Directed by: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, Conrad Pla, Karl Urban
Running Time: 119 mins.
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
Following on from the events of The Chronicles of Riddick, we’re reminded that “you keep what you kill”, as Riddick (Vin Diesel) now commands the Necromonger army. Wishing to find his home world of Furya, Riddick is forced to turn to Vaako (Karl Urban), one of the few people who knows the planet’s location, to arrange transport. Once there, Riddick finds that all is not what it seems and he made a mistake with who he trusted. Discovering an abandoned outpost, Riddick transmits a distress signal knowing it will attract bounty hunters and lies in wait, unaware that one of the mercenaries that arrives has a personal connection to his past.
Riddick is a 119 minute sequel which follows two movies, the small budget Pitch Black which quickly became a cult favourite, following the survivors of a space ship crash landing who find themselves fighting to survive an onslaught of nocturnal creatures when the planet is plunged into a lengthy solar eclipse. For me it was one of those movies which had built up hype before it’s eventual release, and in that case, lived up to. Chronicles of Riddick, the follow up to Pitch Black, was made on a vastly increased Hollywood budget, and though I enjoyed it I can understand how it was a disappointment to many. It deviated far too much from Pitch Black, and become much more of a feature focused on Riddick alone rather than as part of an ensemble.
As a result of the disappointing box office performance of Chronicles, writer/director David Twohy and star/producer Vin Diesel struggled to get a third movie made, and have made it on a budget much closer to that of Pitch Black. What results is a movie that is a mash-up of the two, limited by it’s more modest budget, it takes elements from both, but unfortunately too many of the wrong elements. The pacing of the movie is beset with problems right from the outset. For the initial 25-30 minutes, the movie takes its time, trying to establish the planet on which we find ourselves, but takes too many liberties during this segment.
We see Riddick struggling to survive the local wildlife on the planet which all see him as the next meal, and him planning his way past an obstacle to get to a more habitable area of the planet whilst recounting in voiceover the details of how he was left here by the Necromongers. This is a necessity due to the way in which Chronicles ended, but could have easily been dealt with by using simpler or less lines of voiceover, instead we get an over-long indulgence that honestly begins to border on boredom.
Thankfully, once this opening sequence is over and done with, we do get some vast improvements, with the discovery of the abandoned outpost and the arrival of the bounty hunters – a rag-tag group of individuals, some of which are poorly written, but others who actually do present some interest and potential competitors on screen to Diesel’s Riddick. Best of these are the roles played by Jordi Mollà and Matt Nable as the leaders of two groups of bounty hunters squabbling over who is in charge. There’s also actress Katee Sackhoff who is a much stronger character than you would normally expect from this type of movie. Wrestler Dave Bautista also deserves a mention, being physically capable of matching Vin Diesel on screen, though he is not as solid a performer or playing a particularly strongly written character.
There is an issue though during the movie with some of the characters, or more specifically with some of the dialogue from the characters. There’s some rather strong misogynistic tones found in parts of the movie which sometimes feel a little too over the line when presented. Katee Sackhoff, being the only female in the group by no means comes across as a weak female character, but largely ignores these lines of dialogue instead of standing up to them. It doesn’t weaken her, and to be honest it’s more degrading to the male characters, but it took me out of the movie for a moment, which is a problem as the lines didn’t offend me, but may offend others. Not a movie to suggest for a first date perhaps.
The middle hour of the movie contains many elements that Riddick fans will eat up happily, and does contain some impressive moments which are worth seeing, but it’s towards the end of this part of the movie where it becomes a creature feature and, more specifically, tries to replicate directly the action and feel of some of the best moments from Pitch Black. It’s a hugely disappointing change of direction for the movie, as it is clearly re-treading the same ground we’ve already seen – some shots are a direct copy of shots from Pitch Black only with different creatures, which is a real shame as there was an opportunity to do something different. Up to that point the movie had begun to build momentum, but then just peters out.
Perhaps as a result of the movie being made on a lower budget than David Twohy had originally planned, but Riddick is, overall, a disappointment. It’s pacing is perilously uneven at parts, most notably during its opening and ending scenes. It also suffers from an ending that feels out of place and a bit of a cop out, making for a weak entry into the franchise and a thoroughly notable misstep. Given it’s budget of around $35-40 million and the fan base that comes with Riddick, it’s likely it will not be a financial failure, but unlikely it will do the kind of box-office business that is required to make further entries into the series possible.
2 out of 5 Nerds