Riddick is an interesting movie. For people who have been complaining that R-rated action movies are few and far between, this one has a lot of what we have been missing. There is a ton of blood and gore, gratuitous nudity (including that of Katee Sackhoff), a lot of sexual innuendo, and heavy loads of intense violence. While that is refreshing in the world of watered down action and horror movies, there is still a problem.
What Riddick has in R-rated goodies, it lacks in a cohesive story and good characters. There is absolutely nothing here to see for anyone that cares about a good story.
When the movie starts, we just have Riddick alone on a planet, dragging himself alone with a broken leg. He is also trying to avoid getting eaten by giant dingo dog hybrid creatures who want nothing more than to kill him. When he finally gets to a safe spot where the animals don’t sense him, he has an even bigger adversary in a giant crap-scorpion hybrid creature.
Honestly, the opening to this movie was fantastic. I saw it in IMAX and it looked incredible. Plus, with Vin Diesel, it was clear that he was in danger but you believed in Riddick the entire time. While the fixing of his broken leg was really cringe-worthy (in a good way), he was running full speed in no time at all, which seemed a bit like the broken leg was just a plot device to make his life look more in peril.
As a matter of fact, the script for this movie is full of plot devices like that. It is also full of horrible dialogue.
The entire opening of the movie is awesome while Riddick is running from the dingo-dogs and fighting the giant scorpion-crabs, but when he does his voice over to bring people up to date, it is just cringe-worthy (in a bad way). It is clear that Vin Diesel has a true, and great, love for the character of Riddick and really wants to expand the character’s world, but this movie would have been better with less of the exposition.
The entire sequence explaining how he got to this planet after Chronicles of Riddick would have been best left on the cutting room floor, but was needed for fans of the franchise (of which Vin Diesel is the world’s biggest fan).
Next up, Riddick captures a dingo-dog puppy, cages it and then uses it as a test subject to work with the venom of the scorpion-crab monsters, ending up making both himself and the puppy immune to their venom (I think. They never made that clear, but I am pretty sure that was the point of those scenes). Then the puppy grows up and he and Riddick have a great pet-companion relationship. Honestly, next to Riddick, the dog was the best character in the movie.
After that, we get the plot device of a big storm on the way and Riddick realizes that means bad things are going to happen. He doesn’t let us in on it at the time, but it must be bad because he sends out a distress signal that lets everyone know it is him on the planet (he is still a wanted fugitive, and the bounty is now doubled if he is dead).
This brings two ships to the planet. The first ship is the ruthless, dirty bounty hunters led by Jordi Molla’s Santana. The second ship is more of a Firefly-Serenity styled ship, led by a captain named Johns. Anyone who saw Pitch Black knows what this character is on the planet for. Both ships want Riddick for different reasons and Santana doesn’t like anyone other than his crew, quickly becoming the human antagonist that movie viewers want to die the most.
None of that really matters in the grand scheme of things because there is not one person aboard either ship that means anything to the story. Unlike Pitch Black, which had great characters like Fry, Abu and Jack, there is no one on either ship with a character arc that makes you care whether they live or die. They are all just cannon fodder outside of Santana (who you want to die more than any other character), Diaz (Batista as a plot device), Dahl (Katee Sackhoff as a lesbian butt kicker who is the only character worth a damn) and Johns (who has an actual back story but ends up with a weak resolution).
When the monsters attack (it is from rain this time instead of pitch black), things pick up and the action goes non-stop from that point to the end where we get a weak conclusion to the battle. The monster action here is nice, although nowhere near as intense and the battles Riddick faced alone at the start of the film. Plus, it is miles below the Pitch Black battles.
Along the way, we get some of the worst dialogue in the world, with cheesy lines and sexual innuendo (such as Riddick telling Dahl that he will end up balls deep in her before it is all said and done). There were nice scenes of conflict between Dahl and Santana, which brings much needed humor to the movie, but the actual character development was completely ignored in the script.
At the end of the day, Riddick is a nice return to form when it comes to the simplicity of the concept. However, while the film looks great and has some intense battles at the beginning, and a brainless fight for their lives at the end, there is nothing here in the way of a story to care about.
Riddick is a movie that will allow you to have fun watching the carnage, blood, nudity and gore, but will leave you completely empty after leaving the theater. There is nothing of lasting value here outside of the sensory enjoyment of watching exploitation cinema.
Great review, Shawn. I always felt that Vin Diesel was trying too hard to create a franchise around a character that didn’t need one. Pitch Black was pretty entertaining on its own, and Riddick was cool as a main character, but he’s not Wolverine or Rambo. There’s nothing about him that warrants multiple films because he’s a simple intergalactic tough-guy; there aren’t many dimensions to him, and the movies so far haven’t made a conscious attempt to let him grow or give people more reasons to care about him. If anything, the visual effects are neat, but that’s pretty much it.