‘Riddick’ Review

Published 10 months ago by , Updated September 6th, 2013 at 1:32 pm,

Vin Diesel as Riddick in Pitch Black Riddick Review

Riddick serves as a direct sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick as the titular antihero abandons the Necromonger throne to seek out his homeworld, Furya. Riddick (Vin Diesel) leaves peacefully and the Necromongers agree to escort him on his journey – only to maroon the fugitive on an unknown planet with highly evolved (and subsequently extremely lethal) animal life.

As Riddick recovers, he begins exploring the planet in an effort to find transport off-world. With time against him, as well as a ruthless alien threat on the horizon, he makes a desperate move – and sends out an open channel distress signal, alerting a group of merciless bounty hunters to his location. Ruthless and well-armed the mercenaries prepare to take Riddick dead or alive (the bounty doubles if he’s dead) – meaning, if he hopes for return to Furya, Richard B. Riddick will have to fight through some of the most dangerous humans and alien creatures he’s ever encountered.

Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick director/writer David Twohy returns for the sequel, but fresh eyes from Unknown screenwriters Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell help the latest Riddick installment walk a fine line between franchise past and future. For that reason, Riddick will have no problem pleasing longtime fans of the series while also delivering an accessible and entertaining sci-fi action experience for casual moviegoers. The movie reinstates Riddick‘s R-Rating – so uninitiated viewers who aren’t familiar with the Riddick character (along with his trademark brutality, sexual innuendo, and deranged morality) could find certain elements of the character (as well as the larger movie) off-putting. Still, Riddick’s abrasive and lethal personality is part of the fun – and has always been what sets the character apart from comparable Hollywood heroes.

Riddick 2013 Vin Diesel Katee Sackhoff Raoul Trujillo Riddick Review

Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, and Matt Nable in ‘Riddick’

The opening moments of Riddick are tied to the events of The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) but the overall structure and tone are much closer to franchise-starter Pitch Black. The Riddick storyline actually draws a number of direct connections to events in the original film and offers-up several fan service nods as well as thematic parallels – so many, in fact, that some viewers may want to brush-up on the prior installments (mainly Pitch Black) if they wish to get the most out of Riddick‘s story. That said, revisiting past movies in the franchise is not required, as viewers who are willing to let a few references and revelations pass by will find that Twohy is surprisingly good at laying out all of the necessary pieces for the events at hand.

Surprisingly, in spite of all the franchise backstory, references, pertinent exposition, a dingo-like sidekick, and a roster of diverse mercenary characters, Riddick is actually pretty straightforward – with an intriguing three-act structure that keeps the plot tight and engaging. The first third of the film sets the bar high, with a minimalistic survival story that is both unique and captivating – while managing to show a more vulnerable Riddick (without softening his personality or skills). Yet, even as the film locks into a more familiar monster-killing/CGI action-thriller, Twohy has enough smart elements in the mix that keep the film sharp – even when it borrows heavily from Pitch Black as well as other sci-fi favorites.

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Bounty Hunters Diaz, Santana, Luna, Dahl, and Falco in ‘Riddick’

As mentioned, the Riddick character is explored as well as challenged in a number of interesting ways this round. While some moviegoers unfairly dismiss Diesel as a one-note muscle head, the actor has kept busy honing his craft over the last decade – and it shows in Riddick. Diesel has injected (a few) subtleties into the character that the star could not have presented thirteen years ago. Consequently, this version of Riddick is the most interesting, honest, and outright believable of the series – making him even more terrifying (and at times humorous) than ever before.

The supporting cast is a solid roster of characters that make for appealing Riddick (and monster) fodder. A few of the bounty hunters – most notably Santana (Jordi Mollà), an unscrupulous mercenary, and Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), a devout Christian – fall into predictable arcs that provide a few laugh-worthy moments but never escape one-note cliche. Fortunately, the remaining crew is a bit more nuanced, most notably Boss Johns (Matt Nable) – who has complicated backstory to unpack with Riddick. Katee Sackhoff gives a welcome (but equally no-nonsense) dose of girl power into the team as Dahl. It’s another strong female role for the actress, and Dahl is instrumental in the success of the Riddick story (aided by fun banter between her and the titular antihero); unfortunately, the part doesn’t allow Sackhoff to stretch very far out of Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica) typecasting. Dave Bautista (soon to be seen in Guardians of the Galaxy) is another standout. A formidable presence with surprisingly keen comedic timing, Bautista offers slick fisticuffs as well as several big laughs.

