Eppler: 'Riddick' or 'Elysium?'

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 9/09/2013 11:18 am

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

Vin Diesel loves playing escaped convict Richard Riddick so much he got the rights to the series as part of his deal to make more "Fast and Furious" movies.
In fact, he raised the money for "Riddick" himself.

That's right - this is an indie.

I had no interest in a third "Riddick" movie. "Pitch Black" from 2000 was enjoyable as a small sci-fi adventure, but the overblown "Chronicles of Riddick" was dreadful. The good news is "Riddick" is closer to "Pitch Black" in its simplicity and scope. The first 30 minutes of the movie is nearly dialogue-free as a stranded Riddick struggles to survive and fights CGI swamp monsters.

It soon turns into a game of cat-and-mouse as a gang of bounty hunters arrives on the planet trying to capture or better yet, kill our anti-hero, who sets a number of traps for them like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

It's all fairly entertaining in a violent, empty-headed and misogynistic kinda way. Diesel's Riddick has all the personality of a cinder block, but he's tough enough to reset his own busted limb, kill bad guys with one leg, and even turn lesbian women straight.

Seriously. That happens. It's the kind of macho fantasy this movie is.

For a sci-fi fantasy with another bald hero and even more brains and style, I recommend "Elysium," which has been out a few weeks. It's the second movie from South African-born director Neill Blomkamp.

Like his first movie, "District 9," "Elysium" is a very political film, using sci-fi to comment on modern-day issues: the poor live on a ravaged Earth, and the rich live on a luxurious space station called "Elysium" with technology that can wipe out all disease like cancer in a matter of minutes.

Matt Damon is a factory worker exposed to radiation who turns to criminals to help him reach Elysium.

Blomkamp's film bites off a lot to chew, including immigration, health care, class separation and government oppression - even the ships are labeled "Homeland Security." But I admire the movie's moxie. I only wish Blomkamp knew how to direct action more clearly, and the plot does take quite a few short cuts.

Forget the imperfections, though, and plug in to this sci-fi scorcher.


ELYSIUM: * * * *

Out of five stars

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