Riddick (2013) Review

I’m not sure why I like Vin Diesel. His films span the gamut of action on Earth to action not-on-Earth; it’s not a very wide range. I think maybe it’s because I believe Diesel is a much better actor than the movies he’s in, and it’s clear from interviews with the man that he’s pretty much locked into his genre. Ten years ago he might have hoped to break free. He famously refused to do sequels. Ten years later he’s starred in his fourth Fast & Furious movie and his third Riddick film. The only film I know of that he plans to do outside these franchises is a Hannibal project that’s been talked about for nigh on a decade. I like Vin Diesel, but I doubt he’ll ever get the chance to portray one of the most legendary figures in Western history on his badassitude alone. Those are the roles that they give to Colin Farrell or Leonardo DiCaprio, or Australians. Mark Sinclair is a lot of things – a leading man in a serious drama is seldom one of them.

Why is that? Is it because his gravelly voice and bulky figure render him comical outside of action extravaganzas? Is his demeanor so macho, his pigeon hole so deep? I dunno. But he does play Riddick real good. No one’s going to take that away from him.

What I asked (what I’m sure many of you asked) is, Do we really need another Riddick movie? I loved Pitch Black when it was released in 2000. I sat down in the theatre expecting to see a cool monster movie in space. I definitely got that, but the enormous surprise was the prisoner character played by Vin Diesel, who only appears as one of an ensemble and who completely steals the movie. Today it’s impossible to watch the film without thinking of it as a prequel of some kind, but back then it was just a small sci-fi flick with a great bit of casting. So when The Chronicles of Riddick appeared in 2004 I was sort of bummed. I had the impression from the universe we saw in Pitch Black that it was a dark and gritty galaxy of hard science fiction. Chronicles looked like some kind of Conan-in-space deal, complete with stormtroopers in capes and fantasy gadgets. I didn’t see it.

Someday I might see it.

I saw Riddick because I had to write about something this week and I’d heard it sort of jettisons the whole stormtroopers-in-capes plot in lieu of getting back to its roots. That’s actually an understatement. 2013’s Riddick is pretty much a Pitch Black redux. Riddick’s on a hostile planet filled with murderous aliens and bounty hunters want to kill him.

That’s actually my summary for the film. That’s really all you need to know.

Some of the lines are funny, some are just dreadful. The behavior of what are supposed to be “hardened space mercs” is baffling from beginning to end but hey, it’s the future, who’m I to jinx someone’s janx? There are boobs in this movie and blood and I think someone says an f-word too, so you know it’s for adults. The CG varies from being pretty good to just plain silly.

I actually really liked this movie.

I’m not particularly proud of it.

What I liked about this movie is that it’s not a big movie. Don’t get me wrong, the budget still could have put 500 kids through an Ivy League education, but it’s not a huge crisis movie, it’s not a save-the-world-because-humanity-is-doomed movie, it’s not a you-are-the-chosen-one-this-is-really-really-serious movie. It’s a movie about a ruthless outlaw with cool eyes and a cool voice who says cool things and beats up assholes and monsters with impunity. It takes place on a washed out desert outpost with technology that isn’t too flashy with a cast of kind of sort of characters that kind of sort of get some funny lines, sometimes. Not many times.

What I liked about this movie is that it just rolls with what it is. It’s not out to break any rules. I would have liked it twice as much if they’d found a way to do it with half the budget and nixed all the CG crap in the backgrounds.

The real problem with this film is that Pitch Black did all of this much better. The idea was fresher, the threat was more threatening, the stakes were higher, the ending was more interesting. Riddick ends with a gorgeous tableau, one of the few times the CG actually heightens the mood, of Riddick on a rainy outcropping fighting for his life. When the film ends it really doesn’t make sense. I won’t go into it here, partially to avoid spoilers and partially because it really doesn’t matter.

I like this film because I like the idea of doing small action pieces, and if the small action pieces are sci-fi fun jobs I’m a happy camper. But I’m not going to pretend like we needed another Riddick movie. We didn’t and we still don’t.

But if you do like Riddick, if you do like sci-fi fun jobs, if you do like physics-defying decapitations, well, my friend, this’n’s right up your alley.

Riddick (2013)
R
Directed by David Twohy
Universal Pictures
118 Minutes

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4 comments

  1. Derek Nahigyan Reply

    Right? I don’t know why I like Vin Diesel? Maybe it’s because you have to call him by his first and last name; certainly couldn’t call him Vin or Vinny the Dieselmeyer. But I am excited for him to be in several Marvel films as well–Why? Still don’t know, but he is a draw for me.

  2. J.K. Reply

    I had to google Mark Sinclair. But you’re fine not watching Chronicles of Riddick, it definitely lacks the originality and claustrophobic fear of Pitch Black, I’m glad to know this goes back to that. Also, if you wanna see Vin try to act, check out Find Me Guilty, he plays a wiseguy defending himself in court with no real hope of winning.

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