As a newcomer to the Riddick franchise, I admit I had no idea what to expect. I knew it had Vin Diesel wearing sunglasses in very beige future from the commercials I’ve seen for this as well as the previous two films, but there wasn’t much more I knew about this action series. I recently found out that in the series, Diesel has had a very different kind of laser eye surgery, giving him the ability to see in the dark, though limiting his daytime vision, hence the shades. Needless to say, I went into this most recent installment in the dark, and what I found was a tale of two movies – one not quite as disappointing as the other.
The first film-within-the-film is made up primarily of a rather confusing exposition. The titular anti-hero is stranded with a severely broken leg on a barren world with seemingly only two native inhabitants – giant alien hyenas and even more giant scorpion-type creatures. While one might naturally expect these animals to pose a threat to Mr. Riddick, in the world of movies, it’s a bit boring to watch them randomly attack someone without any understanding of what is going on. You know that Diesel isn’t going to get eaten by a wild pack of dogs five minutes into the film, yet you are still forced to endure the forced suspense as you wait for any kind of explanation, which eventually comes in the form of vague flashback (that I didn’t understand until I asked my Riddick-experienced friend after the movie). This false drama continues to crawl on and on, in what soon felt like an episode of Man Vs Wild: Mad Max Edition. While I couldn’t say that nothing was happening, it took far too long to have any idea why any of it was happening.
Eventually Riddick does discover a bit of plot, in the form of two teams of bounty hunters, each hunting the fugitive Riddick for their own reasons. Of course their motivations do take far too long to be revealed, but as all of the rabbit trails begin to come together, the second film-within-the-film is revealed. Remember those scorpion-like creatures from before? When I was watching the movie I know I had all but forgotten them, but apparently the screenwriters hadn’t, and now they’re coming to seek revenge on Riddick (apparently). And while this plot development may have been a bit illogical, it did at least bring a little spark of life to the proceedings, in what seemed like a fun homage to the camp classic, Tremors. Holed up in some sort of interplanetary rest stop, the bounty hunters and Diesel are forced to work together to fight of the swarms of scorpion-monsters and get their spaceships back up and running. Again, this is all stretched out far beyond any necessary length, but clear motivations and a well-defined goal is most certainly a breath of fresh air.
In the end, Riddick feels like an episode of a sci-fi television series stretched far beyond its life. What could have been an exciting little adventure is filled out with Diesel coming up with overly complicated and illogical solutions to his problems and a seeming desire by the filmmakers to bludgeon it into our heads every minute conflict and plot point. Occasionally the characters would have little spurts of humor and fun, but these instances were too far and few between to keep any momentum going. I can’t say what the first two films in the Riddick series have to offer, but I can most certainly say that this third installment certainly doesn’t offer much.
My Rating: 1.5 Stars