By Shane M. Dallmann
As thoroughly as I enjoyed PITCH BLACK when it first came out, something warned me away from THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK nine years ago… even though we still had Vin Diesel and David Twohy, it seemed like the harsh and perfectly simple situation horror of the original had been expanded into some sort of overblown, mythical “saga” and that our antihero was somehow becoming a god. Well, it turns out I was right and that I wasn’t the only one who thought so–but I ended up getting the video review duties all the same, at which point I confidently predicted that future “chronicles of Riddick” were highly unlikely.
Well, it took nearly ten years, but Diesel’s “fast and furious” star power made him a hot property all over again, and he and Twohy thought that another Riddick film would be a fine investment after all. And the trailer was highly encouraging, promising a return to the down-and-dirty monster siege/unlikely allies formula of years gone by.
Okay–that’s true to a large degree: one notable thing about the new RIDDICK is how quickly it distances itself from CHRONICLES… in fact, it can’t our protagonist away from his previous throne and into a new fix soon enough. Of course, the process of getting this DONE requires a set-up that won’t be paid off until yet ANOTHER movie, apparently. What the trailer does NOT tell you is that it focuses almost completely on events taking place over 90 minutes into this two hour movie… and actually GETTING there can be quite a chore.
First up: a long, extended “survival” sequence on the harsh new planet. Riddick narrates in his head… he feels he may be in his new fix because he’d gotten too “civilized” and that it was time for him to return to his roots (if that’s not a regretful glance back at CHRONICLES, I don’t know what is). But then the very next thing he does is rescue a puppy. I wish I were kidding. He rescues an alien canine from certain death and raises it to adulthood, where it continues to perform many a cutesy piece of CGI behavior. So, naturally, I made a mental bet with myself as to just when someone would KILL the weird CGI doggie just to get Riddick’s dander up. They really try to tug at your heartstrings, too, but it never looks like anything but a cartoon, so I just saved you a hanky.
Oh yes… the other characters eventually show up. Two teams of bounty hunters, with various clashing/amusing personalities. The clueless warlord type; the more than competent captain with a tie to Riddick’s past (of course); the Scripture quoter; the former WWE wrestler (Dave Bautista) who eventually gets his one-on-one… and then there’s Katee Sackhoff. She’s terrific in the role, don’t get me wrong… but is she actually a super-tough lesbian (as they attempt to tell us every five minutes), or is she just waiting for the right guy to sweep her off her feet? Again, I wish I were making this up… did I stumble into a remake of GOLDFINGER? There’s suggestiveness… galore.
Anyhow, while the film did learn from the past, and Riddick is basically back to his original bad-ass self (no more Christ figure/”chosen one” nonsense), the movie itself simply takes too long to get moving and never really does pick up the pace. There ARE numerous good individual moments (especially the cat-and-mouse business between Riddick and the bounty hunters before the monsters finally show up), but as before, there was simply no good reason to stretch things out for two full hours. Too bad–I really wanted to like this a lot more.