Directed by David Twohy.
Starring Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Molla, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista and Nolan Gerard Funk.
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
Before you watch this film, you’ve got to ask yourself a few questions. Do you like space aliens? Do you enjoy watching people get killed in a variety of ways? Do you enjoy looking at topless women? If your answer is yes to all three then Riddick is the film for you. Without meaning to oversimplify Riddick as a picture, that is basically what you are going to get – no more, no less.
The film starts off well enough as we find our favourite Furyan abandoned on an inhospitable planet, wounded and surrounded by creatures that seem to be very keen on having a nibble at his innards.
For fans of the series (I would most definitely include myself in that category), the opening half hour is excellent as you get to see what the character of Riddick is all about as he gets back to basics by studying and subsequently killing all immediate threats. We get to see how Riddick can survive in such bleak and scorched surroundings as well as touches of the character’s black humour.
When Riddick realises that it’s time to get off the planet, he activates a homing beacon sending a signal to bounty hunters far and wide that the famous Riddick is alive. Unfortunately, upon arrival of these mercenaries, problems within the film also begin to appear.
Very quickly, we see a bog-standard grouping of bounty hunters and you’re immediately bombarded with the familiar tune of large muscles, larger guns and overly aggressive soldier types. Although many of the characters are one-dimensional or just plain dull, one in particular stands out as being there only to make up the numbers and that is Dahl, played by Katee Sackhoff.
Her inclusion as the tough-solider-woman-type seems to only be in the picture to serve as fodder for unwanted sexual advances from most of the other characters. The script for her doesn’t really help as lines like “I don’t fuck men, I do fuck them up occasionally” only hinder what could have been an interesting character – much more akin to the female leads in the first Riddick outing, Pitch Black.
Annoyingly, Dahl is also in the film so all the teenage boys in the audience get to see some boobs and so one of the biggest issues with the film arises: the misogyny. Whether it’s the writing or David Twohy’s direction, this film does not portray women as anything but sex objects. With very few female characters available, the ones on screen are reduced to naked writing groupies, a rape victim and even the soldier Dahl, who of course still has time to get her boobs out.
While women in action films normally take a secondary role, Riddick seems to go a step further by making all women seemingly useless to the story unless of course they can be dominated by men. While not noticeable straight away, the portrayal of women does veer wildly away from the series’ norm as this franchise has always given its female characters something to say or do that’s more vital to the story. Unfortunately, the more you think about this, the more your enjoyment of this film will wane.
It’s not just that however; the other main problem is that of pacing. At about two hours, Riddick feels overlong and at some points a little tedious. This is a shame as the previous two films kept the story trim to allow you to get the very most out of a character that doesn’t do much other than kill people.
On the subject of the violence: in Riddick, there’s a little too much standing around and talking about killing, rather than actually killing. Whilst not one to advocate extreme violence in movies, with 20 minutes trimmed off the running time, this piece could have been up there with its predecessors in terms of action. Instead, we see massive gaps between tame set-pieces that – while still gory – don’t hold that same visceral power that we know that titular character is capable of.
Of course I could be being overly critical as I am a fan of the series. And it has to be said that there are a couple of excellent scenes which brought a gleeful smile to my face. One in particular involving a box, a machete and a dispatched goon brought massive grins to everyone in the screening.
Also (with the notable exception of the hover bikes) the effects in this film are wonderful. The various creatures in the picture fit perfectly in this universe and you can feel yourself getting excited every time a new predator gets introduced.
Similarly, the environment is extremely well designed. A harsh and scorched landscape that uses shades of yellow and orange makes the planet look both vibrant and bleak – perfectly matched up with our hero and his attitude.
Unfortunately, the ending did leave a little to be desired as it didn’t really gel with everything that had happened before it. It seemed to lack the dark qualities of the endings of either Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick but this of course could be a good thing. We could eventually be in for a fourth instalment where we as an audience can find out a little more about Riddick and his past. Of course this hasn’t been confirmed; this is purely a fan hoping.
All in all, while this film does have its issues, Vin Diesel is still enjoyable as the character and in all honesty there aren’t that many films available currently that can so easily appeal to my inner teenager. While the story may plod along in parts, if you’re a big fan of the franchise or are indeed a teenage lad looking for an easy film to watch, chances are you’ll love this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Ozzy Armstrong is a Stargate and Rocky superfan. Follow him on Twitter.