“Riddick” returns the franchise to first principles.
After going badly astray with the incoherently plotted, CGI-bloated box-office dud “The Chronicles of Riddick” in 2007, star Vin Diesel and writer-director David Twohy were obliged to let the rubble cool for a few years.
But now that Diesel is a superhot Hollywood commodity thanks to the sizzling popularity of the “Fast and Furious” movies, he’s got the clout to resurrect the moribund sci-fi series he and Twohy launched in 2000 with “Pitch Black.”
This time, in a movie that’s leaner, meaner and more straightforward than “Chronicles,” they’ve gone back to the basics of “Black” by once again stranding Richard Riddick, the bulked-up killer/fugitive/all-around bad dude with the glow-in-the-dark, night-vision eyeballs on a desolate desert planet. And once more, as in “Black,” the place is swarming with alien monsters with big, sharp teeth and unpleasant dispositions.
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At the beginning, with alien buzzards circling and hyena creatures stalking, it looks like curtains for the battered, bloodied hero. How, one wonders, did he get into this awful situation? After all, when last seen at the conclusion of “Chronicles,” he’d just become emperor of the galaxy, or something along those lines.
Flashback time: Twohy sketches a tale of betrayal and briefly reintroduces Karl Urban (blink, and you’ll miss him), Riddick’s main rival in “Chronicles,” who engineers the dirty deed that dumps him, gashed and defenseless, onto the hellish planet, awakening as the movie opens.
He’s alone among the voracious beasts, but not for long. Soon he’s joined by two sets of rival mercenaries who want to collect the bounty on his lawbreaking hide.
One group is a ragged team of unshaven men with bad hair and worse attitudes. The other is made up of clean-shaven and spiffily armored individuals, including a woman (Katee Sackhoff) who is tougher than any of them.
The leader of the hairy guys (Jordi Molla) boasts of his plans to send Riddick’s head home in a box. Riddick promises, in his rumbly growl, to kill that guy first. As Twohy contorts the ending in an absurdly unbelievable fashion to set the stage for another sequel, you can guess who makes good on his promise.
As a creature feature, “Riddick” isn’t half bad, though it’s far from truly good.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org