Science-Fiction, 119 Minutes, 2013
I’m a huge fan of the Riddick movies and of director David Twohy [IMDB]. Riddick has the kind of over-the-top, comic-book cool that’s been missing from a genre more interested in epic run-times than fun. He was introduced in “Pitch Black” [IMDB], a near-perfect sci-fi monster thriller and expanded in 2004’s muddled, but still terrific, “The Chronicles of Riddick” [IMDB]. Vin Diesel [IMDB] clearly believes in the character: he finagled a deal to gain ownership of the franchise from Universal and produced this film independently.
The plot picks up shortly after the events of the second film. Riddick has let himself grow soft (by his standards, at any rate) as the new Lord Marshal of the world ravaging Necromongers. When tempted, and then betrayed, with information about the location of his lost homeworld he finds himself stranded and wounded on an inhospitable planet surrounded by things that would like to eat him. He eventually discovers an unmanned supply station and, using an emergency beacon, lures two mercenary crews to the planet with himself as bait.
The sometimes cooperative, but not friendly, merc teams both want Riddick. One is out to bring him (or parts of him, at least) in for the sizable bounty, the other has a more personal agenda. Riddick himself wants off the planet. He knows that the seasonal rains on the horizon will awaken hordes of the scorpion-like creatures that have been dogging him since he was first marooned.
Returning to a straight-forward, kill-or-die survival situation and shedding the gravitas and confusion that detracted from the second entry was a great decision. The story is filled with the same unbelievable, but oh-so-cool, Riddick moments that we’ve come to expect. The multi-dimensional cat-and-mouse games that have become the character’s trademark are intact and just as enjoyable.
It relies less on visual contrast than the earlier movies but still has its moments. There are connections revealed to the first film that are interesting and, for fans, understandable. Casual fans will suffer from a lack of actual flashbacks (I assume that Diesel was unable to also get rights for clips from the first movie).
Riddick movies have always represented high-quality, conceptual sci-fi and this installment confirms it. One of the strongest aspects of the series is that the movies feel of a piece and maintain an internal consistency often missing from other franchises. Eliminating the massive, universal implications of the second installment served this entry incredibly well. Welcome back smart, fun sci-fi!