Film Review: Riddick
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 12:10
It started in 2000 as a low-budget science fiction movie called Pitch Black. The first in the series of these Riddick pictures was a pretty taut movie. Despite its odd subject matter, it was a surprise hit and made a boatload of cash. The success spawned a ludicrously expensive sequel – a horrible movie, which domestically grossed only half of what it cost: 105 million dollars.
It seemed that Riddick would never again touch the silver screen, but then something happened. The Fast and Furious franchise exploded, becoming one of the most profitable movies in history. Diesel starred in the majority of those films, so when the studio asked him to do more, he struck a deal. He’d be in later installments of the franchise if the studio agreed to help finance his pet project: the Riddick series. Plainly, the third installment in the Riddick franchise exists because Vin Diesel willed it to be so. This is apparent and unfortunately bogs the movie down with a lot of unnecessary plodding and sentimental details.
The film opens with our hero Richard B. Riddick languishing on a desert planet. He loafs around trying not to be eaten by the fauna, eventually relating the details of how he got there. He details a past in which he was a lord of his alien race and had all the naked women and wine a Vin Diesel could dream of – but trouble was brewing. A bunch of bad guys decide to betray him. They take him to this lost planet to kill him, but he kills them, escapes and is thus stranded. I couldn’t tell why they dethroned him, but Riddick grunts, “it’s because I was gettin’ soft.” After coming to this revelation, he decides to act like a caveman.
I found this section of the film to be almost unbearable because, apart from Riddick becoming stranded, nothing important to the actual story happens. The guys who strand him are never brought up again and, after a certain point, Riddick’s survival tactics cease to denote anything about the character. The actual plot comes (about 40 minutes into the film) when Riddick reaches an abandoned outpost and signals for help. But--oh, no! Riddick has a huge bounty on his head – to be doubled if he’s brought back dead. (Whoopty-doodily!) So, the beacon attracts only mercenaries who want to put his head in a box and mercenaries who want to have a conversation. The rest of the movie is about Riddick’s attempts to procure one of their ships and escape the planet.
During this section of the movie, things get better. There are actors to watch. No longer are we forced to watch Diesel act against poorly rendered cartoon aliens. This alone is cathartic. Sure, the characters are mostly just cliché dudes who spout clichés or do nothing at all, but at least they’re people.
Services are levied. We are delivered the horrible violence that the film’s R-rating promises, which ultimately amounts to a few moments of blissful carnage.
The problem with the movie is that it just isn’t very well thought out. In a prime example of this sentiment, a soldier approaches Riddick when the compound is about to be attacked by aliens (Riddick knows this, but no one else in the group does). When everyone else is distracted, the man quietly says to Riddick, “I know what’s coming.” Not a minute later, he starts shooting out the window and yelling, “I don’t know what they are, but they’re easy to kill.” He is then immediately killed by a creature. The movie is riddled with unnecessary scenes, like this one.
So. Mr. Diesel likes to pretend to kill lots of fictional CGI animals with a bone club; that much is clear. But what, what is the structure of this movie? It’s inscrutable. It’s not a terrible movie, but it just leaves a ton to be desired.