Vin Diesel puts on the goggles again and is back for a third outing as Riddick. Going for a more back to basics approach to the character, is it a return to form a la Pitch Black? Or is it another Chronicles Of Riddick in disguise? 411's Terry Lewis finds out
Vin Diesel - Riddick Jordi Mollà - Santana Matt Nable - Boss Johns Dave Bautista - Diaz Katee Sackhoff - Dahl Karl Urban - Vaako
Vin Diesel is back as the titular character which truly launched his film career all those years ago in Pitch Black, an impressive, small but successful cool sci-fi action flick where Diesel played an important character dished out on screen in small doses for the highest possible impact as a ‘see in the dark’ mass murderer badass with a conflicting moral mode. A terrible shame that his return in Chronicles Of Riddick was sullied by director and writer David Twohy getting more creative control and expanding his “Dark Star Wars” universe in a bloaty mess which tarnished the effectiveness of Diesel’s character somewhat then. Still there’s plenty of optimism in the third outing of Diesel as Riddick.
After being kicked to the curb by his Necromonger army for toying about with hot undead ladies instead of leading his legions of the undead, Riddick is led to a rock of a planet and left for dead. Recovering, he decides it’s time to go back to basics and jettison those pesky ties to humanity which held back his darkness and badassery before. One problem – he sees through his ‘see in the dark’ vision a storm of alien monsters on the horizon. Riddick sets about a master plan to steal a spaceship by luring various bounty hunters willing to claim his head, but it all dilutes to a race against time before personal vendettas catch up with Riddick.
Diesel as Riddick is brought back to Pitch Black levels of impact and effectiveness here. The bulk of the later part of the film focuses more on Riddick ghosting around, stirring the pot around the mercs, whipping them into a frenzy before executing his plan to get off the planet. Good stuff, very good stuff. It’s how Riddick works best. The ‘road back’ opening segment where he trains back to full fitness is great too. It’s amazing how Diesel has so much charisma displayed in this character at times when he does so little, as Riddick is never not an imposing force in this film.
The supporting cast is topped off with familiar sci-fi and pop culture faces. Starbuck from new Battlestar GalacticaKatee Sackhoff plays the only notable female and she’s basically a standard badass female and gets her top off. Wrestling’s Dave Bautista was much better as an opposing looking, second in command henchman type. Spanish actor and filmmaker Jordi Mollà (Knight And Day) steals the show as Santana, a sleazy Mexican bounty hunter gang leader who tears up every scene he’s in.
Australian rugby star turned actor Matt Nable (Killer Elite) was rather average as Boss Johns who may have a connection back to Pitch Black. He was slightly frustrating with him being a bit overdramatic when being emotional later on in the film. Did like his sense of honour he conveyed very well though. Oh and Karl Urban pops up in a flashback to provide some continuity from Chronicles Of Riddick in a near pointless cameo. One wonders if he had contractual obligations and just wanted to get in and get out. Otherwise, entertaining supporting cast.
My major bugbear with Riddick is that there’s quite a lot of nods and tributes to other sci-fi films like Predator and Aliens. The scene where 8 mercs unload into the side of a building wall to get at the alien scorpion monster things, I fully expected someone to say “Hey look if it bleeds, we can kill it.” Speaking of the alien monsters, they are very similar to the xenomorphs from the Alien series. Bipedal, eyeless sleek creatures with a tail - seriously, the only thing they added was a poison sting which admittedly was a nice touch and recoloured the creatures but it’s still very similar. Compare this to those awesome ORIGINAL nocturnal beasts which seem to be made of blades from Pitch Black and you’re left disappointed. I almost want to label this as Riddick In Aliens as it follows the formula of that fairly closely.
Credit has to go where credit is due though, Twohey has made the effort to take Riddick back to his roots in Pitch Black and get rid of the terrible Necromonger garbage which pulled him away from how he works best. Riddick has to be kept as a ghost, sneaking away in the background, getting up other human’s noses to be effective – in fact you almost go as far as saying he has to be a minor character overall in terms of screentime etc . Here we go back to that, away from the awful out in the open “known name” where he became just another cliché action hero portrayal. Also a good move was for the badass Riddick to state he’s going back to basics after becoming “domesticated” by the human race, which leads into the film’s highlight, the opening segment where Riddick wearing only the armour he was left for dead in trains himself back to health and to plan his way past a pool of alien scorpions onto better ground.
This however did get sullied with Riddick making deals with the merc cannon fodder and developing emotional connections with one or two of them, completely reversing what he said he wasn’t going to do anymore at the start of the film. Riddick works best when he operates outside the human race. It’s against his better judgement to help them out when he should be working to do what’s best for him and he knows this. A big mistake too was to show Riddick later on in the film as vulnerable. The opening is fine as we show him being rebuilt, but the deus ex machina end undoes a good amount of the work done to get Riddick onto a respectable level. I just hope Twohey doesn’t have the temptation to go back to the Necromongers with his baby because it was a truly shocking addition to Riddick’s mythos, but in future instalments he may do because you can’t really have Riddick ditched to the side like the start of the film and not vow revenge.
I’m really not fussed on the CGI as it’s completely shoddy and terrible. You can get away with the naff aliens but that puppy dog is the worst thing I’ve seen since the baby from the final Twilight movie. I know the budget has been scaled down massively back to Pitch Black levels from the overblown and loud Chronicles but when you see the frankly shit looking zebra dog creature come on, I couldn’t help smirking. What’s more a few dollars to make something look acceptable? The action is decent although there is a fair amount of unnecessary build to get to each action scene in an overlong two hours. There’s a lot of fun but superfluous stuff with the mercs that could have been hacked out nicely.
The 411: A 100% guy film with two additional shots of testosterone, Riddick is back close to his best but not quite. Highly unoriginal but admittedly everything that’s been done before is good. The CGI may make you shudder in places and the double standards of the roundabout methodology of the character will make you look at this sideways. Otherwise, a better than average action sci-fi film with some entertaining characters in the vein of Pitch Black, which let’s be honest is all we wanted from another Riddick outing.