Director: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista
Written by: David Twohy, (screenplay) Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell, (based on the characters created) Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat.
Running Time: 119 mins
Release date: 4th September 2013
It was 13 years since the psychotic murderer with night vision eyes made a huge impact in the B-movie style science fiction Alien rip-off, Pitch Black. After the muddled and less successful sequel, Richard Riddick is back for a third outing and a lesson has been learnt from The Chronicles of Riddick: just strip it back to basics and we get a film that is miles better than the second movie but still falls short of the original.
Riddick is left for dead on a desert planet. As he survives day to day, along with his new companion, an alien dog, he soon realises that this is a planet ready to explode with alien creatures hiding out from the sun and waiting patiently for the rain to arrive. Knowing he won’t survive, he finds a deserted shack with a beacon that he uses to send a signal, knowing that with a huge bounty on his head, someone will come and he can get off this world before all hell is let loose. Two ships arrive. One with mercenaries wanted to take a dead Riddick back, the other with Marines, led by Johns, a man who has a connection with Riddick’s past. Then the rain comes…
Writer and director David Twohy has had a checkered career with this muscle-bound creation. Playing as third fiddle in Pitch Black, Riddick wasn’t suppose to be the star but soon created a buzz. Instead of giving the audiences what they wanted with the character, Twohy’s follow-up was an overblown mess with pretentious plotting and nonsensical action sequences. So gone are the ludicrous dialogue and mass of characters you cared very little about. Gone is Dame Judi Dench floating around in white. Twohy has stripped it back and learnt the lessons from the first film. The result is a far more satisfying experience but still not perfect.
The main problem is length. At two hours, it drags and it is mainly within the first half hour. Riddick is alone with his CGI dog, looking like a futuristic Robinson Crusoe and you soon wonder how long this sequence is going to go on for. It is a struggle as nothing much happens at all and you start to question whether we are going down a different path that is worse than The Chronicles. Then the ships arrive and the film shifts into a different gear.
Yet during these scenes, when the mercenaries are setting up their tracking systems and bickering with the Marines who think they own the place, Riddick disappears for long periods and I hate to say this but the film is better for it. Not that Riddick is a bad character, just that fresh blood played with loads of energy by an enthusiastic cast, it zips along at a fair pace yet still has the occasional mis-step that drags it down.
Finally, when the storm arrives, the film really takes off and it’s a fight for survival by all concerned. Everything that made Pitch Black such a fun film is here again and you feel comfortable. The violence is upped (including a shocking scene with a machete) and plot seems to get thrown out the window. It does let itself down once again with a less-than-satisfactory ending but in those final 30 minutes, you are taken back to the first film and you yearn to see it again.
The effects and general look of the film is admirable. The landscape, a big ball of yellow hues looks good although the hover motorbikes effects are reminiscent of the 80s version of Flash Gordon. The creatures are somewhat scary, a cross between a giant scorpion and the snapping jaws of the killers found in Pitch Black.
Vin Diesel returns as the title character and while it doesn’t stretch him as an actor; Riddick is hardly going to get a big emotional scene that could be used as an Oscar scene, Diesel has enough screen presence to keep the attention, although in the first scenes, even he struggles to keep our attention. We don’t want to see Riddick passing the time, wandering around. We want to see him fighting, spitting out sharp, witty threats.
After the middle film, it might be hard for Riddick to find an audience. Fans of Pitch Black might stay away, thinking it could be another Chronicles. It’s not. It’s miles better. Having said that, there’s a zippy, exciting 90 minute film here, if you can forgive and forget the long, pondering opening.