Thirteen years ago the world was introduced to Richard B. Riddick and a new actor whose star was on the rise in Hollywood by the name of Vin Diesel in the film Pitch Black. The Sci-Fi Horror genre had not really seen a film like this in years, arguably since 1979’s Alien. Low budget, high concept alien horror, with a cast of mostly no name or character actors. It did poorly in theatres as most films of this nature do, but found a life out of them to become a cult phenomenon. Four years later on the success of Vin and the cult movement success of Pitch Black the studio revisited the character of Riddick in The Chronicles of Riddick. Much like Alien became Aliens and moved from Sci-Fi Horror to Sci Fi Action Riddick took the same path. It unfortunately was largely unsuccessful and the stuios (105 million dollar) gamble that now world wide action star Diesel would bring the crowd in for this actioner fell short by about half.
Writer Director David Twohy and Diesel went too far and lost all of the horror for mediocre action. They wanted to make Riddick some form of Super-(anti)-hero, with actual powers and a back story of a world we wanted to learn more of. A complex mythology was created and ultimately never delivered on.
Race forward eight years and Vin whom’s star does not burn nearly as brightly has gotten over his ego and returned to the franchises and types of movies that made him in the first place and are once again doing well. He and Twohy wanted to return to Riddick and pitched it to the studios who balked and balked; UNTIL Vin Diesel took the lowest allowed salary for a star just to get the movie made! That means he really believed in it and so did Twohy. Did they deliver on their original promise and premise?
Well…no. Point in fact they seem to want to ignore all the interviews and concepts that they discussed after the second film. Now they claim they saw that they went too far and wanted to bring Riddick back to being the animal; and they don’t quite deliver on that either. What do they deliver? A movie in three acts that are only tenuously connected to each other by geography and character.
In act one we see Riddick betrayed and left for dead on a desolate alien planet. He spends the majority of this act coming to understand the planet and learning how to survive its environment, flora and most especially fauna. What is well done in this is the handling of the passage of time by the usage of a make up effect showing him healing from grievous wounds obtained during the betrayal. It’s rather well done and easy to miss if you don’t notice.
Act Two is a boy and his dog. Why is there a dog with this serial killer and animal? Because I think they want to show “he’s in touch with his animal side” – I kid you not. It’s not done poorly it just feels weird. Diesels natural charisma allows him to carry this first half of the movie well enough that it’s not completely painful to watch. Of course this Robinson Crusoe in space story is of course interrupted by the threat of a particularly nasty local life form showing up and Riddick uses an escape beacon to draw down mercs who will bring their ships for him to escape on.
Act three, the mercs and the local wildlife. This just about fails on all levels. It feels like a complete rehash of Pitch Black with the addition of the mercs from the second film. It’s totally paint by numbers with twists you can see a mile away. Even Katie Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) can’t help Diesel elevate this section. It’s just short of comedic as people begin getting knocked off and you just can’t bring yourself to care.
I will say the final moments of the film had me leaning forward wondering if they had the balls to do what they threatened.
The effects were ok, the sets were clearly sets and were cheap reminding me so much of the 1960s sci-fi at times. That wouldn’t be bad if it were intentional but I don’t think it was. I will give Patrick Tatopolous creature design an “A” for giving me something I’ve never seen before and will see plenty of rip offs on SyFy soon enough.
So for the TL;DR crowd
The movie is a mediocre mess. It’s not completely horrific and at moments is kind of fun. Overall if you wanted to see it it’s a rental at best. If you want to get the feel of the movie and see it done better, watch Pitch Black, you’ll feel better off for it.
Tomorrows review will have keen fashion sense.