The Chronicles of Riddick franchise has become known and received by the general audience as a sub-par action/sci-fi/thriller with mediocre acting, solid special effects, and the occasionally intense action sequences. Going into the newest installment, ingeniously titled Riddick, I hoped to at least be somewhat impressed by pigeon-holed actor Vin Diesel despite not having seen the previous films in the series. However, I was almost amazed by how unoriginal, slow and clouded it turned out to be. To make things worse, not having seen the others may have actually eased some of the pain.
The background to Riddick, which is told in the film in an incredibly confusing manner, continues five years after the events of the second film. Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) has defeated the Lord Marshall of the Necromonger fleet and takes the position himself. He then uses that position as leverage in a deal with Commander Vaako (Karl Urban, Lord of the Rings), trading the title for the location and escort to Furya, his home planet. Like all good villains, Vaako double crosses Riddick, transporting him to a foreign, savannah-coated planet and sending him buried into a rockslide upon arrival. Realizing the immense difficulty of surviving on the planet with a broken leg and hostile creatures like Jackals and Mud Demons, Riddick deploys an emergency distress beacon in a mercenary camp. Instead of assistance, two bands of mercs close in on the planet, targeting him for the massive reward on his head.
Even though I haven’t seen this installment’s predecessors Pitch Black (2000) or The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), I can safely say that originality is a major flaw. Just by reading the plot of Pitch Black I thought I had already seen at least the majority of it, as Riddick is a fugitive avoiding capture in both films, so already the main plotline is fueled by the same ideas of the first. Let’s put originality aside and examine the film on its own.
When I watch movies, plot is something that consistently sticks in my mind throughout the viewing process. Halfway through, the plot switches, abandoning the “Riddick versus Mercs” battle and turning to both parties needing to evacuate the planet due to an impending storm that will unleash an onslaught of Mud Demons. I think of this as a plot switch rather than a plot twist. It’s almost like a cop out on the original idea, which in this case may have worked better than the one they switched to. The action and story was more entertaining and energetic when Riddick was picking off his opponents, not holding their hands.
An opinion that almost everyone will see differently is that of the acting abilities of the star, Vin Diesel. When he’s not evading the police and pulling off crazy car stunts as Dom in Fast & Furious or doing special ops missions for the government as Xander Cage a.k.a. XXX, he’s the brutal hunter Riddick. Face it, the guy is basically the same role in every movie: a hardcore action junkie with the acting range of Keanu Reeves.
I will hand it to Diesel on this one as the actual role of Riddick may suit him the best out of the aforementioned characters. Nobody else comes to mind that could play the role of Riddick as well as he does. From start to finish he’s rugged, intense and sarcastic. Even when we find him chained to the wall fated to be decapitated, he has the audacity to say, “When it goes down, your head is the first to come off in the first five seconds.” The low growl he speaks with is unique to Diesel and this character, who is one of very few highlights in the film.
For fans of the Riddick series, I feel sorry for you. Aside from the continuation of the story into this one, there are very few connections to the other movies. The only signs of them are in horrible dialogue between Riddick and one of the mercenaries who Riddick is more familiar with. Even then, their conversations cannot be constituted as the means to an end because nothing results from it and the movie ends on a pathetic note.
The CGI effects, creatures and action is decent and could possibly whet the palate of any action or Vin Diesel fan as there are few remaining blockbusters left from the summer. In the end, lack of originality, plot and core cast really hurt a movie that could’ve seriously improved upon its middle of the road franchise.