I found Riddick solidly entertaining.
I’m as surprised as anyone at that sentence. On my way to the screening, I was trying to recall what I thought when I saw Pitch Black, and…I couldn’t remember. Then I tried to recall if I had seen The Chronicles of Riddick (or just the trailer), and…I couldn’t remember. Expectations were not high. After the first seven minutes, I was worried, but then I realized the first seven minutes were actually a preview for a Metallica concert film. when we stop asking our films to save the lost while entertaining the justified and just let them do one or the other, I expect we’ll all be a lot happier.Once Riddick started, it grabbed my attention and didn’t let go.
The story is not particularly original, combining elements of Beowulf, Predator, Aliens, and Rambo, but director David Twohy has channeled the best parts of those movies rather than simply referencing them. From Beowulf we get a first act of man versus nature which actually shows the character being smart rather than simply telling us that he is. Like Predator we get a loose collection of characters who are quickly defined yet played well enough that they don’t come across as the cardboard cutouts they actually are. Like Rambo we get a hunter/hunted reversal. Most importantly, like Aliens, we get confident pacing, allowing the story to build to a climax rather than having the whole thing be frenetically paced.
Riddick is a bit restrained for an “R” rated film with roots in the horror genre. There is one gory kill that is rendered explicitly, and one gratuitous full-frontal nude shot in a flashback, but while the monster violence is omnipresent we don’t get an endless assortment of kill shots and blood splatter. We can actually follow the action, which always makes it more interesting to me than when we get too many shaky-cam shots and quick cuts.
Diesel plays to his strengths and has a certain glowering charisma. Katee Sachoff (whom most will know from Battlestar Galactica) is both buff and beautiful. (She too gets a gratuitous topless shot, but it’s brief and more about her character’s lack of self-consciousness than anything else). I appreciate, too, that when the point came in the film where a prayer-reciting junior member of the team would have been dispatched in cruel, ironic fashion were all of Hollywood as reflexively anti-God as some Christians think, the film once again showed restraint. It isn’t pro-God, but it doesn’t go out of its way to mock anyone.
Riddick didn’t make me regret trading in my copy of Pitch Black, but it was better than John Carter, better than Pacific Rim, and, yes, better than Prometheus. It’s not thematically complex, but I’m pretty sure that three years from now I’ll remember that I saw it. If Twohy and Diesel wanted to revisit this character, I’d watch it.