Who says a dissertation topic has nothing to do with the real world? By way of introduction of this movie review, my dissertation topic is a reading of Flannery O’Connor’s weirdly grotesque, kind of depressing, and certainly violent fiction of fundamentalist, racist Southerners of post WWII America as an infernal comedy, which I’m interpreting through medieval exegesis and medieval drama.
BUT, anyhoo — what’s an infernal comedy? Well, Dante’s _Divine Comedy_ is in three parts: the Inferno (Hell), the Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the Paradiso (Heaven). What gets forgotten, though, is that the Inferno is part of the Divine Comedy — the character Dante has to go through Hell in order for him to get to Heaven. And, believe you me, Dante’s Hell informs a lot of Christian denominations ideas of what Hell is; but even though the individuals in that Hell are caught in their own personal tragedies, the big picture places Hell in a larger comedy of Dante’s redemption.
Similarly, _The Chronicles of Riddick_ makes sense as a unified movie *if* you see it as an infernal comedy: the odd, quiky comic moments joined with grotesque characters and lots and lots of violence with an ending that’s ambivilantly “happy” but only after much death and sacrifice, including the sacrifice of the protagonist’s worldly self for a higher goal of redemption/ salvation/ conversion/ homecoming/ what-have-you. In this case, the protagonist is Riddick, that awesome character in _Pitch Black_. If you don’t see _The Chronicles_ as an infernal comedy, then the movie will look really uneven, maybe even disappointing, because, as some reviewers declared, it doesn’t seem to make much sense, the bad guys don’t really seem all that bad (or maybe seem too one-dimensional in their petty evil-doing), the ending seems like a cop-out, etc. etc. etc. In fact, out of my household of four people, I was the only one who said, “I think the movie was funny.” And they looked at me is if I’d lost my mind until I explained why.
And my favorite part of the movie? When Riddick pets the puppy! Awwww…
See _Pitch Black_ first (if you haven’t already), and then see _The Chronicles_. They’re all good!