Ten Word or Less Review – 50% less Riddick? What?!?
Vin Diesel has been busy making Universal Studios $1.7 billion. In 2009, with his career staled and not many options left, not even a Pacifier sequel on his plate, he crawled back to the car chase franchise he started and salvaged it and himself from total ruin. With that much money in the til because of his bald head and gravel voice Universal decided to pony up and let Diesel make another Riddick flick, even though the last one, Chronicles of Riddick (2004), blew up in their face like a faulty hand grenade. Letting Diesel and director David Twohy back into their sick little universe with a limited budget and something to prove should have been a no-brainer. Not much money, nothing to lose, go batshit guys! If you lose your ass we’ll make it back on Fast 7. But sadly, this inexplicable series of movies has probably reached its end. Riddick is the last thing it ever needed to be, a retread of the first movie.
Riddick doesn’t waste time. With his hand sticking out of a pile of rocks the injured pseudo-psycho grabs the neck of a pecking vulture thing and promptly strangles it to death. If Riddick has one thing to commend it’s the first act. The opening pages of the screenplay are crafty, focused and concise. The story dispatches with the unconstrained nonsense of Chronicles fairly quickly, letting us know that Riddick has been betrayed and abandoned on a hostile world by the silly costumed Necromongers. The first half hour of the movie is a pure survival tale, building towards a sort of sci-fi styled The Grey. Riddick uses craft and ingenuity to survive and no real plot takes shape. He rescues a vicious little hyena/dog creature and makes it his pet. He inoculates himself against the poisonous critters that live in the watering hole. It’s all pretty fucking cool, for a while, and Diesel clearly relishes playing this character to the hilt. Then with the flick of a switch, literally, Riddick kills itself.
Before long the Rid Man realizes the hostile alien environment is about to become a nasty soup of hungry alien beasties. He activates a beacon and right away two teams of mercenaries show up to do two things, catch him and ruin the movie. They only succeed at the second thing. For a solid 30+ minutes, in a move which grows with stupidity the more I dwell on it, the movie hands the story over to this lot of dummies with guns and commences to watch them bicker among themselves. Did Diesel demand a vacation in the middle of production? How did this happen? It’s instant narrative death the minute their boots hit the ground. The movie flirts with turning Riddick into a Jason/Freddy type, dispatching one dumb goon after another through increasingly grotesque methods, but the idea never takes hold. I could have lived with that, Hell it could have been a hoot, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Riddster is ostensibly gone from his own movie, not to appear again until you’ve given up on the thing. The third act tries to make amends but it turns into is a retread of the first film we never needed to see. Diesel and Twohy were clearly gung ho about avoiding this kind of creative bankruptcy in the past so why their story suddenly turned chicken shit is beyond me.
Pitch Black dodged going straight to DVD by the skin of its teeth and through the skill and tenacity with which it was made became a well regarded cult hit. Chronicles of Riddick wasn’t good for much but it had the audacity to be totally different from the original and completely fucking goofy to boot. Time has been kind to it as it works better on TV than it did in theaters. It kind of looks like a fancy schmancy movie for TNT anyway. I don’t see any kind of forgiving future for Riddick. It’s got it’s moments, the machete kick, but the gaps between those moments are long, crushing and dull. Maybe this character can continue on regardless. Maybe this series is destined to be just like its central character, an indestructible force that no amount of stupidity can kill off. At the least, another billion bucks in Fast & Furious money should get another one off the ground. If so, do better next time guys. And don’t forget, we’re there for Riddick. Everyone else should be there to say as little as possible before he kills them.