Before Vin Diesel was fast and furious, before he was a kick-butt babysitter or a triple-x extreme sports athlete, he was Riddick.
That was way back in 2000, with Pitch Black. A few years later The Chronicles of Riddick promised Narniastyle depth of narrative, and a hero to root for. Not quite, but at least there was an army of Necromongers, and Judi Dench.
Alas, our charmless Riddick has even less to do in this, the third instalment (not counting video games). After losing a great deal of money on Chronicles and the struggle with Universal to get a third film made, writer/director David Twohy (The Fugitive) has gifted us with a monosyllabic space dude fighting a multitude of men and monsters, trying to get to his home planet.
After leaving a life of entitlement and pleasure behind, Riddick is marooned on a sun-baked planet. Riddick activates an emergency beacon and advertises his location to intergalactic bounty hunters in order to try to bum a ride off of the planet. (Like Joe Wright's Hanna, but with aliens.) Scores of mercenaries take their turn going up against Riddick. Two rival teams lead the pack: Boss Johns (Matt Nable) is the commander of one ship; Santana (Jordi Molla) is the machete-wielding captain of a second. One wants him alive, one dead.
Riddick has more than murderous intent to worry about: the planet is hoaching with giant prehistoric-looking lizards, eels and dragony things, eyeing Riddick as the lunk of meat that he is. The ticking clock in the fi lm takes the form of a deadly superstorm headed straight for the planet: no one left behind will survive.
He may be a box office star thanks to the Fast & Furious franchise, but Diesel is given even less opportunity to shine here. His latest chances at a Best Actor nomination are stymied by monotonic, sometimes indecipherable, and always uninteresting dialogue. He is further hampered by limited facial expressions, owing to the fact that we either see Riddick with piercing blue-light eyes that see in the dark, or with the bulky daylight goggles to protect them. It's a bit like watching Michael Myers trying to escape an angry planet. "This is a man who sees in the dark, so watch out for surprise attacks," cautions one bad guy, in case we couldn't fi gure things out from the fi lm's tagline "rule the dark."
There are a few women thrown in to stoke the testosterone, including a capable female named Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) and a pretty captive (Keri Lynn Hilson), both of whom set women's equality back a few decades. No one is expecting positive role models in a fi lm like this one but enough with the rape jokes, guys: we've all seen some of the shenanigans your target audience is up to on Facebook, and it just isn't funny.
While the fi lm excels at computer-generated avalanches, enemy attacks, and one gruesome visualeffects kill after another, the ambiguous morality makes it a non-starter. The fi lm opens with Riddick recuperating and trying to survive - generating some sympathy - before turning him into a cold killer, deserving none. Riddick has no soul, no depth, and is ultimately best avoided.
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