It’s been nearly nine years since the gravelly voiced intergalactic ex-convict, Richard B. Riddick last graced cinema screens in the overblown, Star Wars wannabe, ‘Chronicles of Riddick’ after acquiring an almost cult status in the Sci-Fi pantheon by “not being afraid of the dark” in 2000’s ‘Pitch Black’. Chronicles was a critical and commercial failure that derailed the career of director David Twohy and nearly that of Diesel too but thanks to the resurgence of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, Riddick too has gotten stab at success.
Double crossed by Vaako (Karl Urban) and the Necromongers, a race of intergalactic conquerors of whom he became lord of at the end of the previous instalment, Riddick is thought to be left for dead on a desolate wasteland of a planet. After playing ‘Man Vs Wild’ with the dangerous flora and fauna, he wants a ride to his home planet of ‘Furya’. Finding an abandoned outpost, he triggers a distress beacon which he hopes will attract the attention of bounty hunters, who will be his ticket off this hellhole. Not one but two groups answer the call, one headed by the borderline crazy, Santana (Jordi Molla) and the other more professional team by steely, Johns (Matt Nable). While Santana is after Riddick purely for the money, Johns has a personal motive behind capturing Riddick alive. If they groups think that capturing Riddick was the end of their troubles, a thunderstorm makes matters worse, unleashing the planet’s aggressive scorpion like creatures who can hunt in the dark. Now the two teams have to not only join forces but also rely on Riddick’s knowledge of the creatures and his ability to see in the dark to lead them to safety.
Vin Diesel knows the character inside out and utilises all physical attributes right down to the gravelly voice in order to build a larger than life persona. The problem however is that it’s still essentially a one-note character that doesn’t have too interesting a back story to build upon an entire mythos. This is the failing of the plot of the film which retreads in a much slicker manner what happened in ‘Pitch Black’. The action is tense and has some exciting moments but the movie takes its own sweet time getting there. The problem is that unlike ‘Pitch Black’ where Riddick was not the central character, thus allowing for him to be a true anti-hero and not just a glorified bad-ass, the next two instalments have had not surrounded him with characters who can effectively counter his “kill or be killed” beliefs and giving him more of a human edge. Saving alien-dog-hyena puppies is just not going to cut it.
Utilising more CGI than ‘Pitch Black’, allows for scarier creatures but also renders the planet’s vistas less appealing than the one’s featured in the earlier movie. The sense of vast desolation is lost, replaced by matte finish paintings.
‘Riddick’ is an enjoyable action movie with a very apt turn by Diesel but it’s not the resurrection that fans would have hopes for after the disappointing Chronicles. For those who haven’t watched ‘Pitch Black’ this is essentially a slick retelling of the same plot with more testosterone thrown in for good measure. Still it’s a lot of fun and at least it’s not in 3D.