Watching Riddick one can’t help but shake that it was made in the wrong era. Had the film been made just 10 years earlier, it would have been right at home among Elektra, Blade: Trinity and other sub-par sci-fi/fantasy films of that time. That isn’t to say that Riddickis a horrible movie, it truly does shine in some parts, but it seems to follow the kind of movie clichés many audiences have forgotten about in the past decade.
Riddick picks up where Chronicles of Riddick, made back in 2004, left off with Vin Diesel’s character ruling over his space kingdom. Filling in some of the gaps the intro shows Riddick yearning for home and ready to give up the throne in return. What follows doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the casual observer but might for more hardcore fans of the franchise. Betrayed by his own kingdom (the one he was leaving anyways) he is left for dead on a barren, nameless planet.
It here where the plot, such as it is, really kicks in. Left to fend for himself on a dangerous, sun drenched world Riddick takes it upon himself to adapt. The entire first quarter of the film is just Riddick and his pet alien dog wandering the alien landscape trying to survive. Oddly, this is the most interesting portion of the film. The trouble comes when he finds a beacon and sends out a signal letting the rest of the universe know that he is there. As a result, two different mercenary crews come to retrieve him and he must outsmart them in order to find his ride home.
From this point on the entire film switches gears and makes Riddick the antagonist rather than the protagonist. We watch as he kills them off one by one, sometimes in a rather humorous fashion. Telling you about each of the crew members is virtually useless since they fit pretty much every cliché in the genre. There is the butch female officer (this time played by Katee Sackoff of Battlestar Galactica fame), the wisecracking enforcers (the standout of which is former wrestler Dave Bautista who is one of the best parts of the movie) and two battling captains one of which is guaranteed not to make it off the planet
Considering it took three writers to finish the script you would think there would be a little bit better dialogue. Right about the time Riddick starts piling up a body count most of the audience knows who will survive and who won’t. This is a B-movie at heart. The film is not without its merits though, especially when it comes to visual effects. Using CGI, animatronics and puppets the world that Riddick is stuck on feels very real in some parts. Riddick earns extra points for making the landscape totally alien. Too often filmmakers fall back on the familiar when crafting alien landscapes and it can take the audience out of the picture, Riddick never does that.
Vin Diesel has mentioned that the film is the first in a proposed trilogy of Riddick-centric movies. Whether or not that happens is anyone’s guess although Diesel certainly has the star power right now to pull the right strings. The irony is that his character is actually one of the least interesting people in the Pitch Black universe. If he would only be willing to take the focus away from him yet still guide new features it might be just as interesting as the Alien universe created by Ridley Scott and James Cameron.