What is it about the 3rd movie of a franchise? Does all the fun run out when the credits roll for the 2nd film? Whatever the case, “Riddick” joins a long line of other sequels that leave much to be desired.
After being double-crossed by his Necromonger pals, Riddick (Vin Diesel) is marooned on a deserted planet and left for dead. Feeling that he’s lost a step, he returns to life in the wild in order to regain his psychopathic charm audiences experienced in “Pitch Black.” After setting off a beacon that informs mercenaries of his whereabouts, Riddick has to outsmart and outlast the contract killers before the planet’s native predators take them all out.
The Riddick trilogy (only counting live-action films) follows a strange trajectory. The first film, “Pitch Black,” is kind of a science fiction/horror film where a band of crash survivors try to find a way off a planet before a solar eclipse makes them an alien entree. Then “Chronicles of Riddick” goes in a COMPLETELY different direction making Riddick an action star in a film that does some crazy world-building and introduces a galactic enemy known as the Necromongers. Now, this film tries to scale back all the work done by its predecessor to create a bare bones tale that will (hopefully) bring the Riddick story to a conclusion in a later film.
The story goes that Vin Diesel actually used his house as collateral in order to finance this film. I love him for that, but really wish he had been able to create a better project here. Because of the box office disaster known as “Chronicles of Riddick”, companies weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to lose millions of dollars. Being the nice guy that he is, Diesel decided to make the film happen any way possible, just for the fans.
The first half-hour of the film is rather slow and plodding. Writer/director David Twohy basically writes out the Necromonger storyline quicker than you can say “You keep what you kill” and we are left with Diesel just hanging out with himself for a solid 25 minutes. During this time, he decides to gain his killer instict back by making a pet of one of the planet’s scavengers (pictured above). Even though this first act is a little hard to enjoy, it would be perfectly acceptable if the film didn’t ruin all of its suspense by unveiling the main monsters in broad daylight 20-30 minutes into the film. Part of what made “Pitch Black” an effective film was that the monsters lurked in the shadows and weren’t fully seen until about 2/3 of the way through the film. The lack of suspense this film has is like comparing the original “Halloween” to Rob Zombie’s misguided remake.
Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying this should have been a rip-off of “Pitch Black” or a straight horror film, but revealing these monsters the way “Riddick” does makes them completely un-scary.
After Riddick sets off the beacon and the mercenaries show up, get ready for some trashy B-movie acting and dialogue. Almost every character is cannon fodder (or Riddick fodder, rather) or a total caricature. Jordi Molla, looking exactly the same as he did in 2003’s “Bad Boys II”, plays the leader of the mercs and is immediately unlikeable (probably on purpose, but man is it oversold). Wrestler Dave Bautista actually does well with his role as one of the hitmen, not that it’s too tough of a gig. The only one of these dozen-or-so characters who is even memorable is a sniper named Dahl, played by the one and only Katee Sackhoff. Best known as Starbuck from “Battlestar Galactica,” Sackhoff takes her tough girl attitude and witty humor to the big screen and pulls off the character nicely.
If you’re going to see the film for Riddick vs. monsters, you will be disappointed. There is no confrontation between Riddick/mercenaries and the aliens until 90 minutes into the film. Some of the action is good here, but it’s too little, too late. I will also say that the creature design is pretty interesting, but with this film’s limited budget, there’s something left to be desired there.
At this point, I know I’m coming off a bit harsh on the film. It’s the ones you love that hurt you the most and I am a big fan of this franchise. Earlier this year I was also burnt by the latest Die Hard film, but that was a much bigger fall from grace than what we have here. “Riddick” is a disappoinment in many ways but I’m glad we were able to see the character on the big screen again. Hopefully we get some resolution before Vin Diesel gets too old (He’s 46!!!) for the part.