It’s interesting to look at how comic books have re-emerged as such a major cultural influence over the past 15 years or so. Since the first comic books started coming out nearly 100 years ago, they have had varying impacts and reputations, from being overly childish, to encouraging youthful rebellion. By the 1990’s, the comic book industry was struggling to stay afloat, seen by many as as worn out fad of the past. Jumping ahead to 2013, comic books have managed to earn their rightful respect as an imaginative, innovative storytelling medium — something that must have seemed almost inconceivable to the early comic industry. In addition to the timeless superhero stories, we now have comics that cover everything from zombie apocalypse to social commentaries without any hint of the supernatural, or in the case of the RIPD series, a deceased police force that keeps the undead from overtaking the living. However, while comics may have a reputation of imagination and new ideas, Hollywood has a less than stellar track record in that department of late, and with RIPD, we are left with an imaginative framing device for a very uninspired buddy cop flick.
The largest elephant in the room with RIPD seems to be that it looks like Men In Black with dead people instead of aliens, and that comparison is most certainly a justified one. However, after having seen the film, I must say that actually works as one of its strengths – there’s no time wasted explaining the premise, we already learned all the rules from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones a decade or so ago. The real problem with that is the Smith and Jones did is so much better. While Jeff Bridges has a blast as an old-timey zombie-corralling sheriff, the rest of the cast just doesn’t seem to be able to have any fun. Ryan Reynolds does his best to keep up as Bridges’ no nonsense partner, but just can’t seem to find the rhythm you need for a good buddy cop pairing, while a strangely cast Kevin Bacon seems to think he’s supposed to be playing an actual corpse, sucking any potential fun from his turn as the maguffin-toting villain. For a bunch of characters who are supposed to be invading the world of the living, it too often feels like a trip to the cemetery.
What RIPD lacks in characters, the filmmakers do their best to make up for in special effects and dazzling camera work, with mixed results. Particularly with the aid of some above-average 3-D work, several scenes are truly impressive, though they do often get a bit carried away with the dizzying camera movements that sacrifice comprehension for style. While the effects team was most certainly bringing their A-game, the lifeless story often makes the action scenes seem like inane inevitabilities rather than suspenseful or enthralling parts of the plot. There were plenty of nice flashes in the pan, but there just wasn’t much coming out of it.
In the end, RIPD comes off as a half-formed rehash of a dozen other movies, rather than the exciting, fun, and imaginative film it could have been. There seemed to be plenty of the right ingredients, from an all-star cast to special effects work that most films would envy, but things just never could come together. Breakneck pacing keeps things from getting boring, however nothing ever seems to be able to come together to form a complete film. Despite a few chuckles and some nicely polished action, RIPD just can’t seem to keep both feet out of the grave.
My Rating: 2 Stars