“Riddick” is the third film of the franchise following Vin Diesel’s titular character that began back in 2000 with “Pitch Black” and continued with 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick.” We’ve seen the outlaw take on alien creatures, bounty hunters, and a religious military group, and now he’s back to… well, pretty much do most of it all over again. The first two films had some interesting elements, but also a multitude of issues holding them back from being as effective as they could have been. When I say this latest entry has Riddick up to his same old tricks, unfortunately it also means that the film inherits many of these same issues. Not that it was expected to be a sci-fi masterpiece, but after an absence of nine years, you would expect a result a little better than retreading old ground.
You may recall at the end of the last film, Riddick (Vin Diesel) had been made the leader of The Necromongers, a title he gives up in hopes of finding the location of his home planet. He is tricked and left to die on a deserted world, but he’s able to activate an emergency beacon that gets the attention of two groups. One is a group of bounty hunters who are looking to collect a hefty reward if they can kill and deliver him, the other is led by a man who is looking for answers to what happened to his son, a man that Riddick encountered in his past. While both groups are looking to capture the fugitive, Riddick simply wants to commandeer one of their ships to escape. However, both sides soon come to realize that there is a bigger threat that they should be concerned about.
“Riddick” is a rather strange film in that it plays like an endless series of deleted scenes that could have been taken from the first two films, particularly from “Pitch Black,” which also followed the similar plot of having to escape the planet. Because of this, it feels like a film that’s in search of its own story. We know they need to get off the planet, but that’s simply a goal, not a fully-developed narrative. As the audience, all we can do is sit back and watch as they try to fill time by going back to their old tricks of having bizarre creatures attack the stranded characters while Riddick tries to act all cool and collected.
Like the previous entry, it ends up being way too long for the material it’s trying to cover. With the lack of a central storyline to keep the audience engaged, there’s enough material for a film that’s about 80-90 minutes, but “Riddick” ends up lasting nearly two hours. One of the easiest cuts the editor could have made would be to snip out the first ten minutes, which merely has Riddick roaming around the planet, encountering a few of the creatures that inhabit it. It’s only after this that he begins to fill us in on what happened after the previous film.
The structure was another strange issue the film had. The first half hour focuses solely on Riddick before switching over to the two groups of people looking to capture him. During this period, Riddick almost completely disappears, seen only in small glimpses as he is hunted down. It’s interesting to note that, even with this being the third film the character has appeared in, Riddick has still not been developed very far, and yet, he’s still the most interesting character, which makes sidelining him for a good portion of the film a bad idea. Trying to focus on the stereotypical soldier characters won’t do any good, and only further goes to show that the writer, David Twohy, was low on original ideas.
It still baffles me as to why anyone would think that Vin Diesel is a good leading man, especially with his lack of personality. He’s shown this in every franchise he’s been in (“xXx,” “The Fast and the Furious,” and the “Riddick” films), and yet he keeps getting cast, despite not having the charisma to pull it off. Luckily, these films don’t require much in the way of acting, but it would still be nice to have someone who would leave more of an impression like the action stars of the good old days.
There are parts of “Riddick” that are pretty amusing, though I’m not entirely sure that they’re meant to be. It’s mainly when the action pieces are so ridiculous that you can’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of it. It may seem insensitive to laugh when someone gets a machete kicked through their head by someone who’s tied up, but it’s not something you get to see every day. Nor is it particularly easy to hold it in when Riddick fights off the creatures with the only weapon at his disposal: the engines of his jet bike. I suppose you just have to make do with what you have on hand at the time.
If you’re a fan of the first two films, then there’s a chance that you’ll enjoy this one too since, as I mentioned, it’s basically more of the same. For those of you looking for anything new from the franchise, you’re not going to find anything here. It was a rather odd decision to go back to material that the first film had already covered. Why not have Riddick get into a different, more entertaining adventure where he meets more interesting characters? The second film, while not good either, at least had a better array of character for him to interact with. “Riddick” could have been just the jolt this franchise needed after nine years of dormancy, but it appears as though Twohy is merely satisfied with dwelling on the past. 2/4 stars.
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