of heart and soul. It’s an action movie through-and-through, but because Vin Diesel owns the role so completely and the series continuously pushes forward even with such great setbacks, any filmgoer can tell that it is a labor of love rather than a quick paycheck.

Personally, I would rather see a solid action flick made by people who just want to make a movie than a solid drama that aims only for accolades.

“Planet of the Apes”– From Childhood to Pierre Boulle’s Classic

Planet of the Apes 1968I have been on a huge “Planet of the Apes” kick lately, which is odd considering that my interest in the series has been sporadic and never immersive.  I have never dived so headlong into the franchise until now.  I have been a cursory fan for the better part of two-decades– A mere acquaintance to the series and its inhabitants.  My mom introduced me to the Charlton Heston classics at a young age, which most-likely helped cultivate my current love of science fiction as well as fantasy in almost all mediums.

Very few things can compare to the first time you Heston coming upon the Statue of Liberty at the finale 1968’s “Planet of the Apes.”  It is a classic in its own right, but that scene is so revelatory and momentous that it is difficult to explain its significance.  In the span of only a couple secondsFranklin J. Schaffner ties American culture and pride (through the use of the Statue of Liberty) to the heart of science fiction.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to digress.  Long story short, the 1968 version of “Planet of the Apes” is phenomenal and is a must-watch for anyone with even (just as I had) a cursory interest in the genre and/or series.

Flash forward several years later– At the age of twelve, I am eagerly awaiting Tim Burton’s reboot of “Planet of the Apes.”  It is 2001.  The film has high expectations, a solid cast, and a high profile director.  William Broyle, Jr.’s script was the largest part to the failure of the film.  It was flat, strove for clever plot points (which resulted in confusion), and paid absolutely no homage to the five films before it.

Rise of the Planet of the ApesAnother ten-years pass and Fox decides to reboot the series once more with 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco.  Most people I come in contact with love James Franco.  I can’t stand him.  He is like Michael Cera in the fact that he can act as himself.  As my friend, Josh, would say, “He is a one trick pony.”  However, I like Cera’s trick, (opposed to Franco’s) and here is why:  I never feel like Franco brings anything new to the table, or improves as the films and years wane on.  His stoner movies are shallow, and represent a culture that I’m not too fond of (or find amusing), so on the whole I shy away from him.  His brother Dave, though…not a half bad actor– I can’t wait to see him future films.

Again…long story short, I resisted watching “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” because I dislike James Franco.  Ironically enough, I received a copy of the film from my mother last Christmas, and after all these months I finally sat down and watched it.

It was amazing.

I absolutely loved the film.  James Franco’s performance was spectacular, the plot was fantastic, the CGI was more than exceptional, and besides paying respect to Heston’s classic it forged its own path like a true, quality reboot should strive to accomplish.

Besides having thirteen-years, a MacBook, and a checking account on my twelve-year-old self– I also have Wikipedia and Amazon.  The “Planet of the Apes” universe was my oyster and I was going to crack it slowly, so that I could enjoy it.

Pierre Boulle's Planet of the ApesThe first bit of knowledge that I gleaned from my Wiki source was that the series was originally based on a French novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle.  I could have purchased a cheap copy for my Kindle, but I decided to go cheaper by purchasing an original 1963 English translation by Xan Fielding.  After $5.45 and several days, I had my worn paperback in my greedy little hands and I began reading.  It is a quick read at roughly 130 pages– It only took two sittings to finish the novella.

I was simply flabbergasted.  It is an amazing book.  It hits upon humanism, racism, science fiction, futurism, the dissipating Nuclear Family, and a myriad of other real world problems topics and problems that continue to be relevant today.  It more amazing than the Heston films and is a must-read by anyone with a working brain.  The most surprising part about the whole affair is that such a fantastic novel could have been written by a Frenchmen…who knew!?

Just as selfishly as I was when purchasing and reading into the “Planet of the Apes” lore, I am sharing my new found nerdery with you. I honestly don’t have any wisdom to impart, just good ol’ fashioned fandom at its finest.  My next course of action is to purchase the original five film “Planet of the Apes” Blu-Ray collection, and repeatedly cycle through them in high definition so that I can further my addiction.

Have you ever dived headlong into a new or old series and felt the same sort of elation?  The want to know and experience everything and anything about your particular love?  If so, drop me a line and tell me about it.  I’d love to find me a new nerd addiction.

The Chronicles of Kaiden

Book One – Origins

Chapter One – The Beginning of an Eternity

“Damn!” Kaiden swore as he shakily began to stand as the dust was just beginning to settle about him.

