Riddick (2013) — Survivor manslaughter

“So now we zero the clock. Just me and this no-name world. Gotta find that animal side again.”

Justin’s rating: Pitch bright

Justin’s review: When I finally got around to catching up with 2013’s Riddick (only eight years late, too, sue me), I was reminded of how much I enjoy David Twohy’s underdog scifi franchise. From Pitch Black to Dark Athena to The Chronicles of Riddick, this gritty future is just as much fun for my money as anything I’ve seen with the Alien movies. There’s a lot of potential here to explore a wider scope of intergalactic adventures, but Twohy seems fixated on primarily following around his pet anti-hero, as played by Vin Diesel.

Both director and character ended up bored with the “Riddick as king of the Necromongers” conclusion of Chronicles, and so a hand slammed down hard on the reset button. This caused our prison-hardened, eye-enhanced ruler to be deposed and exiled to a harsh alien planet to die or be forgotten.

Riddick is all about getting back into the format of Pitch Black, and for the most part, it works. There seems to be three sections of this film, each which is easily comparable to a much more famous film. In the first section, Riddick learns how to survive, Castaway-style, on a scorching desert world populated by all manner of mean beasties. In the second section, Riddick puts out a call to bounty hunters and then starts to whittle their numbers down, just like Die Hard. And in the final act, the Aliens motif returns as monsters swarm out of an encroaching storm and desperate plans to escape are enacted.

It’s fairly predictable, but here’s where Twohy messes with your expectation and jerks the movie’s plot away from where you think it might go. At the center of this is the character of Johns, the father of Riddick’s former captor in the first movie who wants a few answers about what happened. It was also a bit surprising that the movie threw two mercenary groups at us, creating a tension triangle.

The action was fairly decent, but I felt that a third film was kind of wasted on keeping Riddick in the same dull locale. Your enjoyment is most likely going to come down to whether you like the main character or not, a point on which I wavered at times. Riddick is a Mary Stu in a lot of ways, hyper-competent and always spouting off predictions of exactly what’s going to happen (which always does, of course). He might be fun to watch from a visceral fantasy standpoint, but I get a little tired of guys like this who are so perfect and so indestructible as to put them on a Superman-like tier that we can’t relate to.

On the other hand, he is charming and has some sense of honor and mercy, and I liked his back-and-forth with Katee Sackhoff’s Dahl. So it’s kind of a wash, but in a way that I do hope that Twohy makes good on his vow to get another movie or two made in this universe.

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