Vin Diesel re-teams with director David Twohy for Riddick, the third installment in an off-balanced trilogy that started with great promise (Pitch Black), but quickly fizzled out into mediocre B-movie territory (The Chronicles of Riddick). Riddick easily puts the series back on track, with its much-needed R-rating and cheesy one-liners, but a majority of the film feels like rehashed segments lifted directly from Pitch Black, without much creativity. Still, Riddick is a fun and over-the-top piece of B-movie sci-fi that we so desperately need, but it also happens to be a bit slow and sluggish.
Riddick (Vin Diesel) was last seen commanding an empire. Now he’s left for dead on a sun-scorched planet all alone. He quickly realizes that he’s not alone and that the planet is home to some nasty alien creatures. He does his best to learn their ways and fight them off, but an incoming storm reveals that he might want to exit this hellish rock before it’s too late.
So, he signals for a rescue beacon and two ships come looking to collect the hefty bounty on his head. One ship harbors a gang of ruthless murdering mercenaries, while the other is home to a group of military proper soldiers looking to find some answers from Riddick’s past.
Riddick must now fend off both groups of bounty hunters, while also preparing for an oncoming alien attack which has the ability to wipe him and everyone else off of the face of the planet.
David Twohy‘s Riddick is the director and star’s return to the franchises R-rated roots that started with the now cult-classic Pitch Black. Riddick is very much a stripped down and less-shiny version of most mainstream sci-fi, acting more as a reboot/sequel to Pitch Black than anything else. The film barely mentions Chronicles of Riddick, which is mostly a good thing, but also a frustrating note when viewing the series as a whole.
Riddick works well enough as a B-level sci-fi entry. It’s silly, funny and downright bizarre at points, but it knows exactly what kind of film it is and better yet Vin Diesel knows exactly what kind of character he’s playing. It’s hard not to see an extension of Diesel’s own self in this role, because there’s no way David Twohy and his team of writers managed to come up with this much weird stuff for the character.
Diesel loves playing Riddick and it shows. Riddick is a tough as nails bad ass that always backs up his death threats, while also making sure to find the time to hit on the film’s only lesbian character. That’s just what Riddick does and by three movies you’re either completely on board or left still scratching your head over it all.
As a Pitch Black fan I must say that Riddick moves much slower and takes little risks. Twohy and Diesel aren’t afraid to make things awkwardly weird, but rarely do they do so when it comes to the film’s action and sculpting a truly bad ass picture. Riddick has a few great kills and more than enough memorable one-liners, but the sequences are short.
The CGI has definitely improved, but the action still remains stretched out and contained. The film’s wonky pacing doesn’t help the fact either. The opening act of Riddick plays out mostly like a back-story, allowing new viewers to get to know Riddick, while us longtime fans can simply simmer in world that Twohy has created. Nothing really happens, but Riddick sure makes nothing look like a lot of fun.
But then the film’s middle act kicks in and suddenly Riddick starts to feel more and more like Aliens. Now, Riddick is creeping and crawling around the site, picking off crew members like a slasher. Again, this is fun stuff and Diesel totally plays it up, but just when things get comfy Twohy goes and shifts into act three and now Riddick is Pitch Black the Remake.
Seriously, the entire closing act of Riddick is Pitch Black, but with different characters. This still makes for a good time, but one that fans have already seen before. Maybe newcomers will appreciate this more, but the die-hard fans will definitely notice one too many similarities.
I’m torn. On one hand I have no problem suggesting Riddick to fans of original sci-fi, while on the other I’d throw a caution up to those looking for something fresh and new for the character. I’m a fan of what David Twohy and Vin Diesel are trying to do and I respect the hell out of both men for how they went about funding and getting this film released, but that still leaves me slightly disappointed with the outcome.
Riddick is a fun entry in an otherwise bumpy trilogy of films. Pitch Black still remains the high point, while Riddick comes in an easy second, leaving Chronicles way down at the bottom. Sometimes just being able to cheer once more for the anti-hero known as Riddick on the big screen makes it worth it, even if the film itself is kind of letdown.
See Riddick on an IMAX screen if you’ve enjoyed all that the character and its creators have had to offer. Settle for a regular matinee if you’re new to the series and are just looking for a bit of fun. Riddick isn’t polished or punchy, but it’s campy and barbaric and Diesel and Twohy should be commended for their efforts.
Riddick – 7/10