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Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick in ‘Riddick’

Honorable mention goes to the Riddick effects team – who create one of the most believable CG animal companions in recent memory. A sizable dingo-like dog, the animal is instrumental in bringing out new sides of Riddick’s personality – resulting in some especially amusing moments. The alien threat this round is equally well-realized through convincing effects and imaginative creature design – even more intimidating than the Pitch Black Bioraptors that helped sell Riddick as a potential franchise antihero. As a result, audiences can expect that with a more formidable set of otherworldly monsters to fight, Riddick also delivers plenty of solid action set pieces that mix practical and digital effects (instead of the overly CGI environments and brawls that undercut The Chronicles of Riddick).

Riddick is also playing as an IMAX Experience and while the sprawling alien landscapes look (and sound) great in the premium format, most frugal filmgoers will likely find the overall presentation isn’t worth the added cost. In certain scenes, IMAX is actually a distraction more than a benefit – as the film quickly cuts back and forth between fullscreen and widescreen shots within a single sequence. Viewers who simply want a bigger and louder Riddick experience are the only ones that should spring for the higher price.

Despite some underwhelming adherences to stock sci-fi stories and characters, as well as moments of eye-rolling dialogue and a few indulgent character beats, Riddick offers a solid action-horror experience. A more experienced performance from Vin Diesel helps transition Riddick from an over-the-top action hero into a fully realized character that is actually capable of sustaining a quality film franchise. While longtime fans will surely enjoy seeing Riddick back on the big screen, the latest series installment should have no problem drawing in non-fans too – not to mention set the stage for further chronicles of Richard B. Riddick.

If you’re still on the fence about Riddick, check out the trailer below:

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Riddick runs 119 minutes and is Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity. Now playing in regular and IMAX theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Riddick Spoilers Discussion.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Riddick episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

TAGS: chronicles of riddick, riddick

88 Comments

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  1. Itr was hte worst movie. It was so similar to pitch black, people getting picked off one at a time, but something in the dark. Look at the similarities, instead of the creatures coming out in the dark (pitch black) they came out when it was raining in (Riddick). I was so sad and actually left the movie, I have never done this and I love the riddick franchise, but I think this will the last, I saw an interview that he hinted that there would be a movie in which we actually get to see the underverse, but I think its done, terrible third movie. Damn Riddick you blew it!!!

  2. Contrived. Don’t waste your time with this one.

  3. Gotta admit. I was bored watching the movie. And I don’t mind character development movies. But this movie felt a little flat and was predictable.

  4. My wife and I both enjoyed seeing this movie over the weekend. I loved the new bounty hunter tech toys, glitching maps, cyclop’s Eye warning, and hover Harley’s. I’m glad Vin Diesel got this made, and your article about this journey made this movie more enjoyable. Overall I agree with your rating of 3.5, good rated-r movie.

  5. Good action movie but kinda just a remake of pitch black using water instead of darkness.
    Love the comment when he gets on the bike ride it like ya stole it. (fast & furious)

  6. I loved pitch black and thought chronicles was ok so it was good to see riddick going back towards the first film however it just kinder White washed the second film in 5 minutes worth of flash backs I hope they do make another film I just hope it’s done properly this one felt more of a half baked great idea so you were expecting more that being said I did enjoy the film all up to the last 5 mins

  7. Riddick kept me engrossed, especially with the multiple plot shifts that prevented it from being predictable at any point. And I loved the dog. But the science had a major flaw. Read my review on The Next Phase blog: http://aknextphase.com/?p=1242

  8. Was bored just about the entire time. Way too many similarities to PB. Too many sub plots that didn’t make sense or go anywhere. Forgettable support cast. Katie completely wasted. Nail in the coffin to this franchise. Should’ve sent him to Furia or send it to the Underverse.

