June 21, 2004

What Makes For A Chronicle Exactly?

Somehow in Cinecultist's humidity addled mind, we've deemed our Summer Schedule Fridays (done with the Day Job at 3 pm, baby!) a free pass to go see complete crap at the cineplex. Something about the convergence of drawing that salary, having 3 plus hours to kill and a need to sit in air conditioning while drinking smuggled in ice coffees which allows for complete indulgence. This week's installment featured burly Vin Diesel in the Chronicles of Riddick, his follow up to the star-making role in 2001's sci-fier Pitch Black. Much has been snarked about in the film media regarding Diesel's expanding ego and his unlikely costarring with Dame Judi Dench in Riddick, but Cinecultist found ourselves instead thinking much more during the screening about the Aliens connection.

When Cinecultist watches sci-fi or horror films, it's hard not to always be thinking of Aliens but also Blade Runner and to a certain extent Star Wars because with the bar set by these films, their aesthetic and themes in some way or another seem to be borrowed by nearly every other picture in these respective genres. But Aliens has also been on the CC brain lately too because we watched The Thing with our movie group a week or so ago which has a strikingly similar plot about a parasitic alien thing which invades a group and takes it over as well as the previews coming down the pike for Alien vs Predator. Conveniently enough, an edited version of Aliens was also playing this weekend on TNT, so CC watched it again and started having a Ripley versus Riddick face off in our head. Here's how the stand-off progressed:

Both Ripley and Riddick are bad-asses softened by a maternal devotion for a grimy young girl with piercing eyes and an oddly masculine name. Where Ripley is the voice of caution and at times a Cassandra of doom, Riddick's all about the fearless rush into danger and a disregard for being out-numbered because he's confident he can whomp anything that comes into his path. Both have a lair to infiltrate to save the girl, both must battle one on one with an evil parental figure who is birthing minions, and CC doesn't think we're giving anything away to tell you both end the film exhausted but triumphant.

Perhaps the connection in CC's mind between the two films also occurs because of their ability to be read with a cultural subtext. Aliens starts to get really interesting when viewed through its feminism (Vasquez as the ultimate lesbian, the Alien's a bitch, etc.), while the Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black take on a different cast when read through their relation to race. Following his shades of slave monologue in the first film, Riddick is told by some bounty hunters who capture him that he's "back of the bus" and discovers later in the film, his race has been systematically wiped out following a Macbeth-ish prophecy.

And speaking of Macbeth, Thandie Newton makes for a brilliant Lady Macbeth, at least that's what her character really should be called as she uses sexual heat and conniving to get her way. The two favorite scenes in CC's screening: the moment when Newton parades out in a smokin' bustier dress and Riddick's saving of Jack by Tarzan bungee cord from a blast of 700 degree sunlight. Don't ask, it's too complicated to explain. Certainly, Riddick's plot is nearly as unnecessarily baroque as the interior decorating in the Necromancer's space ship but there's something much too intriguing about it for CC's part to dismiss as pure summer fluff.

Posted by karen at June 21, 2004 8:01 AM