Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some thoughts on Riddick, Vin Diesel's passion project sequel to Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. As a fan of the first film and not so much of the second, I was definitely curious to see where this one was going. All indications were that Riddick was going back to his roots as the shiny-eyed one finds himself battling creepy crawlies and asshole bounty hunters once more, but the film ended up having a foot in both previous worlds.
The first act is quite good as Riddick finds himself stranded on a desolate planet, injured to a substantial degree and having to survive the harsh environment as well as the planet's predators. Minus some describe-what-the-audience-is-already-seeing voiceover, most of this section is largely dialogue-free. Diesel is confident in this character and says everything he needs to say with his face and body movement.
Seeing Riddick figure out this landscape was pretty cool in a sci-fi Man V Nature kind of way. He was figuring out the threats of this planet, his safe zones and how to get food all over the span of what looked to be a few years, which I appreciated. He didn't figure stuff out and then in a week dominate this planet. He works his way up the ladder one obstacle at a time.
The main roadblock to his progress being vicious water-dwelling creature with a deadly forked tail and a squat little body with a venomous bite. They live in the drinkable water puddles around this mostly desert planet and don't like to venture out of the water for much more than a few seconds at a time.
Somewhere along the way the story turns into a Boy and his Dog type story and I'm totally cool with that. Riddick having his own alien hellhound while wandering the wastes? They could Road Warriored it up for all the movie as far as I'm concerned, but eventually a big threat rises as a massive storm system works its way across the planet's surface... Those creepy crawlies don't come out unless it's wet outside, ya' dig?
Riddick's only ticket off the planet is to let the universe know he's alive and wait for the bounty hunters to come and that's just what he does.
The movie turned a big corner for me when these guys showed up and not a particularly good one. I imagine Jordi Molla was playing his character, Santana, over the top on purpose... going for a fun, Nic Cage crazy style performance, but to me it just felt like bad line delivery of even worse dialogue.
His team isn't much better with one shining exception: Dave Batista. Batista was cool, confident and charming with the little bits and pieces the film threw at him. Of the entire bad guy cast he's the only one I could see standing shoulder to shoulder with Billy, Blain, Mac, Dillon and Dutch while hunting down the Predator. The rest were there for comic relief or, worse, no reason at all. For instance Nolan Funk plays a young religious guy named Luna who serves zero purpose to the plot or character development. He just quotes the bible a couple of times and sits back and watches everything happen in the movie. Take Luna out of the move and absolutely nothing changes. That's bad writing.
Batista, though, was consistent throughout and managed to find that tough guy sweetspot of being a bastard and being likeable at the same time. Made me wish it was just him and Riddick squaring off. Also, I was already onboard with Batista as Drax for Guardians of the Galaxy, but now I'm psyched.
The film really feels like three movies in one. You have the man versus nature opening, the introduction of the bounty hunters in a wild west style standoff middle and then the sci-fi horror of the last act. Instead of mixing all these elements together it feels more like a Neapolitan, different tones and archetypes with each act.
Sadly that means much of the creature stuff feels less like another go 'round with the first movie and more like a “hey, remember when we did this better in Pitch Black? Oops, ran out of time. The End!”
I remember hearing the concept of the Riddick series being that iconic main character in different genres each time out, but I think Vin Diesel and David Twohy got caught up in their own world building and tried to cram too much into the lore. Chronicles of Riddick could have (and should have been) a full on prison escape film, but instead they include that and try to jam in a Dune-like world.
With Riddick they have a smaller budget and try to go back to their roots, but again fall prey to overcomplicating their narrative. The plot is as simple as it can be (Riddick is trapped, he needs a ship off the planet), but they throw so many genres and cliches that they muddy the more interesting movie it could have been.
It also hurt that most of the non-Diesel and Batista lines and characters were as by the numbers DTV action movie tough guy/gal dialogue. Katee Sackhoff's Dahl is perhaps given the most respect, but her character still boils down to the butch Lesbian who's just looking for the right dick to turn her straight, which is kind of troubling.
There are callbacks to Pitch Black that are a little spoilery so I won't go into them fully, but I will say I did have to scratch my head at the timeline and how that all worked out. When you see it you'll hopefully understand what I'm talking about.
Anyway, I found Riddick to be a mixed bag. Some of the visual style was admirable, some of it looked like a Made-For-TV movie. The design of the creatures was actually pretty good when you just see their tails, but I never got a full sense of the full creature the way I did in Pitch Black. Diesel clearly brought his all to this one, they cast some good faces, but some poor choices were made among the supporting cast.
All in all I'd say it's a step up from the indulgent trainwreck that Chronicles of Riddick was, but it still didn't capture the magic of a pure B-movie thrill ride the way Pitch Black did. I hope it's a huge success and we see them make more if only because I like the Riddick character and want to see them nail one more before the time comes for Riddick to hang up his goggles.