Well… Technically, if you count Dark Fury, it’s the 4th installment but I am only counting previous live actions; Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick.
Riddick falls short on quite a bit but it does a pretty good job retreading Pitch Black. Having known that this was basically a Pitch Black redux I was impressed by how well the filmmakers deceive you, throwing up all sorts of figurative smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand to trick you into believing the story is original. It’s done very convincingly by interjecting bits and pieces from Chronicles in the beginning and at the end; serving as story arch bookends of sorts. I actually did not have an issue with this ‘illusion’ as it was executed well. As a fan of the previous two films, I felt I was thrown a pretty good sized bone in terms of giving me a bit of story to compliment Chronicles. One could think that at some point early on, David Twohy wanted to release a Chronicles of Riddick Directors Cut version 2.0, pulling a Lucas and inserting a few new scenes, and at the same time he wanted to remake Pitch Black with a bigger budget and fancier effects. He pitched this (no pun intended), was given 40 mil and instructed to put both of his ideas together and make a new film.
Okay…So you want to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on how hardcore of a fan you are would be my answer. Like I said earlier, I loved the first two films. I respected them for the lush underverse world they created. The creatures, the necromongers; the overal cannon…You don’t get this level of originality too often in modern science fiction these days. Where this one hurts the franchise is it doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table. A disposable subplot of Johns looking for answers about his son’s ill fated encounter with the Furyan goes absolutely nowhere. It makes no impact on the story but doesn’t detract from it either.
On a technical side. I was bothered by the fact I knew this film was shot entirely in a confined soundstage before I even watched the special features. At times the camera is tracking the action you can tell there is no depth in the background. This can pull you out of the moment if you fixate on it long enough like I did a couple of times. Also, I know we are not watching a film like this expecting Oscar-worthy performances but some performances are really bad. Bad to the point that I’m not sure if it was done intentionally to elevate Vin Diesel’s delivery of deadpan lines or just for the ‘camp’ effect. The Visuals are at times awe inspiring and at times they look like matte paintings. It would seem that the FX team were novices in their craft and did not realize how many FX shots go into a science fiction flick that is filmed entirely in a green box and they cut corners…A lot of corners.
The score is mostly carried over from Chronicles, which is a good thing. Sometimes it has it’s rough moments but all in all it won’t make or break the experience.
Bottom line.. Riddick IS enjoyable…If you liked the first two and enjoy Sci Fi action flicks. If you don’t, or are on the fence, this one won’t charm you over. It may push you further away from getting your feet wet in the pool that is this great genre. While I don’t like using numerical scores on films, I will agree with IMDB’s review average of 6.4…Maybe even go as high as 7 but no more. I hope that if there is a 4th one somebody reads this review and heeds my simple, honest gripes. This is a great world that has been created. It deserves better!
-Orlando G Acosta