Star vehicle ‘Riddick’ too reliant on Diesel

Star vehicle ‘Riddick’ too reliant on Diesel

By Karsten Burgstahler


It’s been nine years since the last film featuring Vin Diesel as escaped prisoner Riddick hit theaters.

In that time, the “Fast and the Furious” franchise has reignited. Each new Furious installment has been more popular than the last, beginning with the fourth installment in 2009. The series is now a global phenomenon, so one could imagine Universal was desperate to keep Diesel in the fold.


That’s the only logical reason Universal would greenlight “Riddick” (Rated R; 119 minutes), Vin Diesel’s passion project and a new installment in the dormant series. Certainly it can’t be because anyone involved thought this movie would have anything new to add to the sci-fi genre.

But this movie did make it through production, so now we have a tangled mess of a film. “Riddick” concerns the title character, who is stranded on an abandoned planet, left to fend for himself after a series of events that are explained to the audience via the gravelliest voiceover you’ll ever hear. Riddick finds an outpost with an emergency beacon and sends for help. This alerts two groups of bounty hunters who will profit greatly from bringing back Riddick’s lifeless body. Of course, Riddick is smarter than them. Everyone in the audience is smarter than them, actually.

“Riddick” lunges from act to act, starting with a rather boring set-up where Riddick walks around and kills monsters. You’d think this would be neat. But no, there’s not really anything interesting here. Things pick up when the bounty hunters arrive, but of the eight to nine new characters, only two are given any personality. The others are simply for Riddick to hunt.

One of the others, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), has to deal with one of the most sexist scripts that have come down the Hollywood pipeline this year. She doesn’t get to save anyone — rather, the writers give her a gun to give the impression that she’s cunning. Nope, she’s simply here for men to come on to her and for other men to make jokes about coming on to her.

Eventually Riddick and the surviving bounty hunters have to team up to get off the planet because of plot contrivances audience members have likely blocked out anyhow. When we finally get to the tense scenes, the movie unleashes a wrath of CGI that might have been cool in 2002 but is now barely above Syfy Channel quality.

Some of the action is mildly interesting, and Riddick sets up a few traps for the hunters that are clever enough to prove that the writers weren’t completely asleep at the wheel. But somehow the movie feels bloated and empty at the same time; the nearly two-hour running time stuffs the movie to the gills with action scenes without actually accomplishing anything of artistic value. It’s all flash and no bang.

Was it wrong for me to ask more of this movie? Probably. The September release date was a warning sign. I’m actually surprised that Universal avoided the urge to convert the movie to 3D. But when their movie is clearly nothing more than a bribe to keep the star happy, maybe it’s time to reconsider motivations.