Riddick: Vin Diesel on Another Planet

riddickIn his 13th year of intergalactic badassery, shiny-eyed outlaw Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has escaped from Planet PG-13 (where he was marooned in the 2004 film “The Chronicles of Riddick“) and made his way back to the grottier R-rated universe of the first Riddick film, “Pitch Black.” Why he should be doing this is a mystery understood only by the series’ star and its director, David Twohy. Diesel already has one blockbuster franchise going (the recent “Fast & Furious” pulled in more than $400 million worldwide), and at this point, after a nine-year hiatus, the Riddick films seem unlikely to cohere into anything similar. One can only assume that Diesel’s formidable box-office clout makes him a hard man for Universal to say no to.

The movie is fun, in some ways. At the end of “Chronicles,” you may recall, Riddick had become king of the Necromongers or whatever. But now his nemesis, Commander Vaako (Karl Urban in a don’t-blink cameo), has pulled the throne out from under him and had him transported to a faraway planet distinguished mainly by matte paintings and other low-budget fakery. Riddick awakes with a broken leg (on which he performs a gruesome patch job) and proceeds to confront a series of indigenous monsters: slithery snake-fish, scorpion-headed puddle serpents and a ferocious pack of neo-hyenas. These computer-generated creatures are blended into the action with great skill (the hyenas, especially, seem nearly real), but the one-after-another battles go on too long, and even at this early point, the movie appears to be foundering.

Fortunately, the desolate planet turns out to be a pit stop for interstellar bounty hunters, and things liven up when Riddick is joined by two spaceships’ worth of them. One vessel is captained by a jabbering idiot named Santana (Jordi Molla, enthusiastically overacting); the other is helmed by the less nutzoid Boss Johns (Matt Nable), who holds a long-simmering grudge against Riddick that dates back to “Pitch Black.” Johns’ motley crew of space thugs includes a bulked-up sniper named Dahl (Katee Sackhoff, channeling Jenette Goldstein‘s butt-kicking Vasquez in “Aliens”). Seeing as this is a guy movie to its core, Dahl gets a quick topless scene. (Of the other five briefly glimpsed women in the cast, four are nude and one is shot in the back.)

Diesel exudes his usual grumpy charisma; he really is an action man like no other. But he and Twohy, chastened by the commercial disappointment of the big-budget “Chronicles,” appear to have given up on elaborating upon the Riddick mythology. So our man spends the rest of the movie picking off his pursuers one by one. The ways in which he does this aren’t especially inventive (apart from slicing one dumbbell’s head in half with a machete), but they’re useful in padding out the film to a seriously overlong two hours.

Even more seriously, this is a really crappy-looking movie. Twohy previously has demonstrated a flair for alien environments, but the colors here are so drained and musty that we might as well be contemplating the many varieties of cardboard. The picture definitely doesn’t justify another sequel, but who knows. As Riddick tells one timid character, “leave God out of this. He wants no part of what happens next.”

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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