The third chapter of the sci-fi thriller saga, beginning with Pitch Black (2000) and The Chonicles of Riddick (2004). Writer/director David Twohy returns, as does star Vin Diesel as the badass Riddick – escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy. Left for dead on a seemingly lifeless, sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself fighting for survival against lethal alien predators.
It’s taken almost a decade but Riddick has returned to screens with the latest film from series writer/director David Twohy and star Vin Diesel. Following the underperforming ‘Chronicles of Riddick’ back in 2004 the future of the franchise was uncertain however Twohy and Diesel slowly pushed a new film to completion this time with a more modest production budget of approximately $38 million (compared to $120 million for Chronicles).
The first thing to know about Riddick, is this is far more akin to Pitch Black than Chronicles. Reduced in scope this time around the new film follows Riddick on a journey of survival in a hostile environment. The concept is straight forward with a focus more on characters, survival and action than the more ambitious planet hopping plot as was done in the second film.
Despite the toned down approach it’s good to see however this film doesn’t ignore what’s come before it, and those who’ve seen the previous films will recognise key elements in the latest instalment that have been carried through.
Much of the film is carried by a solo performance from Vin Diesel and this is surprisingly effective, with the planetary setting essentially a character, the film takes its time to build up characteristics of the environment that come into play later. As the film progresses it evolves and reinvents itself from a solo survivor story, to a horror film and finally an action film delivering varying entertaining beats as it moves through each of these phases.
Twohy delivers some great looking classic sci/fi scenery throughout this film, with various landscape shots hearkening back to older pulpy sci/fi films while blending it with a more modern cinematic style.
Riddick brings with it enough blood and gore that is equal to that of its predecessors and keeps its rating at MA15+. Given the lower budget it’s noticeable that there are few grand action set-piece moments however the simpler character scale action works within the context of the film.
Where the film does disappoint is in the script, the dialogue tends to be clunky and at times the narrative feels somewhat awkward. The budgetary limitations are very noticeable in the visual effects, leading to some shots that easily break immersion from the film.
Here Vin Diesel delivers a more grounded version of Riddick which is different to what’s come before, and as the cast of characters expands throughout the film the character Riddick becomes curiously absent for long stretches of screen time allowing the support cast some time to shine. Katie Sackhoff is back in her familiar tough girl role which we’ve seen before, Jordi Molla is hit and miss in his role however Matt Nable gives something more interesting and engaging towards the later parts of the film.
Riddick is going to be an interesting film to track in terms of its box office performance, while it reaches enough of a resolution for an instalment in the franchise, Twohy and Diesel clearly have ambitious on where the franchise can go next.
For now, fans hoping for a galaxy spanning sci/fi film might be disappointed, but those happy with a return to its roots are likely to find much to enjoy here, but something that doesn’t surpass the original.
I’m giving it 7 out of 10 stars, Riddick is in cinemas around Australia from 12 September 2013.