Directed by: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Roul Trujillo, Danny Blanco Hall
Rated: Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
The “Chronicles of Riddick” franchise (which began with the fabulous B-movie scifi/horror flick “Pitch Black” in 2000) has grown to include two movies, a direct-to-DVD animated feature, and two video games. Now, another installment on film has come out, this time titled simply “Riddick.” Rather than following the previous film (“The Chronicles of Riddick”) and focusing on interstellar politics and opulence, series creator David Twohy has wisely returned to the formula that made the first film so good: a bunch of people who don’t necessarily get along forced to work together to survive a mass assault by freaky-looking monsters. In the vein of all great sequels, “Riddick” is more of the same, but different.
The film opens with an unnecessarily long but still enjoyable prologue, in which our antihero protagonist, Riddick (Vin Diesel) finds himself betrayed and left for dead on a deserted and desert-like planet. As he sets his broken leg and slowly makes his way toward shelter, he talks the audience through a couple flashbacks of how he got there. He captures one of the dog-like creatures on the planet and keeps it as a pet, and eventually finds a small station where he can summon emergency transport.
Of course, those of us who know Riddick know that, as a serial killer, escaped convict, and general terrible person, he won’t exactly be getting hold of a ride off planet in a nice way.
Two separate bounty hunter gangs respond to the call hoping to cash in on the price on his head. There’s Santana (Jordi Molla), a hot-tempered juvenile twit, and his crew, and then there’s Boss Johns (Matt Nable) and his well-trained team, including Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), who has the unenviable role of being the token girl. Fans of the Riddick series will recognize Boss Johns’ last name – he has a bone to pick with Riddick that has nothing to do with taking him in.
The two crews get off to a bad start, and things are further complicated when a shift in the environment unleashes an army of venomous creatures strong enough to punch through metal and able to strike fast as a cobra.
There’s a lot to like here. Diesel created the role of Riddick in the first film, elevating it from plain mediocrity to thoroughly enjoyable cult-classic status. He’s in his element, able to use his charisma and physical acting skills to great effect.
The effects are mostly excellent – computer graphics have come a long way from 2000, when “Pitch Black” graced the screen. The creatures are well designed, and the dog-like thing Riddick adopts is realistic enough for us to empathize with (which isn’t a wise move for the audience – remember, this is a horror film. Don’t get attached to anybody except maybe our hero).
The supporting cast are mostly solid. Boss Johns isn’t written all that well, but Nable makes him believable most of the time anyway. Dahl beating up Santana every time he hits on (or straight-up assaults) her is pretty cool – Sackhoff handles the role of the only girl on an all-boy team perfectly. Sadly, the script betrays her at the end, when her protestations of never sleeping with men are overridden by Riddick’s aura of awesomeness (or something. It’s never explained why she decides to hook up with him).
But really, for a B-movie of any genre, let alone a sci-fi/horror one, to treat women as anything but eye candy and victim fodder is amazing, so by that standard “Riddick” is awesome. It’s a pretty low standard, mind, but still. If that doesn’t bother you, and you like cheesy sci-fi horror, give “Riddick” a look. If you dislike any of the things in the previous sentence, stay away.