Trigger warning on this review for brief mentions of attempted sexual assault and sex slavery, and trigger warning on the film for those scenes.
Riddick comes out on DVD tomorrow.
If you have a strong stomach for watching women and queer people being mistreated, you may be able to look past that and enjoy this film. It’s Vin Diesel, after all, and he’s an extremely charismatic and entertaining guy. The character of Riddick is one of the most badass antiheroes I’ve seen, and in this film he gets a dog. Awwwwwwww, it’s so sweet!
But the preceding film in the series, The Chronicles of Riddick, was no picnic with gender issues, and this one is arguably worse.
Does Katee Sackhoff have an agent? If so, we need to talk to that person. “Hey,” we could say, “She played Starbuck on the new Battlestar Galactica, so she has geek cred. But that doesn’t mean she has to be in any sci-fi project that asks her, right? Is money tight? Can we sit down and make a Katee Sackhoff employment plan that doesn’t involve being treated like this?”
Katee plays Dahl, a female mercenary who the film PRETENDS to tell you is a badass. She’s tough, she’s a sharpshooter, blah blah blah. None of this matters because the film spends the rest of its time using her instead of respecting her. It uses her to demonstrate that the lead Bad Guy is really bad, since he won’t stop making crude comments and trying to sexually assault her. It uses her to demonstrate that Riddick is scary cool, able to sneak up to an open window and take one of her belongings without her even knowing he’s there. (It’s scarier because she’s half naked! That was totally necessary! Right?) It also uses her to prove that Riddick is overwhelmingly attractive, so amazing that he’s able to overcome her self-professed lesbian identity and get her into the sack!
Or maybe it was trying to prove that lesbians just haven’t been laid properly yet? I don’t know.
I also wonder if it was intentional that her character’s name is misheard by many audience members as “Doll.”
I wasn’t surprised by the film’s treatment of her, but I was very surprised by Riddick’s behavior. I simply do not remember him as the guy who makes creepy, offensive comments to women. I don’t really remember him being much of a talker, honestly. It’s not like he has to. His actions speak for themselves. And yet the pattern of his interactions with Dahl is really gross.
There IS one other woman in the cast, though the film does not pass the Bechdel test because she’s shot to death very quickly as an early proof of the Bad Guy’s badness. And possibly to motivate Riddick, who sees her die. Though he doesn’t seem to care that much, honestly. He’s going to be killing his way through the mercenaries anyway to get what he wants, it’s not like that’s a turning point for him. Keri Hilson, an African-American actor, plays “Santana’s prisoner” who is apparently held in sex slavery before being murdered. She doesn’t even get a name. As bad as it is to be a white woman in Riddick world, it’s really bad to be a woman of color.
But Skye, you’re possibly saying, how would we know the Bad Guy is bad if he doesn’t do bad things?
Well, I would say, how many on-screen depictions of women being assaulted and murdered are you willing to watch to make that point? Does our entertainment need more of that, or less?
And aren’t there screenwriting classes that can help with this sort of thing?
Too much fail. No stars.