There’s a lot to like about Riddick, the third film in the sci-fi/creature-heavy series. And if you’re a big fan of Pitch Black, I think you’re going to dig this back-to-the-basics entry which eschews the galactic melodrama of The Chronicles of Riddick in favor of a rather simple man versus nature, man versus himself and man versus man story told on a budget with a lot of ambition.
There’s an interesting “throwback” nature to the film that extends well beyond the flavor of an ’90s action flick – a comparison you can instantly reach for. But there’s also the air of a Roger Corman-produced sci-fi film surrounding Riddick that is undeniable in its tone, production value and monstrous threats.
Riddick is divided into three clear parts. And I’m not talking about “acts,” but the film literally shifts gears at three separate points to become a movie suited for certain characters. For the first 20 minutes – the most intriguing and entertaining I feel – we catch up on where Riddick has been and where he’s at now. The answer to the latter is he’s stranded on a planet, left for dead by the army he was left to rule at the end of The Chronicles of Riddick. Any fear you might carry of more “Necromonger” silliness is addressed and cleaned up in about seven minutes or less, allowing us to get reacquainted with Riddick. And this is where things get good because he’s not the man we used to know. He’s weakened. Off his game.
Riddick is about Riddick getting his mojo back, essentially. And to do that, he’s gotta kill a whole lot of monsters and bounty hunters.
In that aforementioned 20-30 minutes, he’s on this planet battling its inhabitants. Surviving. Hunting. Taking on a dog-like creature as his pet (it’s actually pretty endearing). And when he’s ready to bounce off this rock, he uses a beacon at an empty supplies bunker to attract any bounty hunter ship in the area. His goal? To simply get his hands on a ship and get the hell out of dodge. Maybe even find his home planet of Furya.
Part two of Riddick goes to the bounty hunters and it really becomes their story. Two groups ultimately show up to answer Riddick’s call. One is rough group of muscle-bound grunts led by a despicable jerk – and presumed rapist (based on some dialogue uttered by a woman chained up on his ship) – the other is led by Johns (fans of Pitch Black will automatically pick up on the name), a classy, if you can say that, group of professionals driven by another motive other than collecting money.
Riddick has assumed a part in the film at this point as being a menace as deadly as anything on the planet. He’s a force of nature to these bountry hunters. It’s good to see him – moreover Vin Diesel – doing what he does best. It also opens the film up to a little humor. And by the time the third section of Riddick rolls around into pure “creature feature” territory it’s both a bounty hunter/Riddick story with a few delicious turns and kills along the way.
The love bestowed upon this universe by both writer-director David Twohy and Vin Diesel is apparent. The creature designs are awesome and the action is a lot of fun. There’s a fair amount of corny dialogue and line delivery as well as some weird sexual overtones pulsing throughout the film, too. I mean straight-up puzzling sexual overtones that will make you feel uncomfortable or just shake your head at its ridiculous nature, but that doesn’t detract one from getting involved in the film’s ride.
Riddick was clearly shot on a budget and all of the film’s environments and critters are CG – sometimes it works, sometimes its rough around the edges. But you can’t help but applaud the scope, especially when you see a scene like Riddick fighting creatures with his bare hands on rocky cliff in the rain at night with lightning crashing down…it’s just too cool.
Riddick, to me, is cool again. He may have lost his “cool factor” just a little in the wake of The Chronicles of Riddick, but he’s certainly earned it back with this film.