Review: Riddick / Cert: 15 / Director: David Twohy/ Screenplay: David Twohy, Oliver Butcher, Steven Cornwell / Starring: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Karl Urban / Release Date: Out Now
Birthed in the 2000 sci-fi sleeper hit Pitch Black, Vin Diesel’s brooding, seeing-in-the-dark futuristic escaped prisoner Richard Riddick appeared to have hit the buffers with the bloated, bigger budget 2004 uberflop Chronicles of Riddick (the film which truly put the chronic into Chronicles). But it seems you can’t keep a good (or even average) anti-hero down and, nearly ten years on, Riddick is back in a leaner, meaner second sequel which attempts to remind us why we were interested in Riddick in the first place by reinventing Pitch Black and telling the same story all over again.
Riddick plays lip service to the events of Chronicles – whatever they were – by way of a plot contrivance whereby the Necromongers (blokes in big armoured costumes) dump Riddick on a hostile planet where he has to fend off the unwelcome advances of the indigenous population of angry CGI wolf-dogs and slimy snake-things. No sooner has he bested the beasts (an impressive and largely wordless opening act) than Riddick spots something unpleasant approaching over the horizon. Keen to make a swift exit from his hostile new home, he fires off a couple of handy distress beacons and before long, mercenaries and bounty hunters are on their way. A tense game of cat-and-mouse (or mercenary-and-Riddick) ensues as Riddick attempts to get his hands on one of their shuttles and make his escape while the mercenaries attempt to get their hands on their ex-con prize.
It’s a brave attempt to rehabilitate a compromised character but Riddick is an awkward and often ugly film. A painfully low budget has resulted in unconvincing, cut-price CGI – think of any of the straight-to-DVD Starship Troopers sequels – and planetscapes which look uncannily like the soundstage sets of TV’s Lost in Space in the 1960s. An odd script structure sees Riddick shunted into the background for a while as the bounty hunters – the usual bunch of gruff, sweaty grunts enlivened by Sachhoff’s butch Dahl – take centre stage and shout at one another for half an hour. Riddick is eventually captured and chained up, which allows Diesel to growl monosyllabic threats before breaking free just as the planet’s easily dispatched aliens arrive and the scriptwriters cut-and-paste from the last half of Pitch Black as Riddick uses his night vision to help the remaining grunts fight their way back to their spaceships.
Less Riddick-ulous than Chronicles, Riddick is not without its moments and Twohy battles against budgetary adversity to create a couple of interesting images and inventive character deaths. But where Chronicles demonstrated that Riddick doesn’t work in a bigger universe, Riddick goes back to the first movie’s well with predictably diminished returns. The film ends with the promise of further adventures for our dome-headed hero but we’re willing to bet that this is one Diesel vehicle that’s finally run out of fuel.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10