'Riddick' review: Vin Diesel's character is abrasive but most moviegoers will find something to like
'Riddick' delivers an accessible and entertaining sci-fi action experience for those who don't know the previous movies, while longtime series fans will also be pleased. 'Riddick' stars Vin Diesel and Katee Sackhoff.
Riddick serves as a direct sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick as the titular antihero abandons the Necromonger throne to seek out his homeworld, Furya. Riddick (Vin Diesel) leaves peacefully and the Necromongers agree to escort him on his journey – only to maroon the fugitive on an unknown planet with highly evolved (and subsequently extremely lethal) animal life.Skip to next paragraph
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As Riddick recovers, he begins exploring the planet in an effort to find transport off-world. With time against him, as well as a ruthless alien threat on the horizon, he makes a desperate move – and sends out an open channel distress signal, alerting a group of merciless bounty hunters to his location. Ruthless and well-armed the mercenaries prepare to take Riddick dead or alive (the bounty doubles if he’s dead) – meaning, if he hopes for return to Furya, Richard B. Riddick will have to fight through some of the most dangerous humans and alien creatures he’s ever encountered.
Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick director/writer David Twohy returns for the sequel, but fresh eyes from Unknown screenwriters Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell help the latest Riddick installment walk a fine line between franchise past and future. For that reason, Riddick will have no problem pleasing longtime fans of the series while also delivering an accessible and entertaining sci-fi action experience for casual moviegoers. The movie reinstates Riddick‘s R-Rating – so uninitiated viewers who aren’t familiar with the Riddick character (along with his trademark brutality, sexual innuendo, and deranged morality) could find certain elements of the character (as well as the larger movie) off-putting. Still, Riddick’s abrasive and lethal personality is part of the fun – and has always been what sets the character apart from comparable Hollywood heroes.
The opening moments of Riddick are tied to the events of The Chronicles of Riddick (2006) but the overall structure and tone are much closer to franchise-starter Pitch Black. The Riddick storyline actually draws a number of direct connections to events in the original film and offers-up several fan service nods as well as thematic parallels – so many, in fact, that some viewers may want to brush-up on the prior installments (mainly Pitch Black) if they wish to get the most out of Riddick‘s story. That said, revisiting past movies in the franchise is not required, as viewers who are willing to let a few references and revelations pass by will find that Twohy is surprisingly good at laying out all of the necessary pieces for the events at hand.
Surprisingly, in spite of all the franchise backstory, references, pertinent exposition, a dingo-like sidekick, and a roster of diverse mercenary characters, Riddick is actually pretty straightforward – with an intriguing three-act structure that keeps the plot tight and engaging. The first third of the film sets the bar high, with a minimalistic survival story that is both unique and captivating – while managing to show a more vulnerable Riddick (without softening his personality or skills). Yet, even as the film locks into a more familiar monster-killing/CGI action-thriller, Twohy has enough smart elements in the mix that keep the film sharp – even when it borrows heavily from Pitch Black as well as other sci-fi favorites.