‘Riddick’ Review: Back to Pitch Black
Vin Diesel is strapping on his goggles and lacing up the boots once more to reprise his role as Richard B. Riddick in this third entry to the troubled sci-fi series. With a stripped down budget that only amounts to a third of the second film’s cost, the Riddick series is going back to its Pitch Black roots over a decade after the original hit theaters and helped launch Diesel’s career.
After The Chronicles of Riddick’s massive budget didn’t pay off for Universal, the chances of a second big-budget Hollywood sequel were slim to none. Universal wanted out of the Riddick business, but Vin Diesel was able to cut a deal with them, appearing in an unpaid cameo at the very end of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in order to get the rights back to Riddick, thus allowing for this sequel to be made.
With the rights to Riddick about to revert back to Universal, Diesel and director David Twohy had to move quickly if they ever wanted their character to see the light of day again.
In an age of actors and directors begging for money to finance their passion projects on Kickstarter, you have to respect Diesel for doing everything he could to help bring Riddick back for fans, even putting his own home on the line and dipping into his deep pockets to provide millions of dollars to fund the film. Granted the film mostly exists as a way for Diesel to make himself look like the ultimate badass and fulfill his own geeky fantasies, fans of the series, like myself, are glad to see the Riddick character not staying dead, despite his less-than-stellar box office returns on investments.
As a fan of both previous films, I have to admit that I’m in the minority who really enjoyed Chronicles of Riddick and actually liked it more than Pitch Black. I mention this because Riddick is much more in line with Pitch Black than its sequel. Instead of trying to be an epic planet-jumping space opera like the second, the latest installment in the series gets back to the basics and focuses once again on Riddick being stuck in a single area on a small alien planet and trying to escape.
Much as Pitch Black was, Riddick is a throwback to the good ol’ days of R-rated sci-fi action films with grizzled badass men trying to kill one another in gritty and ugly environments. As you would hope for in this sequel, the film has everything you would want in an ‘80s and ‘90s B-movie, including tons of fighting, gruesome kills (don’t watch the trailers if you want to be shocked), cheesy one-liners, and even some female nudity to help the film really earn its R rating.
While Diesel is as good as ever as the Riddick character, the rest of the characters are average at best, fitting their generic action movie roles and serving little purpose other than to help increase the film’s final kill count. You know the movie isn’t going to win any awards when Vin Diesel playing Riddick is one of the best actors on set. And sorry Dredd fans, Karl Urban is in the movie, but he only shows up for about a one-minute cameo — so don’t expect much from him this time.
Even with Riddick managing to stay entertaining from beginning to end, it winds up still being too much like the original and as a result doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The only big difference between Pitch Back and Riddick is a scene-stealing CGI alien dog that Riddick adopts early on in the film and that brings more emotion to the film than any of the other characters have yet to do in the entire series.
The CGI on the space dog and the rest of the aliens Riddick comes into contact with on the planet is spectacular; however, the same cannot be said about other CGI in the film. The low budget clearly shows in the hover bike scenes that look about as real as the special effects you’d find in made-for-TV movies or well-done fan-made YouTube videos.
It’s good to see Diesel and his friend director David Twohy doing whatever they can to keep Riddick alive, but due to the film’s lower budget and plot that stays too consistent with the original, this is not Riddick at his best. Depending on which of the first two films you liked better, your view of the latest will differ.
Personally, I was hoping for a little more of an epic like Chronicles, but Riddick ended up feeling like a far less scary rehashing of the original. Hopefully this sequel will be enough to help kick-start the series like Diesel’s other early 2000′s franchise, The Fast and the Furious. Riddick gets 3 out of 5 stars (Good).