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View Full Version : Culturally Relevant Metaphors in "Chronicles of Riddick"


Adora
07-31-2004, 02:55 AM
*cough* Okay, don't look at me like that. I didn't mind this movie. I actually thought it was worth more than the 5.70 I paid for it, even if the ending did suck balls. The same cannot be said for King Arthur though...

But anyway. Ever since I took a batch of Film Theory subjects at uni a few years ago and decided I want to major in it, I've always watched films, especially SF films, with an eye for metaphors. Doing a whole subject on SF and the way it is used as a forum for cultural metaphors does that to a fragile little mnid like mine. Aliens is the Monstrous Feminine. Godzilla & Monster films are Japan's way of working through Hiroshima & the firebombing of their country. The Stepford Wives (the original, mind you) is feminist backlash material, etc etc.

So watching Riddick, I couldn't help but read it as a metaphor for someone's take on the sort of "New World Order" that's emerged within the last 20 years or so.

"You keep what you kill" sounded like the 80's capitalist mantra of "Greed is good" to me. Homogenisation, military culture and the shallow masochistic tendencies of the Necromongers screamed "Modern perceptions of the US" also. They attacked the peaceful, seemingly paradise-like planet of 'Prime, with all it's lovely mixed cultures and rather, er, Arabic architecture *cough*. I'm sure you can figure that one out.

And funnily enough, it was the whole "Faith" thing that really stood out to me. If anyone has watched the brilliant first Riddick film (Pitch Black) you know Riddick's a maltheist. The Necromonger's "convert" the remains of the populations they conquer by threatening them with death. And, as good humans always do, the populace tend to put their lives over their faiths. Except for the holier-than-thou Muslim from the first film, who dies an honourable death protecting his family, and who "goes into the afterlife". The only one who ends up being able to defeat the one who's uber-powerful and at the center of the Necromongers is someone with a very twisted sense of faith indeed. The "different kind of evil" mentioned in the narration at the beginning, perhaps?

But at the heart of the Necromonger "Faith" is death, is emptyness and nothingness. A comment on certain cultural trends in modern Western society perhaps? Or perhaps the decadence of modern Christianity? The creepy things with the face-shields that look for living non-Necro's seem to be pointing towards a lack of... something post-conversion, that just seemed like body heat at first but is probably something else. So even a strong streak of maltheism, as warped as the concept is in our society, is preferable to a dead, empty faith bent on nothing except it's own locust-like spread. Or at least, this is what it seems to be saying to me... opinions differ though, I'm sure.

And Judi Dench's character- the Elemental. They don't use magic, it seems, but 'calculate'. Economists? Scientists? Thinktanks? What are they meant to be? They manipulate the situation into an outcome in the end that seems to be the lesser of two evils (yes, even if it does SUCK). What's with Jack/Kira's character, and her sacrfice at the end of the film? The friend I saw mentioned it was like Trinity's death at the end of Revolutions but I think it's more, it's jumping up and down at me trying to get me to figure out what it is, but I just can't work it out, damnit (yeah, mental note to self: stop posting on forums in the morning). Any suggestions are welcome.

Of course, there's the obvious Jesus-metaphor with Riddick's "Furian" ancestry and his childhood (Necromonger ruler ordered all Furian children killed, and Riddick only survived by chance). What sort of kicks this all in the butt is the ending though. Total wtfness, and kind of makes me wonder what they're going to do for the sequel (maybe he runs away from them and becomes a hermit again, then has to come back and save the universe... AGAIN).