  9. If you were a fan of Pitch Black you’ll enjoy this movie just as much. It’s full of monsters, mercenaries, and action. The first half of the movie is pretty much Riddick being a savage and adapting to his new environment. Through a flashback we find out how Riddick ended up on the alien planet after become the Lord Marshal of Necromongers in the Chronicles of Riddick movie. This brief scene is the only scene with Karl Urban as Vaako which was disappointing. The second half of the movie is the arrival of the mercenaries (which Riddick is absent for a long time), then deals with Riddick vs. mercenaries (two groups of mercs) and then a reluctant team up in order to survive alien creatures. The plot very much paralleled Pitch Black and you shouldn’t expect anything other than what was in that movie. The alien creatures were designed like alien scorpions which was really creative and they flourished in wet conditions. I’m not a fan of fight scenes in the rain because it makes the fight scenes hard to follow but I understood the necessity of it here and it wasn’t that bad. In terms of costumes I liked the look of the first group of mercenaries and Riddick’s clothing but the second group of mercenaries had ridiculous looking outfits.

    The problem I have with this movie was that it felt more like a sequel to Pitch Black and didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the Chronicles of Riddick (the second movie). The Necromongers played no part in this movie except for the brief flashback which makes the second movie almost pointless. Also, this movie could almost stand out on it’s own (although you need previous knowledge of some characters in Pitch Black and on what Riddick is). I think this movie should have been the 2nd in the series with the Chronicles of Riddick is the final movie or they shouldn’t have ended the Chronicles of Riddick with Riddick becoming the Lord Marshal or maybe they shouldn’t have had this as the plot and done something different (such as explored the Underverse or actually did something Furyan related).

    In terms of cast Vin Diesel does a terrific job as Riddick. He has the same intensity as always, he looks physically good for the role, and there was a touch of emotion that didn’t overwhelm the character too much (the addition of a pet alien dog added to his humanity). The first group of mercenaries had some standouts that included Jordi Molla as the leader Santana who was disturbing and very convincing for his character. Dave Bautista as Diaz was also convincing as a mercenaries. In the second group of mercenaries the standouts were Matt Nable as Boss Johns who was after Riddick for answers that related to the movie Pitch Black. Another standout was Katee Sackhoff as Dahl who was tough and sarcastic but added no sex appeal and was a bit standoffish.

    I rate this film 7 out of 10.

  10. Late to the film as it takes a while to come out on DVD in these parts. Just trying to work out which one of these posters praising the film is really Vin Diesel in disguise.

    Riddick does follow the Pitch Black formula in plotting but not unfortunately in suspense, desperation or those elements of surprise and dread that made the first in the series so good.

    This third installment makes part 2 look like a masterpiece by comparison,at least in Chronicles it tried to give the viewer something different even if it was over the top. It’s always a mystery to see the same person who scripts a winning movie lose sight of everything that made it good in subsequent installments. George Lucas is a prime example.

    Riddick is stylistally impressive but in comparsion to PB it’s a disaster and I’m a big Vin Diesel, Riddick fan. What a waste of a movie.

    And the posters being being brow beaten by the wife. I’m with Manly on that one. Truly need to grow a pair.

  11. Same practically everything as Pitch Black but not nearly as good. Wasn’t BAD but wasn’t that enjoyable either. Seriously, way too similar to Pitch Black. Hopefully the next step will be original, I read they wanna actually go to the underverse in the future and also visit Furya.

  12. I never really figured it out what is it about those Riddick films that creates so much noise. i checked all 3 movies a couple of days ago and they were … OK nothing more nothing less. Sure Katee Sackhoff was amazing in the 3rd but she is always breath taking, it was great seeing Karl Urban and Vin Diesel was … well you know Vin Diesel but other than those 3 there is nothing worse mentioning in the entire Trilogy.
    http://www.coolreviewsrule.com/2013/12/riddick-review-rise-of-katee-sackhoff.html

  13. If I had wanted to see pitch black, I would’ve watched pitch black. Seriously disappointed in this movie as I was expecting so much more.

    • I wouldn’t compare this movie to Pitch Black, I think Pitch Black was a whole lot better…

  14. Three act structure indeed? It was two acts and spent far too long dragging it feet in the 1st act to really get going…. Although not terrible and certainly better than it really deserved to be with such a thin script it definitely lacked something. Its a shame all the epic space opera of Chronicles was abandoned so soon and even though there was a germ of a great film here it wasn’t fully realised… As a Riddick fan I felt slightly cheated but if there is a fourth film that gets the series back on track with some proper character development and universe expansion I’ll still be interested. I gave it three stars but it could have been so much more.

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