You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?
Let this serve as a warning when you attempt to make a franchise out of a semi-cool character in a perfectly enjoyable standalone genre flick. Richard B Riddick kicked so much alien ass in 2000’s “Pitch Black”. As a semi-low profile sci-fi action movie, it’s just tops. Great action, cool characters, and some badass dialogue. That is a good movie, and that is what it should have remained. Since then, Hollywood has tried to sell us this Riddick franchise and it’s just not up to snuff. The latest installment is, and I’m sorry to say this, actually worse than “Chronicles”.
Riddick finds himself alone on another desolate planet. Having been abandoned by his army of Necromongers and left for dead, he’s forced to fight for survival against a number of hostile creatures. With no other way off this deadly wasteland, he turns on a mercenary beacon, revealing his identity and location to two teams of hotshot bounty hunters keen on putting his head in a box (an actual box we are shown multiple times). One team wants the payday. One wants answers about the death of a fellow bounty hunter ten years back. Ooooh the drama.
“Don’t let them take the chains off me.”
First the positives. The action, while stale and unoriginal is shot well, and there are a few decent kills. Though nothing that actually meets the standards that Riddick set for himself in “Pitch Black”. There’s some snappy one liners and a bit of entertaining banter between the mercs, and Riddick has a couple gems. But that’s about it, unfortunately.
Nothing about this movie was good enough to warrant a follow-up to the piece of trash preceding it. The acting is sub-par by all, including Diesel, who seems to be playing his usual template rather than the badass with night vision we all loved. Dave Bautista shows up and actually is the least painful to watch. Who knew? There’s the cliche hardcore lesbian merc who all the guys want to bang, and who Riddick undoubtedly impresses. Because apparently what every lesbian wants is an ultimate macho alpha male to convert her. Also, Riddick befriends and raises an alien-dog who acts as his (badly rendered CGI) sidekick. They literally poochified the movie.
“How many of those things you think are buried out there?”
The alien creatures also don’t pack the punch of the original monsters. This breed of subterranean-aquatic (which is it???) scorpions just seem like less of a threat, especially when we see Riddick kill one in the first ten minutes. They also come off as just superfluous once the mercs show up. Instead of a deadly game of cat and mouse, we get a rehash of the hero/villain team up. And the CGI is not in anyway impressive. It’s actually quite bad. The monsters look bad, the dog looks awful, and even the landscape looks like twenty-year old green screen.They tried to be “Pitch Black” so hard and they just failed.
Added to this low quality, the film is just riddled with plot holes and contrivances. Of course we all hated the Necromonger crap from “Chronicles”. It was a bad movie and a horrid followup to “Pitch Black”. Out of tone, out of style, and completely uncalled for. That said, pretending it never happened is low. Oh, how do we get Riddick away from this army of undead warriors he’s supposed to be commanding? I don’t know, how about a two minute flashback showing that they just kicked him out after a few days. Sold. Riddick’s ‘eyeshine’ (his trademark ability) is completely inconsistent with how it was portrayed in the original movie, and almost never comes up this time around. Also, one of the mercs is meant to be the father of Johns (the merc from the original film). Now ten years has passed, and this ‘father’ still looks about five years younger than his son did a decade back. And of course, his son’s legacy is some half-cocked theme of the film, and we’re supposed to care whether his father is more a man than he was.
“Keep a strong spine, Johns.”
Nothing about the movie is good. “Pitch Black” is still an awesome genre piece. “Chronicles” was a terrible followup. And “Riddick” tries to remedy that mistake by being more like the first. But it’s all half-assed, rehashed, secondhand garbage. No quality, no originality, no tension, no excitement. Just a lot of overblown drama and bad CGI. This is a low point for the Riddick ‘franchise’. Hopefully they learn their lesson, and let this one go quietly. It’s been a long time between stops on this ride. A long time for something to go wrong…