GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) It s always darkest before the dawn, unless you re at a Riddick movie!
SCOTT: The movie begins with Riddick (Vin Diesel) stranded and wounded on a dangerous, desolate planet wrought with lethal predatory creatures. He befriends a puppy from the gang of wild dogs trying to hunt him down, and he uses the puppy to develop immunity from the venom of a giant scorpion creature that he must conquer to get to safer ground. Riddick then discovers an abandoned mercenary station and activates the rescue beacon, which attracts two sets of bounty hunters out to capture Riddick.
GREG: Riddick scrawls a message on the wall in the station: Leave one ship or die . Naturally the mercenaries don t take his advice. They are divided on how to deal with Riddick. The unruly crew led by Santana set up camp and ready to take Riddick dead - putting his head in a box. The more military crew lead by Johns just want to talk to Riddick. It isn t long before one of Santana s men go missing and we know Riddick is on the prowl.
SCOTT: Greg, I liked this movie, and much of my enjoyment comes from Vin Diesel s masterful job of portraying the character of Riddick. There is a very telling scene toward the end of the film that pretty much explains why this hero is such a powerful character. In the scene, Riddick is held captive by bounty hunters in a small shack while thousands of shrieking monsters are about break in and kill everyone. Amidst all the chaos and clamor, Riddick softly delivers his lines about what is really happening, and while he does so, everyone -- including the monsters themselves -- draw silent. It was an E. F. Hutton moment, signifying the immense magnetism and charisma of the character.
GREG: Riddick is an interesting anti-hero. On the one hand he is a killer. Which makes him villainous. But on the other hand, he always gives his adversary the opportunity to fall back. Riddick isn t quite what I d call a reluctant killer, but he has an unspoken code of honor that dictates his actions. He doesn t attack unless attacked first. And part of this code includes measuring his victim s own code. In an early scene, Santana recognizes that to cart Riddick s dead body back and claim his bounty, he needs to lighten the ship s load. So, he releases a female slave and shoots her down as she runs for shelter. Riddick observes this and makes an internal assessment of his opponent. It s a moral assessment. As viewers we can see that Riddick is unsettled by this craven act, and we respect Riddick for his code.
SCOTT: It s interesting that you call him an anti-hero because in this latest installment of the Riddick franchise, there is no indication that he is anything other than a pretty decent guy trying to survive a hostile environment and evade some nasty dudes out to end him. Yes, Riddick s a known killer, but most of the bounty hunters after him are far worse. We also see a number of redeeming actions on his part, such as his decision to risk his life to save the dog that he befriends, plus his decision not to kill any members of the bounty hunting team unless absolutely necessary. It also doesn t hurt that he falls for Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), the token attractive woman on the team that s after him, and of course she falls for him, too. As I ve mentioned, there s a palpable, appealing charisma to the Riddick character that, to me, makes him more of a hero than an anti-hero, at least in this sequel. And by the way, Katee Sackhoff deserves props for a compelling performance as a virtuous bad-ass herself. She s one of the strongest female characters that we ve seen in the movies this year.
GREG: I don t know Scott, I don t think a proper hero starts his introductions by telling his guests to leave him a ship or die. That s an open threat. Still, like Rambo from the 1980 s films, Riddick doesn t kill until his adversary draws first blood. I liked the contrast Riddick offered. There are three types of men presented in this film. Each rugged and leaders in their own rights. Santana is the quintessential mercenary - he ll do anything to get what he wants at someone else s expense. Then there is Johns, very orderly in his methods and actions who just wants answers to draw things to closure. And finally Riddick, a classic loner who is just out to survive by his own wits and strength. This film played the three personalities against each other in an elegant balance.
SCOTT: Yes, this movie has many strengths that go well beyond Vin Diesel s performance. The films secondary characters are superb, led by two sets of memorable villains, a first group that is absolutely detestable and a second group whose motives are less heinous. There is a deliciously nasty tension between the two villain factions, and Riddick benefits from the rift. Another star of the movie is the planet itself, replete with hazards both biological and geological in nature. All the classic obstacles on the hero journey are in place. Riddick took awhile to get to the main story but the delayed set-up was worth waiting for, and it was a real treat witnessing Riddick s epic effort to overcome long odds in outsmarting, and out-muscling, the two posses after him.
GREG: Probably the only weak point of this film is the long time it took to get to the action. There was a lot of time spent watching Riddick rise from the dead, hone a knife, raise a dog, kill a snake, etc Not to mention throwing in the backstory of how he went from being King of the Necromongers to eeking out an existence on a barren world. But I thought the rest of the film s action and drama made up for the initial affront. So, for a compelling science fiction drama with great villains and strong heroes, an unusual otherworldly setting, and a psychological chase I give Riddick 4 out of 5 Reels. And for a much improved anti-hero (compared to the previous installment of the franchise) in Riddick, and contrasting villains as well as a strong female hero, I give Riddick 4 out of 5 Heroes. Movie: Heroes:
SCOTT: Gotta agree with you, Greg, Riddick delivers some outstanding late-summer science-fiction action and adventure. Vin Diesel continues to show why he remains one of Hollywood s great leading men. His character of Riddick commands such respect that even the squealing monsters out to get him are rendered silent when he speaks. I enjoyed watching Riddick think his way out of impossible situations and show far more heroic qualities than anti-heroic qualities. Like you, I also award this film 4 out of 5 Reels, and for one of the most charismatic performances of the year from Vin Diesel, I also give Riddick 4 out of 5 Heroes. Movie: Heroes:
I feel David Twohy has let the side down here. A black mark on an otherwise fantastic trilogy.
After Pitch Black then came The Chronicles of Riddock and now a further chronicle of Riddock which is simply called... well Riddock. And the title certainly doesn't mislead as it's around 35 minutes till other characters join our story.
We find Riddock in a bad way left for dead in strange un humanless planet where he must fight for survival and escape. Here Riddock is forced to do battle with his deadliest foes yet strange birds, strange dogs and fair enough some really freaky swamp creatures.
This is till bounty hunters arrive to take Riddock in but also provides him with his manner or escape all whilst an even bigger threat looms over everyones heads.
Indeed quite a brave move for a modern blockbuster to allow 35 minutes of just it's a main character this can only work if there's charisma from the actor, intrigue in the plot and action. This is mostly achieved with Vin delivering, his attempts at survival keep you entertained including the discovery of vile watery creatures.
However once the initial threats are by passed and his health returns Riddock's time is then spent hanging out with his new BBF in an unlikely bromance his got going on with a SFX space dog. I was hoping this wasn't going to become the new Tom Hanks/Wilson double act from Cast Away and luckily the plot breaks out again and off we go all the way to the end credits.
Following the successful first cult film, then the over hyped disappointing last sequel Riddock is back on track and works to great effect. It succeeds by simply taking a back to basics approach an old fashioned action film in the modern, in fact very modern day if you look at the film futuristic setting.
The franchise has found it's feet again, with Vin confirming Universal have asked him to start developing the next film (Which the ending implied there would be) we can look forward to another chapter and perhaps more entertaining another all singing/dancing home video by rid dock himself.
Great Friday night entertainment in the form of a back to basic science fiction actioner with good old Vin still relishing his gig as the iconic cult role.