RIDDICK review by Gary Murray – is this the best of the Vin Diesel trilogy?

RIDDICK review by Gary Murray – is this the best of the Vin Diesel trilogy?

Riddick - Poster - 002

This is the third time out for the character of Riddick. Vin Diesel first took on the role in 2000 with Pitch Black. It was an interesting low-budget sci-fi thriller that had an interesting moment here and there. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) was a giant over-the-top mess and a major disappointment. It seemed the second installment killed the franchise. Well nothing is truly dead in Hollywood, and Vin is back in the third installment, simply called Riddick.

The story seems to take place after The Chronicles episode but is its own separate story. Riddick (Vin Diesel) wakes up on a barren, desolate planet with a broken leg. Very soon he is fighting for his existence against a pack of crazed dog-like creatures. Off in the distance, he sees signs of civilization but between he and it are creatures that look like a cross between a scorpion and the alien life-forms from Prometheus. He must figure out a way to get past the creatures and on to the rest of the planet.

A good fourth of this adventure is Riddick getting toward an outpost, the sign of civilization. Once there, he triggers a homing beacon. That machine recognizes this anti-hero with a price on his head and soon a ship arrives. On board is Santana (Jordi Molla), a bounty hunter with a crew. They literally want the head of Riddick for the reward. Money is his motivation for getting the man.

Very soon after that, Johns (Matt Nable) and his spaceship crew arrives. He is part of the military and wants some answers from Riddick. He has no interest in the reward, just in getting closure on what happened in the events of Pitch Black. Also aboard this transport ship is Dahl (Katee Sackhoff). She’s a ‘as tough as nails’ soldier who has no interest in the dozen men that surround her. All she respects is power.

The story of Riddick becomes a variation of a ‘bug hunt’ with Riddick being the bug. The two groups don’t trust each other but have to work together to catch basically the most wanted man in the galaxy. As the groups begin to thin in numbers, thanks to the killing skills of our anti-hero, the film takes another turn and the remaining people must band together to fight a force that is even greater than Riddick.

There is an old adage that states ‘if you steal from one person, you are a thief but if you steal from everybody, you’re a genius.’ It that is true, then David Twohy is bordering on genius. He has stolen bits and pieces from just about every sci-fi flick that has hit the screens in the last thirty years. Parts of the film look like Heavy Metal, The Fifth Element, Aliens and Forbidden Planet. But this film is in no way as great as any of those. Instead of being original, it is a hodge-podge of better works. Just about every fifteen seconds the feeling of ‘haven’t we seen this before’ engulfs the audience.

The film is a showcase for Vin Diesel. Taking over the mantle of when Arnold left to pursue a career in politics seems to be his goal. He does a workman job delivering his lines and acting rough and tough. For the most part he succeeds. He is a likable loner that was more a part of 1980’s cinema. Films like this are mostly shot on green screen and the actor has to act to basically nothing. Doing this film shows that Vin can perform in scenes that are CGI generated. He just needs some more original material. Vin has done some good work in Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room, but most of his career has been posing in and around autos. This is a definite different turn from those flicks but still solidly in the genre mix.

The big surprise is Katee Sackhoff doing her Aliens marine shtick. This is a role we have seen many times before but she does deliver her lines with a certain charm. She made a big splash a few seasons back when she was on 24 and this role should find her a wider audience.

The production of Riddick looks great but also adds nothing different. We have seen all the ships, the speeder-bikes and the aliens before. The more interesting part of the film were the alien dog creatures. Over and over, one hopes that there is going to be something different presented on the screen, but that just becomes an exercise in frustration. Riddick is the best film in the series, which to some isn’t saying much. The first installment suffered with a low budget production while the second episode suffered from too much of a good thing. Like the third little bear, this one is just right… but is it that good?

RIDDICK is set to hit 2D and IMAX theaters on September 6, 2013.

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