Its bloated, muddled sequel, 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick, tried to expand Riddick’s universe, but served only to dilute what made him great the first time around. Several highly rated video games have kept the name alive, and now we have a belated third cinematic entry; simply named Riddick.
If the name is simple, it’s indicative of the film. That’s not an insult, but more an indication of the film taking the character back to his roots. That is to say; put Riddick in a corner, give him a knife, throw in some vicious alien creatures and some bounty-hunting space rogues and see what happens. This is Riddick being the best Riddick he can be – which thankfully means the film doesn’t shy away from the violence in search of a more accessible certificate.
We open with our hero being stranded on a desolate, uninhabited planet and left for dead. The first portion of the film is entirely dialogue-free and simply pits the magnetic screen presence of Vin Diesel’s anti-hero against the elements of this savage alien world. It’s a beautiful sequence, shot in an otherworldly light by returning director David Twohy, and it’s one that highlights the wonderful cinematography of David Eggby.
The best way to describe the look and feel of Riddick is that it’s like watching a graphic novel come to life. That’s not an original compliment, but with such beautiful backgrounds, and such a rich colour palette, it is one that has perhaps never been as apt as here; Riddick is a strikingly beautiful film.
It’s not long before Riddick has some company on the planet, as two groups of bounty hunters arrive, looking to collect the price on our hero’s head. One group, led by Jordi Molla’s swashbuckling Santana, is on hand simply for the money, but Matt Nable’s more prepared and competent crew are there with a more personal agenda…
There’s fun to be had with the rag-tag groups of space-pirates, which includes Katee Sackhoff and Bokeem Woodbine, but – the two leaders aside – they’re never developed to the point where they become actual characters. They are – in almost every sense – disposable.
If there’s a problem with Riddick, it’s that it’s gone a little too far back to its roots. Veering away from the nonsense mythologies of Chronicles was a necessary move, but this skirts far too close to Pitch Black. Come the end, it almost turns into a straight remake. That’s not to say that it’s bad – Riddick is great fun throughout – but the feeling of déjà vu is undeniable.
Riddick is a wonderful character, and if it’s great to see him strut his stuff again in a back-to-basics, stripped down and pure sort of way, then it’s also true that he deserves something better; something more. If Riddick is a reinvention by regression, then a fourth entry must take him somewhere new.
Released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 4 September 2013.