[Note from the editor: This review comes to us from prospective staff writer Melissa Hunter. Enjoy!]
I was really looking forward to seeing Riddick, so much so that I purposely avoided everything written about it, just in case it tainted my perceptions or ruined any elements of the movie for me. If I’m honest, now that I’ve seen it, I realize I need not have bothered.
Lauded as a picture that would herald the franchise’s return to the subtle glory of the Pitch Black days, Riddick was rumored to be a project that would delight those fans who enjoyed the original and were left wanting more by the subsequent Chronicles of Riddick. I was surprised and slightly impressed by the news that Vin Diesel himself had to personally secure funding in order to finish the film. It’s obvious that Riddick is a character close to his heart, as he should be, considering this is by far the most challenging and memorable role Diesel has played in his intermittently successful career.
When we last left Riddick, he had killed Lord Marshal, the leader of the death-worshipping Necromonger cult, and assumed the throne soon after. Along the way, Riddick also learned that he was the sole survivor of a planet called Furya.
With an overwhelming desire to find his home world, Riddick is tricked and betrayed by Commander Vaako (Karl Urban), who promises him a ship and the location of Furya in exchange for stepping down from his role as Lord Marshal. Keen to stop moping on his throne and bedding dozens of exotic looking women, Riddick accepts Vaako’s offer and travels with a group of Necromongers to a desolate planet, where he realizes quickly (but not quickly enough, it would seem) that he’s been duped.
The first thirty minutes or so of Riddick were quite enjoyable. Betrayed and left for dead on an inhospitable planet, Riddick attempts to overcome his injuries while simultaneously fighting off vicious alien creatures that are all intent on having him for lunch. At this point, I’m struck by two things. Firstly, if I ever had any doubts as to just how badass Riddick is, they were completely vanquished in this opening sequence. He is hardcore.
And secondly, every planet this dude steps onto wants to kill him. And they’re all populated with scary nasties. But this is good, because this is what we want to see in a Riddick film. This segment of the movie is predominantly silent, with little to no dialogue apart from the narration, and while this could be seen as a risky maneuver, I thought it was done rather well.
It doesn’t last long, though. After overcoming a few personal challenges and befriending a hell-beast, he unfortunately moves on from solitary and the dialogue starts. With his new four-legged friend in tow, Riddick happens across an empty mercenary station. Obviously needing an exit off the planet, he activates the beacon inside, which will alert any mercenaries in the area to his presence. We’re then introduced to a number of stereotypical bounty hunter-type folks who come in two waves, and we know that the majority of them will soon become Planet Nasty fodder and provide ample opportunity for Riddick to show us just how cunning he is.
Initially, I was delighted to find out that Katee Sackhoff was in this, playing a sniping, hawkeyed bounty hunter named Dahl, but I feel she was grossly misused in this movie. There’s also a rather unconvincing performance by Matthew Nable as Boss Johns, the vengeful man in charge of the second wave of mercenaries to answer the call. At this point, I was mostly disappointed as the realization dawned on me that there would be no more Karl Urban.
Santana (Jordi Molla) as the resident rapist (as if Riddick himself wouldn’t have provided enough of a challenge) was the only truly believable performance among this cast. He pulled off disgusting and disturbed quite well, and because this role was equally hateful and entertaining, this particular character’s path ended in an amusing way.
The rest of the gang provided a few expected chortles and inevitable death scenes. If I’m honest, my favorite performance (and character) in this film was the dog.
I’m also dismayed by the obvious stupidity of the group, and how easy it is for Riddick to manipulate them. That said, while some of the death/kill scenes were riddick-ulous (hah!), they were also hilarious and prompted one or two guffaws from yours truly. Riddick plays with his toys for a while and we have fun watching him, all the while wondering when the planet is going to hurry up and murder everyone. Eventually (spoiler alert!), the planet does murder everyone, but I have to admit, it was a bit anticlimactic. For me, the first third of this film was far more enjoyable than the last two.
Parts of Riddick worked, parts of it didn’t. The pacing felt wrong to me, and the placement and order of the acts appeared random and without structure. The ending and the climax of the escape felt like it belonged in the middle of the story, and I got the impression that a lot of possibly important scenes ended up on the editing room floor to keep the runtime just shy of two hours.
Some things were just not explained in an adequate fashion. Like why Johns would return for Riddick after initially abandoning him, for example. Oh, and of course, the implication that Sackhoff’s lesbian character would go straight for Riddick. But who am I kidding? Whose sexual orientation wouldn’t do a complete U-turn when the badass anti-hero tells you he likes your boobs and wants to be “balls deep” inside of you?
With Diesel credited as starring and producing, and with David Twohy writing and directing and probably hoping that the third time would be the charm, this isn’t exactly the return to form or “back to basics” we were promised, but rather a bit of a self-serving homage to everyone creatively involved.
All of the negatives aside, it wasn’t a total flop for me. While I had greater expectations, this was still a fun installment. As always, I enjoyed the duality of Riddick’s anti-hero nature, his general BAMF approach to everything, and of course, his voice. My mind wandered often as I listened to his voice…
And unlike the previous entry, this movie actually turned a decent profit, so chances are we’ll be seeing Richard B. Riddick again. It’ll worth be checking out the DVD when it gets released next month—there are certainly worse things you could spend two hours of your life doing.