The sad thing about “Riddick”—the third film in the sci fi action series that also includes “Pitch Black” from 2000 and “The Chronicles of Riddick” in 2004—is that the first fifteen to twenty minutes set up a much better story than the one that actually follows. Our hero Riddick (Vin Diesel) who, as you will remember from the first two movies, is good at fighting and killing and whose eyes are better suited for the night, wakes up buried beneath a pile of rocks on an unknown desert planet. After a convenient three or four minute narration/flashback combination where we find out that he was double-crossed and left for dead, Riddick makes the long trek across the harsh alien landscape, looking for a way to get back to his home planet.
For these first fifteen to twenty minutes, it’s just Riddick against the elements. He resets his dislocated legs back in their place, he fashions some weapons out of animal bones, he makes friends with a wild canine puppy who eventually becomes his loyal companion, and he even fights a couple nasty scorpion looking alien creatures. If writer-director David Twohy had kept the rest of the film like this, if it had just been Diesel by himself having to survive on this hostile planet and try to find a way home, “Riddick” could have actually been decent. Not great—in fact I wouldn’t consider “Pitch Black” a great movie either—but for being the third film in a franchise that I think everyone has forgotten about by now (“Chronicles” was made in 2004) it could have at least been tolerable.
Sadly, at about the 30-minute mark it’s almost like Twohy just gives up and for the rest of the film’s 119-minute running time. “Riddick” becomes a generic and boring sci- fi actioner involving bounty hunters and predatory aliens that is pretty much a rehash of “Pitch Black.” Two ships touch down on the planet, responding to an emergency beacon Riddick has activated. One ship contains a rag tag group of bounty hunters led by Santana (Jordi Molla) who may as well be wearing a nametag that says “Hi, I’m going to be a total asshole until I get killed off!” The other ship contains a group of clean, neatly dressed people led by Boss Johns (Mat Nable) whose son was with Riddick during the events of “Pitch Black” and wants to locate Riddick to find out what happened to his son.
Basically, what we’ve got here are a total of eleven one-dimensional, stupid tough guys (and the token tough women) just waiting to get killed off, either by Riddick or by those predatory aliens. Johns and Santana are the only ones who have any kind of personality; the rest may as well be slabs of meat. And so the movie just sort of goes through the motions, Riddick stalks and stealth kills a few of the idiots and then eventually they join forces to fight the predatory aliens. The last half hour is a dark, rainy and blurry mess devoid of any kind of originality or creativity and the climax/resolution is so underwhelming that when the end credits began to role I thought to myself: “Is that it?”
Diesel isn’t the most expressive actor out there but he has the right rugged, badass look and if “Riddick” had remained a “One Man Survivalist” movie he would have been perfect. Aside from the superfluous narration he barely says anything and usually the less he says the better. But of course, since those other one-dimensional idiots show up we’re subjected to Diesel’s, painfully slow, deep voiced (with a hint of gravel) dialogue deliveries. No matter what movie, he always sounds like he’s just woken up from a nap and is still groggy.
It’s too bad. “Riddick” had potential. Twohy had a chance to make something at least somewhat different and unexpected (in terms of Vin Diesel action movie, that is) but he simply throws it away, deciding to take no risks and offering no surprises whatsoever. Leaving us with yet another forgettable and pointless sequel.