Home Reviews We review Riddick – A semi-satisfying mixture of badass and just bad

We review Riddick – A semi-satisfying mixture of badass and just bad

5 min read
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They say you can’t keep a good man down. Well, that goes double for a bad man. So after a 9 year hiatus and a whole lot of their own time and money, star/producer Vin Diesel and writer/director David Twohy have brought antihero Riddick back to the cinema screen.

And much to long time fans’ delight, the li’l mass murderer that could is getting back to his uncompromisingly violent ways. There are just a few problems that he can’t quite kill his way out of.

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I rather enjoyed 2009’s Chronicles of Riddick – which apparently puts me in the minority. Richard B. Riddick’s second on-screen outing may have deviated heavily from his much smaller, much more focused and very much not PG-13 debut effort in Pitch Black, but Chronicles achieved the type of impressively ambitious world-building that I love.

The box-office didn’t agree though, which is why now, nearly a decade later, we find Twohy and Diesel trying to recapture what worked so well in the first film.

Herein lies the film’s first problem: for the final two-thirds of it, Riddick is essentially Pitch Black all over again: Riddick is back on a strange alien planet, being forced to work with – and occasionally slaughter –  some people who are rather partial to seeing his head and shoulders part ways, after a particularly nasty alien threat shows up due to a specific confluence of natural events. Sound familiar?

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Whether Twohy is a one trick pony or not is certainly up for debate, but what isn’t though, is the fact that he does this one trick very well. If you’re just here to munch popcorn as Riddick the Shiny-Eyed Boogeyman finds new and inventive ways to turn people into filet mignon, then you’ve definitely come to the right place.

But before we can get to any of that though, we open with the film’s strongest act, as Riddick is stranded on the aforementioned planet courtesy of some Necromonger back-stabbing. Also back-shooting, and even a bit of back-drop-a-cliff-face-on-your-head-ing. And so we spend the next 30 minutes watching a broken and beaten Riddick go native, as he has to learn to survive on a world populated by creepie crawlies who all want to eat him as much as he needs to eat them. It’s Bear Grylls meets Alienand it’s fantastic.

Diesel, who sounds like he gargles with his namesake as he philosophizes on killing while rescuing alien puppies (Cue: Awwwww), was simply born to play this role. Whether slinking in the shadows, or staring down angry alien moons, he is Richard B. Riddick.

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Twohy proves he knows how to make money work, as he stretches the film’s meager $40 million budget to give us some arresting science-fiction visuals, some of which look like Frank Frazetta paintings come to life. And thanks to Riddick’s adoption of said alien puppy – a type of jackal/Great Dane mix – we get treated to one of the film’s many moments of unexpectedle effective comic levity.

But soon darkness and rain starts rolling in, and with it an alien threat that forces Riddick to set off an emergency beacon that grabs the attention of two competing groups of bounty hunters, all out to claim the bounty on his head.

The two groups couldn’t be more different, with one ragtag group led by equal parts sleazy and slimy Santana (Jordi Molla), while the honourable and noble Boss Johns (Matt Nable), who has some connection to Riddick’s past, leads the other more professional unit.

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With the exception of Johns’ right-hand woman, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), none of the other dozen or so people who make up these two groups bare any mentioning at all though, as they’re all either either just walking plot devices, or walking fleshy knife holsters for Riddick.

Dahl though definitely requires a mention, but for mixed reasons. Ex-Battlestar Galactica alum Sackhoff is no stranger to playing tough ladies, but she turns it up a notch here to satisfying effect. Dahl is a bona-fide ass kicking, sniper rifle shooting badass, who not only holds her own, but frequently beats (up) the men around her. For that I applaud Twohy.

That applause though quickly gets drowned out by groans of disgust when, in the film’s biggest problem, it exhibits a simply shocking misogynistic and sexually confused streak around her. There’s almost not a single scene with her in it, where somebody is not either trying to rape her, or cracking jokes about raping her.  And even our “hero” gets in on the action, not only offering a particularly anatomically descriptive missive about sexually assaulting her, but then also using an earlier, totally gratuitous topless shot of her so that he can mix things up by making fun of her nipples. Classy.

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All of this would be more than bad enough on it’s own, but then Twohy takes Dahl’s lesbianism, a character trait she firmly reiterates several times throughout the film (usually quickly followed by a rape attempt), and makes a mockery of it, when [SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING] she begins giving Riddick the googly eyes all because he’s the baddest dude around [/SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING].