He reached down and took hold of the wooden stake that was imbedded into his side; Kaiden grimaced slightly as the stake came loose.  With a feint thud of wood clinking the bloodied soil the stake as well as a sick sputter of blood fell amongst the stones beneath his feet.  The pain was surprisingly minimal, and in a few hours time it would subside completely as the deep lesion closed.  Being half-demon was not half bad sometimes.

He leisurely glanced around the newly created battlefield making sure that the dead were not arising.  It was not the first time that he had stood on the edge of a town encircled with corpses.  In fact it seemed as if it was happening more and more as the years waned on.  The demons that had perished in the Great War and arisen from the hereafter only to realize that resurrection did not necessarily denote rejuvenation.  As a temporary solution the demon elders erected camps to hold these horrors until something more permanent could be established.  He and his motley crew of knights were charged with regulating these encampments, but all too often did the camps end in devastation.

Even though Kaiden loathed being appointed leader he was quite good at it.  His proficiency in combat along with an unrelenting desire to fix the wrongs of his past created a leader worthy of future lore.  He had requested that his second in command, Kane, lead the rest of the knights back East to base and rest up while he wrapped up a solo mission abroad in the West.  Kane new Kaiden well enough to let him go rogue every once in a while.  He knew the rules; if Kaiden did not return within a fortnight the Calvary would come for him and avenge his death to a man if necessary.

At an even six feet Kaiden was not tall, but he was by no means short either.  Kaiden’s eyes were always described as being a deathly blue; his eyes were lackluster and lifeless at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny his gaze indicated a deep sense of grief and unwelcome familiarity with battle.  His skin was coarse from the numerous nicks and scrapes he had received during battle.  Like his overcoat his mane and whiskers were a rustic auburn like a dark roast of coffee.  Behind his coat a single holster held his ivory revolver.  At twenty-three Kaiden had seen a lifetime’s worth of encounters, which had ultimately honed his skills as a combatant but in the end it, was his soul that had taken the damage.

Has father, Draken, had taught him to wield the family sword.  Most of his brethren were skilled in one art or another, but only the Lunguard family could brandish the famous, as well as infamous, Crescent Blade.  Besides the ability to wield this bringer of pandemonium the Lunguard family also had the supernatural ability to perfect more than one combat style.  Draken was legendary for wielding the Crescent Blade as well as his now equally famous rapier, Foreshadow.  Kaiden had taken a more unconventional approach, against his father’s wishes, by wielding the Crescent Blade along with an old earthly revolver.  Even though Kaiden used specially imbued bullets for his trademark revolver his father still goaded him over for his personal preferences.

The Great War between the demons and the wyrms had long since passed, but his father still clung to the old rules of conduct.

“You disgrace the Lunguard family name with your unorthodox behavior,” his father used to spat at him during their bouts of training.

Even though the anguish of his father’s memory still plagued his thoughts it did not matter.  He was far away from the birthplace of his ancestors.  He needed to concentrate on the task at hand.  He was to set out towards the Cerulean Mountain Range to the West.  Evidently a rather formidable wyrm from the Great War resided within’ the heart of Cerulean Range.  Common belief stated that all of the great wyrms had perished in the war, but in all actuality many had fled to the ruined corners of Earth at the closing of the war.  Over the past couple of years dozens upon dozens of these foul beasts had been discovered and slaughtered, many by Kaiden’s hand.  There were even rumors that Mistcabre, the dragon general, may still be alive somewhere within the turmoil of the new world.

He quickly gathered his thoughts and began methodically sifting through the corpses of those that he had killed.  The first time he had rifled through a dead man’s belongings he had felt sick, but over the years he had become accustomed to it.  He no longer felt any emotion for those that he had killed.  He killed them not out of pleasure or hatred; he did it for duty and defense.  After picking through a majority of the bodies he had amassed a fair amount of silver and trinkets, and it was now time for him to leave this place of butchery.

He gathered his belongings and set out.  He would have liked to ride, but unfortunately when a battle begins involving more than a dozen or so creatures the horses die first.  Sadly his horse had been the first one to perish.

Nevertheless, he needed to head onto the next town.  If his memory served correctly there should be a small town on the other side of the Bloodwing Woods that he crossed through many moons again when he had ventured to this region with his father those many moons ago.

He sped athwart the open field in between the woods and the destroyed demon village.  The sun was setting and he would rather fight in the woods than fight upon the open plains.  By nightfall he should be along the Eastern edge of the woods.

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