Please excuse the disjointed nature of this post, since I'm still trying to sort this all out in my head, really. I only saw it last night, and didn't end up sleeping too well afterwards (not because of the movie, mind you) so I'm having problems getting my thoughts in order. But I have no doubt in years to come someone will be writing academia about this, so I'm just trying to figure out what they could be writing about, so when I look back I can say "I thought of that first!". And frankly, there was nowhere else I could post this (I've abandoned IIDB) so you guys were the chosen victims... I mean volunteers.

livius drusus
08-01-2004, 07:15 PM
Ya know, I had no intention of seeing Riddick (although I have been meaning to see Pitch Black for ages now), but I so love your post I have now decided to check them both out state just to shoot the sheisse about it with you. :)

Sit tight, Adora: disjointed movie metaphor conversation on its way.

copiae
08-03-2004, 02:12 AM
I just watched Chronicles of Riddick last night, and apart from a sense of the movie being heavily edited (nonetheless I really enjoyed it...
apart from the whole Crematoria sequence, which would have made a LOT more sense if they had not mentioned that the sun caused the planet to heat up to 700 degrees by day, and cool down to 300 degrees by night, and what the hell was up with the dogs?), the one impression I got more than anything else was that it was rather Macbethesque.

Erf, I have to run now, but I will post more tonight.



EDIT: Ok, it is tonight.


The following addition is very spoiler-heavy. If you for whatever reason are keen on watching Riddick unspoiled, don't read this.



Of course, there's the obvious Jesus-metaphor with Riddick's "Furian" ancestry and his childhood (Necromonger ruler ordered all Furian children killed, and Riddick only survived by chance). What sort of kicks this all in the butt is the ending though. Total wtfness, and kind of makes me wonder what they're going to do for the sequel (maybe he runs away from them and becomes a hermit again, then has to come back and save the universe... AGAIN).





Would it be possible for you to expand on the obvious Jesus metaphor? I must have missed it. To me, the Furian thing is either a manifestation of fate, or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This may seem a bit odd at first, but we know how fast the Lord Marshall can move (sodding fast). We know that even after multiple wounds that would incapacitate a normal man, the Lord Marshall doesnt lose this speed. We also know his relative strength. Why then, when he is ...fading away from the battleaxe of the commander guy, and he sees Riddick positioned for a killer blow, does he not change course, stop, or accelerate? either of these would have averted the final blow. Also, the Lord Marshall definitely does see Riddick positioned, as realisation dawns on his face, and there is also a sense of him panicking.

Of course, this all ties in neatly with the notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy - had the Lord Marshall never heard of the prophecy foretelling his death at the hands of a Furian, he probabl wouldnt have attacked the Furians, and thus never would have set into motion the chain of events that would eventually lead to his demise. Also, the movie makes a big deal of the Lord Marshall and his adherence to prophecies, as can be seen by his keeping the 'witch' in custody, and placing faith in what she has to say, but wanting to only hear the right kind of answer.

Anyway, this ties in quite neatly into the Macbeth themes too, but it doesnt really explain why he fought with Riddick at all (apart from as a flimsy excuse for showing a really cool fight scene). If though, we see the Lord Marshall as an individual who is torn between the belief in fate, and the belief that he can defeat fate with the deciding moment and subsequent panic occuring when faced with a (should be dead) Riddick who managed to somehow guess where the Lord Marshall was going to reappear and position himself for a killer blow...

Hrm. With all that said, there does exist a certain problem here, mainly, that I may be reading too much into what is essentially a movie designed to showcase a whole stack of spiffy fight scenes (Kiras rear-boot knives and twirls especially stand out).

copiae
08-04-2004, 02:30 PM
Hrm. With all that said, there does exist a certain problem here, mainly, that I may be reading too much into what is essentially a movie designed to showcase a whole stack of spiffy fight scenes (Kiras rear-boot knives and twirls especially stand out).

I should probably note that the comment here was not at all aimed at you, Adora, rather upon my building further abstractions from my initial tenuous observations in what is, essentially, an action movie.

Adora
08-05-2004, 01:49 AM
Oh agreed. But Even mindless action movies can be deep and profound reflections of culture, even if they don't mean to.

Take James Cameron's "The Thing". It's a perfect metaphor for HIV/AIDS and people's reaction to it back then, when they had no idea what was going on or why people were dying. I have no doubt none of the makers intended it to be so, but in hindsight it's so blatantly obvious that well, *shrug*.

Scotty
08-05-2004, 01:38 PM
Do you mean John Carpenter's "The Thing" or James Cameron's "The Abyss"?

-Scott

Adora
08-06-2004, 02:46 AM
Carpenter. Sorry, I always get the two mixed up. *bangs head on desk*