By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Much of this film series bravado comes from the fact that a lot of people are cheering for a character who finds himself more often trapped in a life of unwanted scruitiny and misfortune. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a character who may be the last of his kind; his world was destroyed by a Zhylaw, a Necromonger who feared a prophecy. Much like the ancient myths of yore, he commanded that all male firstborns on the planet Furya be killed. In Greek myth, the Titan Chronos ate Zeus, and in Biblical tradition, Moses was cast away on the river Nile only to be found and adopted into another culture before a rebellion broke out.
If this series can be dissected as a discourse in man’s inhumanity to man, then this entry is a fine return to form that Pitch Black represented. The Chronicles film was more like a retelling of Moses taking on the Egyptian Empire. But instead of retreating to the desserts, this lone Furyan warrior challenged them and became their next king.
But to become their ruler meant a lot of self-sacrifice. Riddick does not have much to gain by becoming their next god of war. His restlessness becomes his weakness as none of the other Necromonger generals really want to follow him. In a plot to get rid of him, they obey Riddick’s command to visit his home world of Furya, but where they take him is some other world. A few deals are being made to ensure an easy transition of power from Riddick to Vasko, but more backstabbings happen as Krone tries to off him. He succeeds by burying him under a ton of rock and debris.
But Riddick is a hard man to kill. Much of this film’s first act drifts about silently showing how much of a survivalist he is. Diesal owns the role by showing that he is versatile enough in his mostly quiet performance. As Riddick, he gains a measure of humanity by saving a pup, an alien dog, from potential death, but from there, much of the plot is no better or worse than watching John Carpenter’s The Fog with a touch of Aliens mixed in. The alien crawfish-scorpion like creatures arrive like an impending storm. Sadly, they lack a ferocity to really make them a viable threat. They are more like a macguffin, a plot device used to hurry the story along.
And when the tale is simply about escaping a prison planet with two different camps wanting Riddick’s head, the hilarity comes from showing who is more inept at catching this hardened soldier. He looks like he can take on Stallone’s Rambo any day of the week. When one of them just happens to be someone from Riddick’s past, with military experience, that’s when the story finally gets interesting.
This subplot does not pick up steam until much later, and had that only been hinted at from the movie’s start, then this film may not feel so dragged out. A few of the supporting characters feel like they do not really need to be part of the narrative, like Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) and Diaz (Dave Bautista). Their sudden motivations are not all that clear and they do not add to the developing tensions between Riddick and a merc, Boss Johns (Matt Nable), or the bounty-hunter Santana (Jordi Molla) for that matter.
Molla does a great job at playing up a nervous leader of a wild pack of rogues just looking to earn a quick buck. Sadly, they chose the wrong person to collect. Had it have been someone else, they might have been able to get their just rewards, but instead, what they are after might as well be their last night. When this movie is basically a revamp of Pitch Black with higher production values, that’s all that’s needed to say good night, sayonara, or arrivederci.
Now the next question is how long it will take for another Riddick film to be made. This reworking of the franchise may well start to look at Riddick’s past if the fans want it enough.
3 Stars out of 5