Not helping me to overlook these transgressions, is the fact that the film’s third act definitely suffers from a bit of weariness, ending on a slightly limp note. Maybe if Twohy had cut down on the film’s two-hour running time and punched up a few later action beats, it could have gotten the killer finish to match its lean and strong opening, but instead we left with a finale that’s not bad, but not great either.

The bottom line is that when Riddick works, it works really well, and while its tendency to copy from its own past won’t be bringing in any new disciples, established fans looking for more of the same should find something to enjoy. They’ll just find a few very unsavoury and completely unnecessary elements as well.

Do you know how many riddick movies are there? Check out our article.

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Last Updated: June 7, 2022

16 Comments

  1. Thats depressing… Thought this movie would be really good in some cases, but looking at how Riddick ended in the previous movie, one would think they would continue from there or have they? I didnt read the full review incase i bumped into spoilers. Either way ill watch it just cause its Riddick and see how it is.

    Reply

    • Kervyn Cloete

      October 21, 2013 at 11:13

      They spend only about the first 10 mins or so on the Necromonger stuff from the previous film, before ditching it for a new direction.

      And there’s only one very slight spoiler – which I’ve marked – but otherwise the review is totally spoiler free.

      Reply

      • CypherGate

        October 21, 2013 at 11:15

        Oh ok. Do you think they should have rather followed up on the Necromonger stuff for the whole movie or do the whole new direction?

        Reply

        • Kervyn Cloete

          October 21, 2013 at 11:20

          Personally, I would have loved them to explore it further. It was a damn intriguing mythology that Twphy created. Throw in the Furyan supernatural elements from the Director’s Cut of Chronicles, and it made for a compelling start to an epic.

          The problem was that after Chronicles’ weak box office takings, they were just never going to get the budget to pull it off. Diesel actually did his cameo in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, not for a paycheck, but so that he and Twohy could get the Riddick rights from Universal, so that they could try and raise some money for it on their own.

          Also, many people preferred the smaller scope of Pitch Black, so they decided to go down that path again.

          Reply

          • CypherGate

            October 21, 2013 at 11:25

            Oh ok that makes sense. The mythology was really cool indeed and i also wanted to know more about the Furyan race and its powers. Its a pity it didnt do that well at the box office cause i think Chronicles was a lot better than Pitch Black. Has the box office results been released yet? Do you maybe know?

          • Kervyn Cloete

            October 21, 2013 at 11:28

            It’s already taken $92 million worldwide. Which may not seem like much, but like I mentioned in my review, it only had a $40 million budget. On top of that, it received a very staggered release schedule, so it’s still opening in some regions, like ours this Friday.

          • CypherGate

            October 21, 2013 at 11:36

            Anything more than there budget is a good thing. Thanks for the info

  2. Alien Emperor Trevor

    October 21, 2013 at 11:23

    If it’s closer to Pitch Black in tone than CoR, then I’m happy. Found the latter to be a bit campy.

    Reply

    • Kervyn Cloete

      October 21, 2013 at 11:27

      It is VERY close to Pitch Black.

      Reply

      • Skyblue

        October 21, 2013 at 17:02

        That’s a good thing in my book. Loved CoR as well, esp the opening scene with the mercs.

        Reply

    • Brady miaau

      October 21, 2013 at 14:39

      Why? CoR was just a fun and awesome movie?

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        October 21, 2013 at 14:51

        I do like it. PB was a very intimate movie & the characters inhabited a grey area. CoR was more epic, but I think they lost something when they expanded the scope – characters became more obvious & less interesting.

        Reply

        • Brady miaau

          October 21, 2013 at 14:53

          Yeah, ok. point.

          but CoR is just a bit of mindless fun, big battles, funny fight scenes. That is why I prefer it. Kind of like the 1st Transporter movie.

          You can go a long way with funny mindless action, if done well.

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            October 21, 2013 at 15:45

            True, I like my silly action as well.

  3. Trebzz

    October 24, 2013 at 09:56

    There is a Riddick movie? Damn I had no idea

    Reply

  4. Alcatraz1921

    November 6, 2013 at 10:28

    Watched it last night. So awesome…but then, I’m a die hard Riddick fan. I just loved the fact that he was back on a lonesome planet, killing aliens (and merchs)…..and adopting puppies.

    Reply

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