The return of interplanetary badass Richard B. Riddick may well have come as a surprise to anyone who saw 2004’s sluggish sequel The Chronicles of Riddick and witnessed its subsequent below-par performance at the box office. Undeterred, franchise star Vin Diesel (no doubt encouraged by the sizeable returns from his endlessly money-spinning Fast & Furious franchise) has shepherded this third entry, Riddick (2013), into production, with director David Twohy back on board. Together they’ve concocted a handsome sci-fi actioner, but have ultimately failed in bringing about a satisfying close to the trilogy.
Last seen accidentally being offered the leadership of zealot alien race the Necromongers, Riddick’s banishment from the throne and duplicitous behaviour by his commander (all provided in a nicely economic display of exposition) finds him left for dead on a hostile, lava-spewing planet. Slowly getting his mangled body into shape, whilst having to fend off a whole slew of vicious indigenous creatures, his discovery of an abandoned outpost presents a potential means of escape. Setting off a distress signal, he encourages a ragged bunch of mercenaries (which include future Guardian of the Galaxy, Dave Batista) to land and capture him, although his plans are tempered somewhat by the deadly surroundings.
This time around (perhaps owing to budget limitations) there seems to have been a deliberate attempt at a back-to-basics approach, mirroring the first film’s template. Initially, the makers manage to craft a genuinely engrossing survivalist-type yarn from this. Diesel looks great – both lean and fearsome, he even brings previously untapped moments of vulnerability to the character. The CGI creatures he encounters are superbly realised, and a canine-like companion he rears along the way brings to mind, in a good way, a space-set comparison to genre forefather, Mad Max 2. It’s a shame then, that when the rest of the cast are introduced, it reverts back to those hackneyed stalk and slash, siege machinations we’ve seen hundreds of times before, and in much superior guises.
Even the ragtag bunch of bounty hunter look like cast-off’s from earlier fantasy films, down to the lame, horribly-dated dialogue they sprout. It’s as if Diesel and Twohy felt a thematic call-back to the original was required in order to appease fans, where those early scenes of a lone warrior against the elements would have made for a much more interesting through journey. It’s not an awful effort by any means. There’s a respect and reverence shown towards the titular character (Riddick is undoubtedly one of the more interesting anti-heroes out there) and Riddick makes for an agreeable B-movie night in. However, it’s frustrating that the end product represents such a missed opportunity to have taken things in yet another direction.