2013 - Director: David Twohy - Cast: Vin Diesel (Riddick), Matthew Nable (Johns), Jordi Mollà (Santana), Katee Sackoff (Dahl), Dave Bautista (Diaz), Bokeem Woodbine (Moss), Raoul Trujillo (Lockspur), Conrad Pla (Vargas)
It doesn’t happen very often that a sequel is superior to the original. We all know the exceptions (The Godfather II, The Road Warrior, Return of Ringo, a few more). I would like to add Riddick to the list, the third installment in the Riddick saga, featuring Vin Diesel as the titular hero. It’s by no means a perfect movie (it’s derivative and too much of everything) but it’s a helluva ride through a hell that is No Fury.
Riddick emerges from what looks like a natural grave on a desolate planet; he’s approached by a vulture-like creature that seems to take him for a happy meal, but the next moment the roles are reversed when Riddick grabs the scavenger by the throat. Ugh. We never learn the name of the planet, are only told - by Riddick himself - that it’s not his home planet, Furya. It’s a barren world, populated by carnivorous creatures - hyena-like dogs, scorpion-like swamp monsters - that are all hungry. Riddick is still one of the most wanted men in the universe, so he lures two teams of bounty killers ('mercs') to the planet in the hope to steal one of their space ships. He starts stalking both groups, eliminating them one by one, but is eventually forced to cooperate with the remaining members (those not yet killed) in order to fight off a new load of beasts.
Riddick feels very much like three movies for the price of one; most critics thought the first half hour - Riddick fighting the hyena’s and scorpions - was the best, but I thought the second part - Riddick stalking the bounty hunters - was equally good. In this second part Riddick becomes a creature in the dark, invisible most of the time, but a constant threat to those who have come looking for him. It’s a daring approach, turning Riddick into a supporting actor in his own movie, but it works thanks to contrast between the two bounty hunters, the buoyant Santana and the stoic Johns, and the presence of Johns’s second-in-command, female warrior Dahl (always good to have a woman around in those male chauvenist action movies).
The weakest link is, obviously, the third and final act, Riddick joining forces with the remaining mercs (short for mercenaries). It picks up the central idea of the first movie, Pitch Black, but it feels more like Jurassic Riddick, with velociraptor-like creatures attacking the stronghold in which Riddick and the mercs have taken shelter. Moreover director/screenwriter Twohy fails to come up with a satisfying conclusion. The Director’s Cut is about 8 minutes longer than the theatrical version (and a bit more revealing about how and why Riddick crash-landed on this remote planet and what happened to other key characters of the series, such as Vaako), but it all remains a bit inconclusive.
As said this is a derivative movie. There are shades from Predator, Aliens, Jurassic Park and - of course - the Mad Max saga (more and more Riddick is becoming the Milky Way warrior). Film buffs will also spot influences from classic movies as various as Howard Hawks Rio Bravo and David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia; the opening scene - the hand grabbing the vulture’s neck - was taken from one of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan novels. But it doesn’t hurt the movie. Vin Diesel, who co-produced, seems to be at ease in this fancy world of matte paintings and fantasy creatures. His Riddick has become a character of flesh & blood, almost human, who domesticates one of the hyena-like predators and is really pissed-off when his companion is killed by one of the bounty killers.