Riddick’s Back, But He’s Running in Circles
When we last saw the legendary outlaw Riddick (Vin Diesel) he had inadvertently seen himself crowned as the Lord Marshal of the Necromongers, a position he did not want and one that was just as equally coveted by the bloodthirsty and ambitious Commander Vaako (Karl Urban). Tricked into thinking he’s going to be returning to his long-lost home world of Furya for one final look, he is instead taken to a seemingly dead planetoid and summarily left there. Injured and on his own, Riddick discovers that the nameless planet isn’t as devoid of life as was initially assumed, all of the animals apparently intent on making the newcomer, as well as one another, their latest lunch.
He thrives, of course, proving once again as far as like-tempered men are concerned, Riddick is unbelievably hard to kill. But a storm is coming, and it is one this almost unstoppable villain isn’t at all certain he can survive. His senses restored, recovered from all his injuries, he decides now is the time to make his reappearance to the universe at large. Activating an emergency beacon designed for mercenaries facing unforeseen trouble, Riddick waits, biding his time until a different sort of killer arrives only to discover they need the help of the man their hunting in order to survive every kind of danger this particular planet has to offer.
The great thing about Riddick is that it doesn’t try to make believe that The Chronicles of Riddick never happened. While I liked the 2004 sequel to Pitch Black, the movie wasn’t without its grandiose overblown problems. And, to put it mildly, I was in the minority as far as opinions on that one were concerned, and even though the cult following its developed over the past nine years isn’t anything to scoff at in the same breath it wouldn’t have been shocking had producer/star Diesel and writer/director David Twohy decided to imagine the second flick never happened.
But they don’t do that. While the film is noticeably pared down, while the epic designs of the last effort are put on hold, that doesn’t mean they don’t acknowledge where the character has been for the past nine years. They use his time with the Necromongers to grow Riddick’s mythology, to help shape his character even more, allowing the last decade to feed his desires and to show why it was he could for all intents and purposes so easily tricked.
That’s the good news, and while that’s not all of it the stuff coming from the negative side of the equation sadly overpowers a great deal of the positives. Not only is the movie in most ways a virtual remake of Pitch Black, some of the key plot points regarding one particular character refer directly back to it, Twohy and Diesel’s usual strong depiction of women is flipped in the opposite direction with this outing. The rampant misogyny cursing through the sequel, especially as it pertains to one of the female bounty hunters played by “Battlestar Galactica” and “24” star Katee Sackhoff, crassly given the name Dahl, is oftentimes off-putting. Worse, it doesn’t make any sense as it pertains to the main character, the equal footing he allows anyone he considers close to his level never before having a gender bias.
The frustrating thing is that Twohy is a very good director. The action sequences in this thing have a kinetic kick to them bigger budgeted productions (Riddick was made for a fraction of the cost of its predecessor, the director and star financing it themselves) would kill to have. More, all of it makes visual sense, the filmmaker doing a glorious job of creating his world and the environment the characters inhabit making the terror and the bloodletting resonate in ways it never would have otherwise. Some of the moments in this thing are close to amazing, and even at 119 minutes for all of its familiarity to the film that started this series and the forgone nature of the majority of the dramatics I can’t say I was ever bored by any second of it.
Yet as much as he and Diesel love the character, as beholden to the fans as they feel to do him justice, Riddick is frustratingly half-baked. It never goes to the level that it needs to in order to fully succeed, following in the footsteps in the successful entry of the series oddly afraid to slice and dice a pathway entirely of its own design. The perceived failure of the last outing has made the pair, of all things, timid, a trait that sadly shows its colors far too much of the time, and if stories with this character are going to continue than that’s one facet that has to immediately change.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)