Vin Diesel won the rights back to the Riddick character and financed this third feature-length entry in the series himself. That’s an admirable thing. So what happens after the cliffhanger of THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, nine years previously?
Well, he did have to cut down the budget to a slightly more manageable $38 million (which is still more than they spent on PITCH BLACK). Hence, we have a largely stripped-down film and that means getting rid of that ever-growing storyline quickly.
After enjoying some of the creature comforts of his kingdom, Riddick gladly relinquishes his crown in order to go home, to the lost planet of Furya. He is betrayed and left for dead on a barren planet with loads of creatures ready to kill him. Realizing he needs to rediscover his animal side, he buffs up and goes into full survival mode, with only a dog/lynx type creature to keep him company in a twist that recalls THE ROAD WARRIOR.
Riddick soon discovers an abandoned merc station and sends out a beacon, knowing it will bring bounty hunters ready to collect the price on his head. Two groups arrive, though only one seems especially nasty. That nasty group is led by Santana (Jordi Mollà), a man who is not above killing innocent people or raping and torturing the criminals he does manage to capture. The other group is more civilized, but don’t let the nice suits fool you. They’re still bounty hunters with a job to do. Worse yet, they are led by someone who has a bone to pick with Riddick.
What starts out with Riddick killing off the mercs turns into something else, as the planet’s wildlife gets a taste for human blood. The main question is how much Riddick can trust these people with his life, since they are in fact the same people who are being paid to kill him?
I was hoping for the best from this one, since it was such a labor of love for Vin Diesel and underrated writer-director David Twohy. But there’s just no getting around it. RIDDICK is a boring movie. That’s right. I was ready to expect anything, anything but the meandering slog this film turns out to be. While Twohy and company certainly strive for epic yet gritty sci-fi, I kept being reminded of the films they were aping and wanting to watch those films instead.
Towards the beginning, Riddick tries to stay alive on an inhospitable planet, much like the cult classic ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS. Later in the film, we have a meeting of suited people, all with their own personality clashes, which reminded me of John Carpenter’s GHOSTS OF MARS, a film everyone but me seems to despise. And then there’s the last third, which reminds the viewer of the first Riddick film, PITCH BLACK. In truth, Twohy is not the first nor the last person to be directly inspired by other films, or even these films in particular. But when the pacing is so slow and the proceedings are so drab, it makes the connection seem like a poor imitator. This film needed some serious trimming in the editing room. Although it isn’t as long as the director’s cut for CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, it feels so much longer.
The Riddick character is another problem this time out. Diesel is certainly dedicated to the character, but for the first time, we don’t really see any growth. PITCH BLACK suggested that Riddick was leaving the man he was behind, though that apparently didn’t last long. THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK brought him out of isolation and onto one of the highest pedestals possible, though with great sacrifice. In RIDDICK, he’s just… Riddick, jumping from rock to rock and trying to stay alive.
The machismo factor of the series is also slipping into self-parody. These films have always played up how tough Riddick is, but with this entry it gets ridiculous. Not only is he tough, but everyone talks endlessly about how tough he is. It takes four horse tranquilizers not to knock him out, but just to get him off his feet. There is even a suggestion that he’s so much man, he can turn a lesbian straight. If you somehow crossed Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Dolemite, I still don’t think it would equal the delusional sense of epic machismo Twohy and Diesel want for Riddick.
There are some things to say in RIDDICK’s favor. The supporting cast is pretty good. Katee Sackhoff has a knack for improving everything she’s in. We all know she was a part of the already incredible BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series. But remember the reboot of THE BIONIC WOMAN? That show was terrible. But whenever Sackhoff showed up on it, it was downright bearable. That’s sort of what happens here, Sackhoff’s talent elevating everything. Not for nothing, but a quick flash of nudity on her part should also become one of the most paused movie moments in modern history, once this puppy hits video. I was also greatly impressed with Matt Nable as the head of a merc squad who wants answers from our anti-hero.
Much like THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK before it, the second part of this film is far better than the first. In fact, it’s around the last 30-40 minutes that things start to pick up nicely. So much so that there are a few moments that I found truly memorable. But at this point in the series, it’s not a good idea to regress and cover ground that has been covered before, with far better results. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.
– Running time: 1hr 59min.
Want a second opinion? Read Austin’s review!