Let me take you back in time. I was a junior in high school and I remember going to my buddy Joe’s house and we watched a movie called Pitch Black. It introduced me to a young Vin Diesel, who before that had only been the voice of The Iron Giant and had a few scenes in Saving Private Ryan. It was an amazing sci-fi thriller and has since spawned multiple sequels, straight-to-DVD movies, and even some video games. 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick received mixed reviews because it was so vastly different from its predecessor Pitch Black. This newest installment goes back to its roots, but is it enough to revitalize the franchise?
Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a convicted murderer and general bad guy. While in prison back in the day, he got a black market surgery done to glaze his eyes, so that he can see in the dark. When other people are terrified, he thrives. After the events of Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, he now finds himself deserted on a deadly planet. The first third of the movie revolves around him surviving against the wild creatures of this planet. But then, things get crazy when two teams of bounty hunters arrive on the planet, both looking for him. However, when a tide of deadly beasts works its way to where they’re camped, would these bounty hunters dare cooperate with Riddick to survive? Or would they be safer with the wild beasts?
I love that Vin Diesel is a nerd and that he loves this character. He’s become famous enough that he doesn’t need to do movies like these, but he continues to develop this world. Riddick is a fascinating character and the first third of this movie is especially intriguing. There are all sorts of deadly beasts on this planet and it’s fun to watch Riddick struggle to beat them and find ways to protect himself.
The acting in general is pretty entertaining, though you shouldn’t be expecting anything extraordinary. While the writing may be amateur and corny, it’s not the actors’ faults.
Visually, there are some impressive character designs. The CGI doesn’t always live up to the design but the creatures are interesting at least.
What doesn’t work?
As I mentioned above, the writing is almost… terrifyingly bad. Really. Really bad. It feels like it was written so that any of the lines could be used independently in the trailer. It’s all one-liners. Some movies manage to work in amazing one-liners and they succeed (see Dredd). But Riddick fails that test. It also tries to make up words (to sound futuristic) but this comes off as weird gibberish. Aaaaaaaand they seemed to make Katee Sackhoff’s character a lesbian just so they could make jokes about it.
Now here’s another… issue possibly. Riddick is our main character. A convicted killer but he ends up saving the day, most the time. Well, most of this movie, I was rooting for him. But then… about halfway through, Riddick turns into a jerk. Like… he says a few things that made me start rooting for the monsters. We had no one to root for here, I lost all investment in the story.
And again like I mentioned above, the creatures were cool but some of the CGI work was a little dated. Riddick spends a deal of the movie with this wild dog, but the dog is clearly CGI. As are most of the creatures.
This movie is a mixed bag. The first half of the movie is an amazing survival story of a badass escaped convict and deadly aliens. The second half is full of horribly written dialogue and a weird turn by Diesel, which turns our entire cast into the villains of this story, and you end up rooting for the badly CGIed aliens. It’s fun but I wouldn’t recommend paying to see it in theaters. If you’re interested, rent the vastly superior Pitch Black.