Riddick

Riddick gets a few things right, but where these films really ought to have been establishing and expanding a mystique for this character, instead they have essentially given Vin Diesel a trilogy of one great flick and two okay vanity flicks.

To have any real hope of enjoying Riddick, you will need to have liked:
The Chronicles of Riddick
The Dark Knight Rises
Lockout
Aliens
Alien 3

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released September 6, 2013

Written by David Twohy, based on characters created by Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat

Directed by David Twohy

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Vin Diesel, Bokeem Woodbine, and Karl Urban

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

When we last saw Riddick (Diesel), he was ruling essentially his own people after defeating the previous leader in combat. But his semi-ally in that fight, Vaako (Urban), betrayed him and left him for dead on a stark planet. This sequence is very cool, with smart bad guys who know when they’re outmatched. Only Riddick is stupid, because he turns his back on people he should always be watching out for.

But if the betrayal hadn’t succeeded, we wouldn’t have had this third installment, so off we go.

Riddick, gravely injured and struggling for life on a burning hot planet, has to escape some of the wildlife of the planet while finding a way to see to his wounds. What’s more, the planet seems bereft of life beyond the rather outstanding creatures that live on it. These are spectacularly imagined and wonderfully executed critters that play into all of the jittery fears of bugs and creepy-crawlies that humanity tends to have.

But he discovers an outpost on the planet and activates a beacon, which is able to identify him (implying that there exists somewhere a centrally curated database of all of the people in the galaxy in question?). Now bounty hunters show up to take him and get rich.

Riddick, ever the survivor, is ready for them, but one of these bounty hunter groups is different. It appears that their leader has a past with Riddick, and the second in command is a tough, intermittently smart, gorgeous woman named Dahl (Sackhoff).

But of course, the planet is more than it appears– and the movie returns, somewhat effectively, to what worked for the first film. The planet spawns nightmarish creatures (really great creatures– really great) and the creatures home in on the human flesh, clearly seeking some fresh grub. Riddick also knew this would happen and so he is ready to work with the bounty hunters to get off the planet in one piece.

So now we have humanity against the inhumanity of humans and the inhumanity of aliens.

Not bad. And of course there’s a lot of gravelly voiced one-liners and all kinds of sci-fi action and violence. There’s also some heroism towards the end.

Critique

Because Riddick returns somewhat to the formula that worked for the first excellent film, this one works well. We have a guy who can see in the dark, who is brutally effective at violence, and who appears to have no weakness. This is the weakness. We need to see Riddick’s fatal flaw and we need to know why he is this way. The movies never get into that enough, so the mystique and legend we want to feel like we’re watching never really satisfy.

Add to that some at-times lame one-liners, some truly stupid behavior from these bounty hunters, some too easy attempts at manipulating the audience into feeling a certain way about characters, and the movie lacks somewhat.

That said, you’ve got Vin Diesel and Katee Sackhoff, both of whom are convincing in action roles AND who have the great ability to add depth and complexity to their characters. You’ve got a nice sub-plot involving the ‘good’ bounty hunter and his motivation. You have really cool visuals and fight scenes, along with– have I mentioned?– truly awesome creatures.

So Riddick ultimately provides a good, entertaining time at the movies, but doesn’t deliver a satisfying book-end to a story and character a lot of us fell in love with in Pitch Black. It’s important to note that every movie in this trilogy has been directed by David Twohy. Maybe if he gets one more chance, he can finally satisfy with the mythos surrounding Riddick.

Content warnings: Plenty of sci-fic and sometimes gruesome violence. A brief scene of scant nudity. 

Writing: 3.5         Acting: 3.5          Overall: 3.5

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About jared

Jared Garrett works as a writer, the manager of a program development department in the corporate world, and an instructional designer. He is a family man with an adorable, fun, and way-too-smart wife, six silly kids, a new house with an overgrown back yard, seven fish, and a bunch of chickens. He has written fiction, user manuals, SEO copy, radio scripts and textbooks and has won first place in the Mayhew writing contest at BYU and received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. He lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and is currently seeking representation for his myriad completed novels.
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