Riddick (2013)

After nine years of waiting, fans of Vin Diesel and his character of Richard B. Riddick have finally gotten the sequel they wanted. The character hasn’t been seen on the big screen since the pretty terrible Chronicles of Riddick back in 2004, which had an inflated budget and didn’t make it back. The fact that we have a new Riddick movie at all is kind of a surprise, given that fact. This time around, the series is back to its lower budget, Pitch Black roots, and it does so with more success.

And, in order to do that, it basically needed to scrap everything that happened in The Chronicles of Riddick. We open with Riddick (Diesel) fighting to survive on a desert planet — yes, another one — only to learn out that after the events of Chronicles, he was betrayed and left for dead here. The first bit of Riddick involves the main character getting back up to strength, befriending and training a dog-like creature, and finding out how he’s going to escape. You’d think that from this point Riddick might turn into a revenge film, with Riddick attempting to get back at those who betrayed and tried to kill him, but that’s not the case. We’re basically just doing Pitch Black again, only with Riddick not joining forces with the other people until much later; he plays the serial killer for significantly longer this time around.

The victims include a bunch of bounty hunters, only a few of whom get any sort of character. The main one has an identity which I will not reveal, because it’s meant to be a plot twist. There are three leading males, and then one girl, because we need a girl. They’re going to attempt to kill Riddick, all while the Furyan stalks and picks them off one by one.

Eventually, danger brings them together, reluctantly, just like it did in the first film of the trilogy. If Riddick wasn’t the central character, and the film was titled, say, “Generic Space Movie #467,” we’d accuse it of ripping off Pitch Black. There are certain beats that are almost identical — which the film comments on once, actually — and a plot which probably didn’t take long to write out.

There are some key differences, of course. Riddick is substantially more violent than either of its predecessors, and earns its R rating on the amount of gore alone. There’s more intentional humor, too, and the special effects have improved from even Chronicles of Riddick, which had a significantly larger budget than Pitch Black and Riddick combined. We also see Riddick as the savage killer we love for a larger portion of the film, which means we know all the meaningless characters won’t make it to the end.

That is, save for one, who serves no plot purpose for the film’s entirety, but stays in the background and never gets in any danger. He barely gets any lines of dialogue, I’m not sure if he even had his name spoken during the movie, and yet he makes it right to the end. Could he have been removed? Absolutely. But, then, the same can be said of a lot of the film, and that’s the main problem I have with Riddick: there’s too much filler.

Most B-level action movies don’t try to last for two hours. They know that they’ll run out of ideas before that point. Riddick doesn’t care. It knows that we’ll sit through a great deal of fluff to get to the fun, Riddick stuff. So, it throws in many scenes with little purpose, repetitive moments which didn’t need to exist, and generally pads its running time to make it to the two-hour mark. It could have been 90 minutes and it would have been been a more effective film.

But, then it might not have been able to showcase how cool Vin Diesel is. There are scenes upon scenes of Vin Diesel just looking so incredibly awesome that you want to be him. If the movie has a point, it’s to make us believe that Diesel is the epitome of coolness and awesomeness. One scene in particular has Diesel walking slowly through the desert while other characters are literally commenting on how dumbstruck they are by how amazing he is. I can see why the actor would want to make a third movie in this series.

Actually, the acting in general isn’t that bad. Vin Diesel is the only true “star” in the picture — Karl Urban has a brief cameo early on, but he’s the only other bit of drawing power — but the television actors are fine in their roles, cheesy as some of them may be. The film is well-shot, too, and has some wonderfully painted backgrounds, even if they’re sometimes a little too perfect to be taken as real. Now, if only we could get the editing to cut out the useless portions. Then we might have a movie definitely worth seeing.

As it is, Riddick is worth seeing if you like seeing Vin Diesel do cool things, or if you wanted a slightly — but only slightly — different take on what Pitch Black did thirteen years prior. Vin Diesel is fun to watch, and watching him kill the bad guys is enjoyable. The special effects are good, the action is sometimes hilariously over-the-top and incredibly gory, and if the editing had chopped off about half an hour of unnecessary filler — which is about how much of the stuff there is — then it would definitely be worth seeing. As it is, it’s a competent movie, and if it sounds like you’ll like it, chances are you will.

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Christopher McGuire has paid his dues, in the business since 1993.  He has written some outstanding scripts (“The Usual Suspects,”  Valkyrie,” “The Tourist”) but most moviegoers have never heard of