This Riddick film is definitely quite a bit different from the first and the last one. It feels like it has nothing to do with the rest of the series which is what makes it interesting. Still, I can’t say that it’s a good film. It’s heads and shoulders above the other two without a doubt but the world building isn’t as interesting as it could have been and there aren’t many likable characters here. I do think the direction it was going in had some potential though but ultimately this is a sci-fi title that you will soon forget.
The movie starts with Riddick dodging bounty hunters and proving why he is still one of the most dangerous guys on the planet. Unfortunately he underestimates a galactic army known as the Necromongers who show up and quickly put him in his place. These guys have been taking down whole planets and so Riddick wasn’t much of a challenge. He escapes but then gets captured again and that’s sort of how the film goes. The movie tries to give Riddick a lot of hype while at the same time giving a lot of hype to the villains and so what happens is there’s a whole lot of back and forth the whole time. Honestly I thought it was a bit overdone and ended up just making Riddick look a little bad. At times there was nothing he could do to be sure, but it was still rough for him. Can he stop this empire?
Like I said the plot is a bit odd here because instead of this being an alien survival film suddenly you have cosmic dynasties, people with superpowers, a lot of lore, interuniversal wars, etc. It’s all rather wild but I like the idea behind it. Like Riddick is just a guy in a really massive universe so the first film was just a little pocket. Hey it’s a good way to expand the rest of the universe but the downside is that you probably won’t care for a while. This could have easily been leveraged into a huge sci-fi franchise but that didn’t happen. I’ll touch more on this in the sequel but this plot ultimately doesn’t matter much. Of course I don’t think it’s fair to judge the film in hindsight so for now we’re not going to worry about the third film.
I mentioned that you’re just not very interested in the whole cosmic plot and that’s the real underlying issue here. The movie also brings back the heroine from the first film, Jack. Jack’s completely different now though as she’s a hardened murderer who has seen and experienced a lot of rough stuff which has made her very tough. It’s a rather rough backstory for her that’s needlessly edgy and everyone looks bad in the process. Basically Riddick abandoned her for ages thinking that he was helping by keeping the heat off of her but other villains came anyway and got her so the whole thing was messed up. I do feel like you have to always take the person you want to protect with you because otherwise you really don’t know if that person is safe or not. Trusting that things will go well isn’t viable in the real world, let alone a sci-fi universe with super aliens in it.
I do like Jack’s new personality quite a bit as she’s really tough and can fight now. She definitely takes some serious risks but in a prison filled with the worst thugs in the universe you have to always emit a tough persona or you’re doomed. I’m not a big fan of films that take place in a prison ordinarily for this reason though as the characters will all be so nasty that even as antagonists they aren’t even remotely interesting.
Jack and Riddick really have to carry the film. While Riddick loses a lot and doesn’t match his film 1 portrayal, he still talks tough all the time and gets his share of wins. I always like seeing him take down some villains and kick things into the next gear. The final fight in the film gave him a lot of credit in the determination side since he was completely outgunned but never gave up. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.
Speaking of the final fight though, the power levels get a bit wonky here. So the head Marshal has super speed and strength which seem classic for a super villain. The big problem is that writers forget how overpowered super speed is. When you have that then you shouldn’t be losing to just about anyone. It’s just not going to happen and Riddick shouldn’t be landing any hits. Of course the guy gets a little overconfident and doesn’t watch his back but you still have a hard time buying into it. The actual fight is great and I liked that we were getting into the superhuman feats here but the power levels were definitely iffy.
There’s also the general named Vaako whose wife keeps telling him to overthrow the leader and rule the place but I never liked him. He was completely indecisive for the entirety of the film so she had to keep on goading him. Honestly she made for the much better villain because at least she was scheming and cackling throughout the whole movie. She had actual ambitions and was doing whatever she could to secure the win. That’s what you want to see in a villain and she was even threatening the wind elemental. The lady knew no fear! (Yes there are wind elementals here but this doesn’t really add anything to the plot. I guess it’s cool to have spirits running around but you could cut her out of the film and not much would change)
I would have liked Vaako more if he had ambitions of his own. Instead he hesitates so much that he squanders his opportunity. Even Toombs was better as the bounty hunter villain here even though he wasn’t very smart either. The guy definitely got too greedy and it cost him which is a running theme for the villains. The film isn’t as violent as the first one but still gets rather intense. The film can often focus on the violence more than it needs to which doesn’t do it any favors. At least there isn’t much time for romance here. The film isn’t devoid of it completely but for the most part it stays focused and on task.
Overall, The main problem with this film is that while it is very ambitious in introducing a ton of factions, armies, and new concepts, it doesn’t do much with them. It feels like they are retroactively trying to make this the next Star Wars and failing epicly. The only real benefit of this approach was that we got to really see the future technology more this way. The final fight was a great visual spectacle and Riddick is still a solid main character. It can’t get over the issues so I would recommend watching the Star Trek movie instead but if they keep this storyline up (….we’ll see) then there is potential here. I’ll have the review for the third film up soon.