Riddick directed and written by David Twohy with Vin Diesel returning to the titular role of Richard B. Riddick that made him famous in 2000 with Pitch Black. Four years later Chronicles of Riddick came out and while it cast was stellar the plot not so much and so now 9 years later Twohy goes back to the roots of what made Pitch Black so interesting: people trying to survive on an alien world with no help in sight and oh by the way: blood thirsty animals are trying to kill you. It’s a B-level movie with A level stars.
Riddick begins with Riddick rising from the dead after being left by his Necromongers, a brief cameo by Karl Urban reprising his role as Vaako dangles the carrot of helping find his homeworld. Riddick takes it hook line and one fall off a tall cliff later and Riddick has to fend for his life because everything on this world is trying to kill him.
The size of Chronicles that made the movie so bloated is turned down to focus for the first act on Riddick surviving. From making weapons to poisoning himself to build up an immunity to the toxicity to even getting a dog which just like Tony Stark getting a kid sidekick in Iron Man 3 is good thing. The Mad Max vibe was prefect since the feline CGI creature from Chronicles was probably the best thing of the entire movie.
The helpful discovery by Riddick’s dog that things may get worse moves the plot along to a deserted Mercenary encampment and a giant: SOS button that brings down several ships. They’e all looking for one thing: Riddick, preferably dead.
Two sets of crews, a merc crew led by Santana played by Jordi Mollà and a military crew led by Boss Johns played by Matt Nable their differing styles helps give the soon to be redshirts and one red skirt, Dahl played by Katee Sackoff. Along with their arrival is large call back to Pitch Black with Boss Johns being the father of departed drug addict/law man Johns played by Cole Hauser.
Once the ships are disabled (so Riddick doesn’t take them, smart move) the countdown clock begins and Riddick’s psychologically messing with the crew is a great call back to Pitch Black even if Pitch Black did it with cleaner cuts. The bodies being to drop one by one, some unseen by Riddick and some by the little beasties that come out of the ground when a rain storm hits.
And for the most part it works. Dahl is given enough story to work with and is not treated as arm candy, Johs is looking for answers to why his son is dead and Santana just wants to get paid and get off the rock. Most of the merc characters are given enough personalities to not come off as cardboard cut outs. It’s unfortunate, Nick Chinlund couldn’t reprise his role of Toombs. All in all it’s drama with action and not an action movie with drama.
The planet itself along with it’s creatures is fun little place from the dingos to the eels in the water to the long tailed scorpions that serve as the main villain of the movie. I heartily agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the shots looked very Frazetta-esque.
The ending was a little bit of the let down and so were the SFX sounds for the lasers. I may sound like a whiney geek but did the SFX for those lasers sound so weak. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to see a science fiction franchise that isn’t Resident Evil getting a second go round but sometimes the SFX sounded too B-movie.
In hindsight it would have been nice to begin and end the movie with Vaako. Something other than what we got because it felt like after surviving this journey through this planet and escaping by the skin of his teeth there was no prize besides escape and while that sounds like a great emotional prize it’s the physical prize (no Katee Sackoff is not treated as a prize, thankfully) that I was looking for just something besides Riddick riding off into the sunset like in Pitch Black.
Good movie and probably worth seeing in IMAX.