By now the saga of escaped convict and galactic outlaw Richard Riddick is a well-established sci-fi benchmark with a devoted following cultivated by a succession of movie and video game releases. As the substantial lore surrounding Riddick aspires to achieve mythic proportions, expectations also escalate, challenging successive releases to augment the gritty antihero’s legendary status, particularly after the first sequel, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” stumbled in 2004.
Titling the third film “Riddick” would seem to telegraph a determinative evolution of the ongoing narrative, rather than the largely episodic exercise that franchise director David Twohy and star-producer Vin Diesel have delivered.
Duped into relinquishing the crown of Lord Marshal of the Necromongers by his nemesis Vaako (Karl Urban), an entitlement hard-won in “The Chronicles of Riddick,” the notorious murderer Riddick (Diesel) ends up stranded on another inhospitable planet instead of enjoying a return to his home world of Furya, as Vaako led him to expect. Fending off attacks by hyena-like wild canines and battling carnivorous amphibians reminiscent of giant scorpions, Riddick makes it out of the heat-blasted desert to the sanctuary of the adjacent high plains, where he finds refuge in an outpost set up by a network of galactic mercenaries.
Relative safety turns out to be unrewarding, however, and with no other way to escape the inhospitable planet, Riddick activates the beacon device that alerts an extensive bounty-hunter network to his location. First to arrive are Santana (Jordi Molla) and his thug cohorts, who collectively possess more brawn than brains. Close behind are Boss Johns and Dahl, the only woman among the testosterone-fueled hunters.
Riddick’s intention, as he makes clear in a message spelled out in a bloody scrawl inside the shelter after his pursuers arrive, is to separate one of the spaceships from its crew and flee. Santana, however, is determined to sever Riddick’s head from his body so he can claim the bounty, particularly since it’s doubled if the fugitive is confirmed dead. Vastly outnumbered and out-armed, Riddick has only a fierce native canine he’s managed to semi-domesticate to fend off the mercenaries and make a break for freedom.
Plenty of bone crunching and blood gushing, along with some selective nudity, have boosted the movie’s rating up to an “R,” but lacking the distinct visual style, not even Diesel’s gruff charisma can do much to animate the first 30 minutes of the movie, which drag as Riddick struggles to survive on the unfamiliar planet.
Absent any other intelligent life forms, Riddick’s brief monologues and terse comments to his canine companion hardly make for much character conflict. Once the bounty hunters turn up en masse, though, Riddick reverts to form, delivering wisecracking warnings and kicking butt while barely breaking a sweat. It’s clear almost from the start that machete-wielding Santana is no match for Riddick.
Inevitably setting up another sequel at the movie’s conclusion, Twohy begs the question of where a wanted man with a price on his head who’s exiled from his home planet can really run for sanctuary. It’s hard to believe that Universal Pictures released this movie with its terrible script and some of the worst acting I have ever seen. Stay away my friends.