“Riddick” is the mediocre sequel to “The Chronicles of Riddick,” the mediocre sequel to the watchable “Pitch Black.” This franchise has a strange life in the sense that it has no steam and yet we get a new movie or video game entry every so often.
Vin Diesel cashed in all his chips to get this entry out, hoping it will bolster his struggling action hero career. He never became the huge star he was predicted to be, once reported to take the reins from Arnold Schwarzenegger as the world’s biggest action star. Some blame is due to his own greediness, squandering opportunities by asking for huge sums of money. But mostly it’s because he had the bad luck of coming onto the scene too late. He’s an action star at a time when the needs of action fans are satisfied by superheroes.
Although “The Chronicles of Riddick” wasn’t very good, at least it was an inventive sequel. “Riddick” recycles the story of “Pitch Black” in a movie that does virtually everything the same but in a lesser way. I recall “Pitch Black” as a suspenseful action/Sci-fi movie with good atmosphere, greatly aided by an intriguing premise.
Riddick (Diesel) is a guy with special eyes that allow him to see in the dark and is really good at killing people. He’s stranded on a planet infested with monsters and he tricks two teams of bounty hunters into landing on the planet to kill him, but because he’s so good at killing people he plans to escape on one of their ships. But eventually he teams up with both hunting squads to fight the monsters. That’s more or less “Pitch Black” as I remember it.
Against expectations, “Riddick” isn’t a stand alone entry in the franchise. It’s concerned with its franchise mythology despite that neither of the other two movies carry any pop-culture memory. I was completely in the dark on most of the references. The biggest question mark is when a big deal is made out of a character (Matt Nable) revealing his surname as Johns. But at the same time the movie doesn’t believe its first entry was memorable enough that it can’t recycle it.
There probably won’t be another adventure for Riddick and with the untimely death of Paul Walker, Diesel’s primary buoy, the “Fast and Furious” franchise is unlikely to have much more mileage (no pun intended). It might not be too late for Diesel to remake himself as a different kind of actor. Action movies tend not to ask a lot of an actor except that he maintain a buff bod, but in “Saving Private Ryan” and “Find Me Guilty” Diesel has shown he’s a convincing dramatic talent. I think Diesel could believably step into those kind of roles permanently.
*1/2 (out of 4)
David Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.