Lost in the dark: Third installment of ‘Riddick’ trilogy leaves audience confused, needs more explanation

Jack McGowan and Dan Blaushild | Contributing Illustrators

“Riddick” is exactly what you would expect: a violent sci-fi thriller.

It’s been nine years since the last installment, but Vin Diesel is back, playing Riddick, the macho protagonist in the sci-fi series. The first of the three films, “Pitch Black,” premiered in 2000, and although it only made a small profit, the sequel “The Chronicles of Riddick” came out in 2004. After losing nearly $50 million, it is surprising that now, in 2013, Riddick has returned for a third appearance.

Knowing that “Riddick” is part of a series will help explain some of the confusion you experience in the beginning of the film, but not all of it. To get your money’s worth, though, I would recommend seeing the first two films, or be familiar with them.

At least the writer and director of the films, David Twohy, switched things up a bit in this one.

The first 30 minutes are completely without dialogue, until a voice-over of Vin Diesel says: “There are bad days, then there are legendary bad days. This was one of those.” The audience is then taken on a journey with Riddick to experience his “legendary bad day” as he fights off half-zebra, half-dog animals and the people chasing after him.

Riddick is a much-wanted fugitive and the target of two different groups of bounty hunters. One of the team’s leaders is Santana (Jordi Mollà) — who immediately comes off as annoying. The other is Boss Johns (Matt Nable), a character that the movie expects you to recognize from “Pitch Black.” So again, you really need to see the first two movies to fully grasp what is going on.

The majority of “Riddick” is a typical violent movie, but with alien animals as the enemy. It quickly becomes a guessing game for the audience to figure out which bounty hunters will live the longest and in what cruel way the next person will die. This was almost more entertaining than the movie itself. There is also some humor thrown into the script — usually with something to do with Riddick’s strength or violence that he uses — but most of it didn’t land.

What makes Diesel perfect for this part is that he is seen as a manly man. He embodies a figure of masculinity, which is something that the character Riddick needs as the ideal specimen of equal parts survivor and killer.

Let’s give Diesel credit where credit is due, though. While he was clearly much more successful and well known for his acting in “The Fast and the Furious” series and “Saving Private Ryan,” he’s stayed committed to the “Riddick” films. As a matter of fact, when Universal Studios rejected the idea of making “Riddick,” Diesel bought the rights to the films so he could complete the trilogy — which is probably why it took nine years for it to happen.

The commitment to a character that is not extremely likable in a seen-it-all-before science fiction world is respectable, but the stunts and action are too predictable.

“Riddick” is not a bad movie. It is just not particularly good. While it had some redeeming qualities, like the amazing special effects, there was no real point or reasoning to what was happening throughout it, which makes it seem irrelevant.

There was no need to turn the “Riddick” films into a trilogy, but if you are a big fan of “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick” and have a thing for sci-fi, then you’ll probably enjoy “Riddick.” If not, you might want to pass on this one.



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