This story of a space warrior joining forces with some mercenaries is at its finest when it embraces science fiction cheese.
“Riddick: the epitome of bad days” If there was ever a line to capture the experience of watching Riddick, Vin Diesel’s most recent entry to date that isn’t Fast and Furious, it would be that one. Though it may not be the greatest film in the series, its triumph still stands as its crowning achievement.
It may be hard to praise this one when there is so much that feels like a chore, but it does eventually reach its silly conclusion. Is this reward enough for the surprisingly meandering journey it takes to get there? No, but there is still some enjoyment at the end – if you make it that far as this one starts to drag a bit.
Riddick (Diesel) emerges from a heap of rubble on an abandoned planet, determined to do battle with the hostile creatures that inhabit it. Despite being severely injured, he still will not let that stop him from doing battle.
Once he achieves this, we are presented with a lot of unnecessary exposition about how he ended up here that only serves to slow things down even as we begin. Once that’s over, he hides himself away so that his wounds can heal more fully. Riddick makes a friend in one of the creatures on planet, who will accompany him as he traverses it.
When Riddick arrives at an abandoned mercenary base, he believes he has found his way out. He activates a beacon that draws two groups of new mercenaries to the area.
He attempts to convince them to leave one of their ships behind, but this ultimately doesn’t occur. Instead, both groups are more interested in capturing Riddick than engaging in negotiation. After some back and forth between both groups, Riddick eventually ends up taking control and leaving behind what should have been an exciting sequence of events but never does.
Though there is something compelling about the reduced conflict and small setting, much of its energy seems to have been sapped away from the experience.
Riddick’s early battles with beasts seem to have been thrilling at first, but soon all of that energy wanes as he employs both his intellect and strength to overcome them. One negotiation that should be intense feels like characters talking in circles to each other.
When someone pulls out a gun and chaos ensues, the effects don’t do the film any favors either. Unfortunately, the fight is cut short before it really gets going, leaving viewers with little excitement or action that stands out as it tries to move on to the next moment.
Even when the film attempts to give its empty scenes something resembling emotional conflict, it fails miserably. Diesel can do a lot with his gravelly voice alone, but even that cannot save us from the often mundane journey it takes us on. While there are some thrills here and there, none of them quite capture the impact they should.
Dave Baustista in one of his earlier roles often feels like he is being wasted; when the character meets its end, it feels like an afterthought when there could have been better ways to utilize his distinct on-screen presence. He is a minor character, yet his lack of characterization makes it hard to remember much about him or anyone else.
When thinking back on classic science fiction films like Alien, viewers will recall specific details about each member of the crew. Unfortunately, Riddick never intended for such an intense story to be told in such detail. However, that should never excuse not giving some consideration to the characters so we care when things begin.
When things hit the fan it can be quite enjoyable – like when someone gets pierced through by creatures outside. While some of these effects seem more practical, they still manage to convey an appropriately gory atmosphere throughout a long runtime. Unfortunately though, there remains an undercurrent of emptiness throughout much of it all.
The passion is evident in key aspects of the craft, yet the substance falls flat. Even when Diesel lets loose with cackling like a lunatic while still chained up, it passes too quickly to have any lasting impact. One scene involving Riddick kicking a sword through the air stands out among an entire feature that could have used more macabre spirit.
Whatever the new film ends up being – if it even gets made after all this time – one hopes that Diesel gets to really embrace absurdity like he does here instead of playing it straight – as this film feels stuck between accepting absurdity and playing it straight.
For most of it, it seems like a never-ending countdown to the final reveal that cannot come soon enough. While this finale provides plenty of excitement as characters attempt to flee while under attack, the huge investment required for access doesn’t make it worthwhile.
It’s an understatement to say that 20 minutes of nonstop action cannot make up for how dull everything else is.
Had this been maintained throughout, then it could’ve been much more enjoyable. Indeed, nothing quite compares to witnessing Riddick perform a daring stunt on top of an army of killer beasts. Diesel’s passion for his character shines through in these moments but unfortunately this doesn’t enough to save the rest of the film from failing.
Instead, Riddick will remain as a missed opportunity that could and should have been so much more.