Vin Diesel returns, growling more than ever, as Riddick, the character that made him a star, in the creatively titled Riddick. The third movie in the shiny-eyed franchise is a decent enough return to form for the series, and much better than those vroom-vroom movies Diesel has been hanging around lately.
Director David Twohy gave us the original, the above-average Pitch Black, back in 2000. Diesel's performance in that film remains perhaps his best ever, although that's not saying much. His growl hadn't yet become somewhat of a joke, as it has in the Fast and Furious movies.
Then came The Chronicles of Riddick, an awful, bombastic PG-13 spectacle that felt especially silly after the barebones R-rated horror of Pitch Black. Those of us who enjoyed the original were not counting on a big-budget blockbuster with the gritty Riddick doing the hang with Judi Dench.
Legions of fans were severely pissed off about the costume pageantry of the second film, so Twohy and Diesel have taken the character back to his monster movie, bloody roots.
The movie has a brief, costume pageant prologue where Karl Urban makes a brief appearance. Then, in a blink of an eye, Riddick is stranded on yet another alien-infested planet. The monsters are scorpion-like nasty buggers that will eat their own guts if given the chance. And they love the rain.
A good chunk of the film is Riddick in lonely survival mode. In a rather sweet touch, he rescues a doglike creature and they become friends. Realizing he won't be able to fend off the scorpion things forever, Riddick sets off a rescue beacon alerting bounty hunters to his presence on the planet. Two groups show up, and the movie becomes a bunch of macho guys (and Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff) growling at each other.
So, Riddick is two movies in one, with both of those movies being riddled with monsters. One is basically Riddick in a variation of A Boy and His Dog, hanging out on a barren planet, eating gross food and talking to an animal. The other is your typical ragtag group of meatheads posturing with each other, trying to determine who's in charge of the whole "catch Riddick" thing.
I preferred the movie in the early goings, with Diesel and his dog. It's cute, and it has the occasional monster attack. As for the bounty hunters, this feels like stuff we've seen before in Pitch Black. It even repeats that moment with Riddick in chains, rhythmically thumping his arms and getting off on the mayhem that is about to ensue.
Of the bounty hunters, the one I like the least would be Santana (Jordi Molla), who looks like Andy Garcia after a blue meth bender. He's one of those characters you wish would just shut up and stand in the background. Nope ... he's a major character and he gets plenty of annoying screen time. Another character, played by Matt Nable, has an interesting connection to a character in Pitch Black.
Thankfully, Twohy overcomes the flaws for the most part, delivering good monster action on a relatively meager budget. Riddick's dog is a reasonably well done CGI creation, as are the scorpionlike creatures out to kill everybody. While I did prefer the quieter moments with the dog, the best overall scene in the film is the initial monster attack on the bounty hunter station. Many characters meet their demise in decent slasher film style.
Internet scuttlebutt says this movie happened because Diesel really wanted it to happen. The film was a result of Diesel returning to the Fast and Furious movies. I reckon those films will never stop, so as long as Diesel shows up to mumble some lines whilst driving really fast. So it stands to reason that the Riddick movies might continue as well.