Riddick: A Man, A Planet, and No Plot

Did you know Vin Diesel basically agreed to do more Fast & Furious movies if Universal allowed him to make more Riddick movies? I didn’t know this until we talked about it on the radio this morning during our review.

That’s a bold move, grabbing Universal by the balls like that. It started when the studio asked him to make a cameo in The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which signified his return to what was becoming a multi-million dollar franchise (UGH). Diesel pretty much said, “Yeah, that’s cool, Universal. I’ll do this cameo. But instead of paying me, I want you to give my production company the rights to the Riddick character. Oh, and I want you to help me fund the movie. Otherwise, no more Fast & Furious.” I guess that’s one way to get your pet project.

And that’s exactly what Riddick is for Vin Diesel. A pet project. Pitch Black was a low-budget cult classic that launched him on the scene. Its sequel, Chronicles of Riddick, sucked and only made $116 million (The movie’s budget was $100 million). But he wanted to make another Riddick movie, so I’m assuming he funded the majority of it with his One Race production company (…yeah, that’s actually the name). Hold onto your butts, kids. We’re going to talk some Riddick now.

Here’s how Universal describes the plot: “Diesel reprises his role as the antihero Riddick, a dangerous, escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy. The infamous Riddick has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he’s encountered. The only way off is for Riddick to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty. The first ship to arrive carries a new breed of merc, more lethal and violent, while the second is captained by a man whose pursuit of Riddick is more personal. With time running out and a storm on the horizon that no one could survive, his hunters won’t leave the planet without Riddick’s head as their trophy.”

Riddick is exactly what was described above. Its plot is almost identical to Pitch Black, sure, but the first half-an-hour of the movie is quite enjoyable. And though many films have covered the “lone antihero taking on the wilderness” plot, it works here.

After being betrayed by the Necromongers (who we saw in The Chronicles of Riddick), Riddick is stranded on an unknown planet that is not his beloved homeworld of Furya. He’s injured, he’s tired, and he has to learn how to survive in a place that seemingly tries to murder him at every twist and turn (By the way, the Duke Nukem-like monologuing here is absolutely hysterical).

Meanwhile, he also comes into contact with some alien predators. One of them he befriends and turns into a pet (It was essentially a dog, though it looked like a combination of a hyena, a Doberman Pinscher, and a tiger). The other, like the rest of the planet, wants to kill him (and this thing looked like the alien from Alien with a bonus scorpion tail).

But after this part is over, that’s where I considered myself done with this movie. Enter the mercenaries looking to collect a bounty on Riddick’s head. Of course, they aren’t just ordinary bounty hunters either. Rather than, you know, creating new concepts for people who exist in a futuristic universe (not on Earth), director and writer David Twohy decided to make stereotypes into one-dimensional characters. For example, the first group of mercenaries is what I would describe as laughable caricatures (not the good kind) of Latin American culture. I mean, the leader’s name is Santana (Jordi Molla), and he carries a machete. Latinos, were you offended by this?

And let’s not forget about that second group of mercenaries who shows up to upstage the first group with their organization and perseverance, mocking the first group with the “If you need our help, let us know” line (because white power or something just as offensive). Naturally, this second group has a woman (Katee Sackhoff), too, but she’s an angry lesbian with big boobs (because Riddick fanboys needed some nip shots). And she goes on and on about how she doesn’t like men up until the end of the movie where she straddles Riddick and asks nicely for him to have sex with her. Did I mention her name is Dahl, which is a homophone for “doll”? Excuse me while I light myself on fire.

Also, after the mercenaries arrive, it’s like the movie forgot it was supposed to be telling us a story. Where it started with the “survive alone” plot, it took off on this entirely other thing with a cat-and-mouse game between Riddick and the mercenaries, and nothing really gets accomplished. Some of you will argue, “Well, it’s setting up another movie.” Sorry, but no. If the story doesn’t have a mission, it’s useless. You could get away with that argument with The Empire Strikes Back, but this lacked that type of suspenseful mastery.

Another thing that lost my interest was Riddick’s alien-dog dying. I knew the moment he took the dog and raised it to be his companion that it was going to die. Because I’ve watched movies before. Seriously, all of them kill the animals. Remember I Am Legend? Yeah, similar “survive alone” thing and the dog died. Now, I know this seems ridiculous because I’m just a big softy for animals. Sometimes, the animal has to die in order for the character to grow and for the movie to tug on our heartstrings. BUT EVERY MOVIE DOES THIS. Can the dog just live for once?

And don’t get me started on the godawful CGI (They must have spent all of the CGI budget on Riddick’s crazy eyes) or the cliché dialogue. You know it’s a shitty movie when the line “I’ll ride it like I stole it” shows up.

Overall, Riddick bored me. Maybe I’m just tired of bloated action movies after this summer, but I’m pretty sure it had more to do with the fact that this movie had terrible CGI and cheesy dialogue (that wasn’t even enjoyably campy) and decided to stop having a plot a quarter of the way through. Vin Diesel is never going to wow me with his acting skills because his only talent is being a badass action hero. And there’s nothing wrong with that, so this isn’t the problem with Riddick. The problem is that I would much rather have watched Riddick wander around a desolate planet for the entire movie and fight off alien predators than deal with a rag-tag band of mercenaries who are blatant and offensive stereotypes. At least then it would have jumped up a full letter-grade.

Riddick: D+

2 thoughts on “Riddick: A Man, A Planet, and No Plot

  1. I’m almost finished watching Riddick as I type this, and I agree with your post to the last bloody letter. First half an hour was interesting, tense, and very watchable, if somewhat bogged down with Vin Diesel’s tired, cheesy and mostly unnecessary narrative. After that, Riddick’s lines and all the mercenaries’ lines were godawful. The only thing enjoyable in the last three quarters of the movie is the occasional Katee Sackhoff eye candy (this coming from a low-key BSG watcher). And that’s it. The Santana character was terrible; I have no idea who that actor is, but he and his little sidekick, God-Boy, are the worst in the movie.

    ‘Riddick’ may have looked like Pitch Black, but it didn’t hold a candle to its predecessor. Pitch Black had character, interesting and at times witty dialogue, suspense, and intrigue. It was a fun ride. Riddick, in comparison, was shallow, cliched, with cringeworthy dialogue, ridiculously one-dimensional characters (including Riddick himself, especially when he’s mumbling about Sackhoff’s toes and nipples like a 14 year old boy).

    There. Now the movie’s over. Well, that was underwhelming. I suppose the franchise is definitely only for enthusiastic followers now, of which I am not one.
    I like my science fiction to have three ingredients. It’s not much to ask – just three things – an intriguing plot, interesting characters and intelligent dialogue. ‘Riddick’ had none of the above. I won’t be watch the fourth or fifth movies.

    1. Thanks, Scott! I’d even say that the “intriguing plot, interesting characters, and intelligent dialogue” is something I hope for in every movie. But let’s be honest—we’d be lucky to get two out of three with most movies, haha!

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