Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katie Sackhoff, Dave Bautista
Plot: Riddick (Diesel) is left for dead on a planet and the only way he can escape is by alerting bounty hunters to his location and stealing a ship from them.
After being heavily criticised for changing a winning formula up too much with ‘Chronicles of Riddick’, Twohy furiously back-tracks and makes himself a clean slate pretty much right off the bat with ‘Riddick’. The opening shot shows us Riddick near dead on a desolate planet, no Necromongers in sight. This is a return to the franchise’s roots.
The thing that has always surprised me about the Riddick films is that it is always the same director, David Twohy, behind them. The three films are so different from one another though that you could swear that it was a different guy behind each one. Although this film feels much closer to ‘Pitch Black’, visually it looks like someone else’s handiwork. Certain shots are heavily stylised and certain beats feel a bit more Robert Rodriguez-esque than the original. Personally I think since we last saw David Twohy he has fallen a little in love with Zack Snyder’s work. For the most part it helps. We aren’t getting a 300-like change in style. It is just the occasional shot that is so beautifully choreographed that it take our breath away for a moment. For such a desolate and empty planet, Twohy makes it looks like one of the beautiful things in the galaxy.
Twohy seems to have learnt from his mistakes and gives us a much quieter and smaller scale movie. The first half hour of this film is just Riddick on his own. Vin Diesel admits the last movie’s mistakes in a single piece of dialogue: “Maybe my biggest crime was getting too civilised.” Ironically this is my favourite part of the film. Twohy just lets Vin Diesel do this thing, holding the film together with a narration that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Noir crime thriller. We see him come to grips with the dangerous wildlife, give himself First Aid that will cause a bit of squirming in the audience and, most importantly, restore our faith in the character. Riddick is best when alone, a true lone predator. There are several creatures in this movie, but we never lose the impression that Riddick is the real animal of the movie.
However, Riddick wandering around a desert planet on his own would make a boring-ass film, so before long we get the movie’s villains making an appearance. When they show up, Riddick takes a back seat, once again becoming the stalker in the shadows rather than the lead. This could be another reason we had a very indulgent one-man opening. The other cast members take a while to get going, but a sharp script makes us care for, or at least remember them. Sharp exchanges between the characters get us hating and loving these villains at the same time. The film threatens to lag but Twohy just about manages to avoid the drop in quality. Just about. There are the obvious red shirts and it is tough to feel scared for characters we have classed as bad guys, when the monster taking them out is our favourite character.
The most important member of the supporting cast in my opinion is Katee Sackhoff, at least in terms of discussing character. When she first shows up, she strikes us as a strong female figure. She is the only female in the cast that is given more than a minute’s screen time and for the most part, it isn’t really brought up. She gives as good as she gets and, without meaning offence, she comes across as a male figure, in the way she holds herself and acts. I think it is important for Sackhoff to come across as a strong female figure, seeing as, thanks to Battlestar Galactica, she is the go-to fantasy girl for nerds everywhere, and as an actress, it would be healthy for her to rise above that. Not even the brief nudity ruins this: it isn’t sexualised, it is kind of just there (go and see, it makes sense when you watch it – and yes, for homework, I just asked you to look at boobies). No, where the character goes wrong is when Riddick confronts her and she becomes attracted to the character. All the hard work to create this female bad-ass gets all but knocked down. Wasn’t she meant to be a lesbian anyway? Bond girls have had subtler subplots.
But who cares about people when you have monsters, right? The big monsters are an interesting one. The film gets the reveal out of the way early, having Riddick take one on himself. Then the film drops them for a while, as Riddick turns his attention to the bounty hunters. However, they come back with a vengeance. They are not as creative as Pitch Black’s demon creatures, but they are more fun to watch in a fight. There is also a moment when you see Riddick freaking over a rain cloud and it is not until later when it clicks what is so terrifying about it. That penny dropping moment is a pretty gripping one. Sadly, by the end of this film, these monsters somehow get weaker, as it is more convenient and exciting to watch for the characters to take them on directly.
There aren’t really any major problems with this film. No, this movie falls down due to several little problems. Some might say it is a little too much like Pitch Black. Some of the ‘whens’ and ‘hows’ when it comes to character deaths are a little predictable (especially if you’ve seen a handful of monster or zombie movies). My biggest problem here is that none of the supporting cast really get a chance to break out of Riddick’s shadow. Wrestler Bautista’s character is only depicted as strong, so it’s more awesome when Riddick beats him in a fight. Kate Sackhoff is only a strong female character, so it’s even more impressive when Riddick woos her. Sometimes it is a bit much and eyes are rolled. I think that David Twohy has fallen in love with Riddick a little too much.
Final Verdict: A return to form for the character. A little too rough around the edges to be truly great, but nonetheless an enjoyable Sci-Fi thriller.
More homework: A famous singer cameos in this movie. Comment below if you spot him/her.
Good review Luke. It’s the best of the franchise, but even that’s not saying much. However, it’s still some fun if you want to have it.