rapid city VI: cornicles of riddick

No matter how crappy a town you've landed yourself in, no matter how much it resembles the developing world, you stand a good chance of being close to a movie theatre. If you're short on luck, the theatre is a whitewashed shack with plastic chairs and a scratchy print of 8 Mile projected on a stained or ripped screen. That kind of bad luck is called "rural Newfoundland". Most places, though, will have two movie houses: an older one with a couple of decently sized screens playing second-run movies at first-run prices, and a multiplex constructed of plyboard and bright plastic, a kind of Rube Goldberg machine designed to dazzle people with coloured lights and explosive sounds as it hoovers up their money. Feed booths spill out sugar and fat, toilets suck it away again, and in between there's a five-story Vin Diesel grunting and beating people up for a couple of hours.

A few years ago I rented Pitch Black, the prequel or prologue to The Chronicles of Riddick. It introduced me to Diesel's shiny eyed thug and helped me squeeze a little bit of sense from the actions of the characters and a few of the more confusing plot elements. I wish now that I had never seen it. I thought it would work to my advantage, but it forced me to invoke powers of memory and reason, both of which were wasted on this grim cartoon of a film. The rest of the audience, who clearly hadn't brought any backstory into the theatre, were free to laugh out loud at every senseless line and lame twist. Pitch Black had a really simple Poseidon Adventure-Towering Inferno-Aliens plot: people get stranded at point A, must get to point B, and on their way some stuff goes very wrong, select people die, and everybody's character is revealed cleanly and simply by the actions they take to survive. And there's all kinds of monsters. And there's Radha Mitchell. The Chronicles of Riddick, on the other hand, doesn't really have a nice framework, doesn't really go anywhere, and the ending they drop in your lap simply means that you're going to have to shell out for the sequel.

The best thing that this movie has going for it is the bad guys. They're called the Necromongers, and their main purpose, aside from waging a religious imperial crusade across galaxies or whatever, is to look really, really silly. Seriously. No villainous army has ever looked this ridiculous. Most of them appear to be wearing sheets of cardboard covered in tinfoil and dabbed with india ink. The really scary ones have diving masks. It's like finding a bunch of Borgs in your parents' garage. And if the invasion sequence is to be taken seriously, the Necromongers' idea of taking over a planet is to kill about two dozen people and then give motivational seminars to groups of fifty at a time. Then they hang them on meathooks, which is apparently crucial but not well-explained.

The Necromongers' main goal, aside from wearing Craft Fair armour, is to travel to their version of Paradise, which they call The Underverse. I call it The Underpants, because the standard Necromonger expression suggests that they're wearing them two sizes too small. According to them, The Underpants is "a place where we can all start over," which makes it sound more like a new subdivision than a transcendent realm. The thing that nagged at me the most during this movie - aside from the bad dialogue, bad acting, bad pacing, bad editing - is that the leader of the Necktiemongers (an unbelievably stupid-looking Colm Feore), has seen the Underpants with his own eyes, but the stated mission of the Necroyaddahyaddahs is to get to The Underpants, with stops along the way to pick up converts and destroy planets. If The Underpants is really so great, why aren't they there yet? It's obviously not tough to find. Why don't they just go straight to their heaven, relax and maybe send out brochures to the rest of the galaxy?

I suspect they're dawdling because The Underpants must have an embargo on hideous homoerotic goth kitsch. Aside from imperial expansion, kitsch appears to be the one Necromonger passion. The interiors of their ships look like playpens from the darkest dreams of J. Edgar Hoover, with muscly Grecian figures stretched erotically along walls and ceilings. Even the nifty little vessels they have for scooting around ruined cities bear gigantic carved portraits of faces resembling Greek gods. Not even the vilest of dimensions will let that shit in.