What’s it About?
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
Directed by David Twohy
7 out of 10
Despite the lukewarm critical and box office reception to “The Chronicles of Riddick,” Director David Twohy (The Arrival) and actor Vin Diesel (Iron Giant) decided to bring back the bad ass anti-hero, Riddick, for one more dark sci-fi adventure. It is well known that Riddick had always remained a character very close to Diesel’s heart and fans of the first 2 entries knew that one more movie was on the table and now 9 years later we finally have one. Twohy himself thought the film should be a more low key (if not in budget as least in style) throwback to his earlier effort “Pitch Black.”
According to Diesel they wanted to be “precise” when bring Riddick back to the big screen. It is an approach that actually works but not all together completely or as originally. “Pitch Black” wasn’t always the cult classic it is today. It was just a “meh” type of film for many sci fi moviegoers and unfortunately, that attitude also was reflected in it’s box office as well. Much like John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” PB gained momentum after the fact. Now, today, PB is a movie that many have watched and actually adore to this day.
It may have not made Vin Diesel or Twohy household names but time eventually turned that around since Vin is now a mega name who has done about 25 of those car porn flicks and Twohy is…well, he’s just still Twohy. But now we have this new installment that does not re-invent the wheel but manages to entertain us predominately because Twohy and Diesel take it back to basics even though it stumbles in pacing and suffers from a bit from double dipping.
I will avoid spoilers in this review, of course, but over-all we get pretty much the same scenario in “Riddick” that we were first introduced in “Pitch Black.” Unlike, “Chronicles,” which was a long and drawn out exploration of the bigger universe that Riddick inhabited, “Riddick” is an attempt to give this ugly franchise a face lift of sorts without breaking the bank. So, Riddick is left for dead on yet another desolate desert planet after being betrayed while trying to find other Furyans with his buddy Vaako, who is played all too briefly by the awesome Karl Urban. During his stay on this sun bleached rock he has to fight against more deadly predators.
Predators he has to out-smart, outrun and eventually defeat and get things under control. He even gets one to become a pet for him. Only Riddick could do that. After things get in order and Riddick survives the assaults by the monsters, he happens across an abandoned bunker which is apparently a supply hold of some sort. So, while he thinks things out, he decides to start and direct the distress beacon to anyone out there that is listening. And he is quite right. There are listeners but they aren’t really the Calvary. Doesn’t matter, though, since Riddick plans to find a way off the planet anyway he can. I must say it was fantastic to watch Diesel play Riddick one more time. My excitement overshadowed most of the shortcomings for me and made the movie more fun than it has any right to be. Twohy’s eye for composition, helped by his DP, David Eggby (Dragonheart), is still impeccable and his exploration of Riddick is stalwart. Riddick softens up somewhat but only if it suits him of course.
In response to his beacon, 2 separate bands of people, one being a crew of bounty hunters, head to the isolated planet to give Riddick some grief. The heavies here, Santana (Jordi Molla) and nasty merc Boss Johns (Matt Nable ) each put in a good turn as does Katee Sackhoff (who tries to entice Riddick at one point) as “Dahl.” Of note is “Evidence” actor Nolan Gerard Funk, Bokeem Woodbine (who is always cool to watch) as Moss and of course WWE superstar Dave Bautista as Diaz is just kick ass. Some of the cast fare well and some don’t as is the case in a revenge scenario of this type.
I liked what Twohy and Diesel did here and that is to return to what fans liked most about Riddick. He is an solemn isolationist, a thinker and he is able to overcome and bounce back from adversity. Diesel channels himself from “Pitch Black” and it works for the most part. But what mars “Riddick” is the routine story and the acting unravels with the supporting cast taking the hit. Twohy has created an amalgam of PB and his new film which just ends up being a distant clone of the first entry. It is all very familiar and inventiveness and ideation eludes them. Diesel this time out is sober, wry and grave. He remains no nonsense through it all. When the groups arrive the movie tends to slip because we prefer what came all before when Riddick was just the only guy on the planet with an agenda that we know is eventually to come.
“Riddick” is not a winner in the story and performances but it is still fun and tries to achieve what PB did many years ago. It feels like the ole “B” movie done up in “A” level garb. The action is quite solid and violent, the FX are very well rendered and it’s full of showdowns and gore as well. “Riddick” is a sort of re-boot actually with not much to tie it to the previous heavy handed film. Twohy manages to follow the formula that he himself established but if you want a bit more meat to his vision (or re-vision) then you will be a bit disappointed. Despite the time between films, this entry accurately manages to just establish that only a 15 year old kid will be excited by everything going on in this film. It’s all stuff we are used to seeing and going back to basics was a decent idea but “Riddick” could have been so much more. Diesel will not come out of this tarnished though. He is still watchable and even when the movie slips into tedium and silliness at times I still found some things to like and enjoy. But in all honesty, I could have just re-watched “Pitch Black” and gotten the same reaction.