Monday, March 14, 2005


First of all, big thanks go to GutterBall and and Joely Sue Burkhart for the recommendation about Pitch Black. We watched it last night and I really, really enjoyed it. Best of all - I was all tensed for it to be utterly terrifying, and surprisingly it wasn't that bad (which is a very good thing, IMO, since I hate being scared to death). We also rented Chronicles of Riddick for the second night of a Vin Diesel marathon. I need to go get A Man Apart as well. All of this...more research!

Actually, all joking aside, there was one part of PB that really intrigued (and kinda bothered) me. Warning - a bit of a SPOILER here. At one point in the movie, Riddick (Vin Diesel), who is the bad-guy-turned-unlikely-hero of the story, tells the people he's leading across the desert to hide in a cave. He then plows on ahead to the spaceship which was their final destination, ostensibly to unload the burden of power cells he's carrying and obtain more light before returning to retrieve his companions. At least, that's what I expected. But soon it becomes clear that Riddick has no intentions of returning to fetch his friends. He's just going to take off in the spaceship all by his lonesome, leaving the three other humans to die a gruesome death.

I couldn't believe it. What happend to evil-murderer-with-a-heart-of-gold? It was all there. The complete set up. He'd fought another survivor to the death when the guy suggested they sacrifice one of the group to the human-eating creatures in order so they could make a run for it. He agreed to lead the ragtag group across the desert when he could have set off all by himself. Up until the moment when he abandoned them, he'd been acting like a hero.

What's really weird is that despite this, I still like Riddick. I was so disappointed when he demonstrated that maybe - just maybe - he wasn't the nice guy I'd figured him to be. He still had a streak of nastiness that ran pretty deep. Maybe, just maybe, he isn't redeemable.

Thus leads to my intrigue. How far can you push a character until they are no longer redeemable?

Clearly certain acts are unacceptable on so many levels they don't merit the effort. For example, a child molestor - don't bother trying to redeem him/her because you never will be able to IMO. Jeffrey Dahmer-type antics. Nope. Same with a Charles Manson mass murder psychotic freak.

But what about a guy (or girl) with a criminal past? A real one, not one that was a mistake or misunderstanding where some poor innocent man spent years in prison before some govertnmental knucklehead figured out the problem. What about a guy who generally treats women badly, using them for his own pleasure then ignoring their emotional needs and pain when he blows them off the next morning? It's been done before, in books, that these guys make a comeback and have us rooting for them by the end.

I love a good anti-hero. In fact, I almost prefer them. Nothing more fun than rooting for the "bad" guy, especially if the good guys aren't painted to be as good as you might expect. Actually, that seems to be the key. In order to love the bad guy, to want him to win in the end, the good guys actually have to be badder. Kind of loving the least of two evils. In the movie Pitch Black, there are three potential bad guys. There's Riddick, the creepy murder-convict. There's Johns, a bounty hunter slash drug addict. And there are the evil creatures on the planet that are out to eat everything that moves. Of the three, I was very glad to see that Riddick made it out alive.

Because you have to root for someone. If everyone is irredeemable, there's no one to identify with. No sense of victory when you and the anti-hero cross the finish line together.

How much fun, too, to get to write a bad guy who isn't a cartoon. Actors always claim that playing the villain is a lot more fun than playing the good guy. So to write a antagonist who is an anti-hero? Might have to give that some thought...


Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Riddick NEVER professed to have a heart of gold. He fully intended to leave them all behind. Actually, he would have killed any of them who got in his way without a moment's hesitation. Except possibly for Jack.

Now he did have a character arc, where he went from refusing any part in the human race to actually respecting Iman and saving both him and Jack. That was really all the movie did. Even the rescue element was more of an inconvenience to him. He was intrigued by Fry's willingness to die in order to redeem herself (she almost killed everyone at the beginning).

IMHO, Chronicles of Riddick attempted to "redeem" him, moving him from anti-hero to hero. It worked for the most part, but it didn't intrigue me as much. (Although I greatly loved the aspects of the Hero Journey.) I really liked the anti-hero aspect, the complete role reversals. His greatest weakness vs. his greatest strengths, etc.

Gutterball is much more a specialist on Vin/Riddick--she converted me. :-) Maybe she'll stop by and shed more light on PB.

Lynn M said...

True, Joely, about Riddick never claiming to even remotely care. I think he did act in character. If anything I was so surprised because he'd actually done a couple of things to belie what I figured he really was - his killing Johns and his general willingness to lead them all across the desert, I figured the movie would take a cliched turn in having him go back at the last minute when we were so sure he'd planned to leave them all.

One other thing the movie did against cliche that I was both glad about (because it was in-character and it defied convention) and disappointed in (because, dang it, I'm a romantic) was to keep Riddick from showing any outward signs of remorse over Fry's death at the end. I mean, he seemed upset by it, but he could have reacted very strongly, as if finally he'd come to care about someone and then, poof, she's gone. Rather, they kept him fairly stoic about it. I both liked/respected that decision and was kind of sad that he didn't fall to his knees in grief. Hey, I can't help it! Always looking for the love. *g*

If the hubby isn't too tired when he gets home from work, we'll watch COR tonight.

GutterBall said...

Heh, guys, guys! Riddick didn't kill Johns because of the girl. That was just a convenient excuse, should anyone question his actions (not that he'd care about that, either).

No, he killed Johns because he'd wanted to from the start. And technically, he didn't actually KILL Johns. He just signed his death warrant and hooked him up to the chair. The natives flipped the switch, ne?

If you notice, Riddick didn't actually kill anyone in PB. The murderer didn't kill a soul. Irony at its finest.

I like to think of him more as a survivor than a murderer. Sure, he'd kill anyone that got in his way without qualm or remorse...but he's also a smart son-of-a-gun. He doesn't kill just everyone he comes across.

Now, carrying him into the next flick, he's still not really a hero. He didn't kill the Big Bad Guy because he wanted to save the universe from the Necromongers. He didn't do it out of any great loyalty to his newly discovered race.

He did it because the bad guy killed the girl (or injured her beyond repair, as she didn't actually die until they exchanged a few last words).

The thing I love the most about Riddick is that he never does anything without having his own reasons. He never lets anyone talk him into anything. If he sees the point and if it benefits him, he'll succeed at anything he puts his mind to. However, if there's no profit in it for him, he'll just watch and smile as the world falls apart around him.

Will. I admire his will.

Plus...he's absolutely drool-worthy. Heh. But that's a whole 'nother subject.

Oh, yeah. Another proof that Riddick is still very much the ANTI-hero?

"You keep what you kill"...and that little start of a smirk.

Oh, yeah. He's gonna have FUN. And both sides of his conscience -- the holy man and the girl -- are gone. What to do?

That smirk. I can't wait.