Riddick │ Review

(Universal Pictures)

I really wanted to enjoy Riddick: I like science fiction, it’s a rare hard-R, mainstream sci-fi flick which doesn’t balk at how battle-toughened mercenaries would talk, act and die, and, despite my aversion to the Fast and Furious franchise or Babylon A.D. or A Man Apart or The Pacifier or any of his other bad movies, I like Vin Diesel, he just seems like a cool dude. Sadly, Riddick, while fitfully enjoyable, is more often dull than compelling.

Likely, the strongest sequence comes in the beginning with Riddick left for dead on an unknown planet. Here Diesel gets to wander, brood, plan, rebuild and be surprisingly caring over a mostly beautiful rocky desert. The landscape and sky effects create the bare-bones isolation essential to survival sci-fi. While the effects on the dog-like creatures are a bit shaky, sometimes believable, sometimes not, the design of the giant scorpions is tremendous, down to the tail breathing. The second act works as a reversal of the traditional monster movie as the protagonist spends long stretches off-screen, picking off enemies one-by-one. It’s an interesting angle but holds still too long and loses any momentum into the final act. The result is an unremarkable Alien clone with bigger action scenes and no sense of pace or tension.

The character of Riddick is enjoyable for both the audience and, clearly, Diesel himself. The vulnerability of the first act makes it clear that the unstoppable, prophetic killing machine of the second is an image that Riddick himself works hard to uphold. Those like me who are unfamiliar with the Riddick franchise aren’t given much reason to root for him (uncomfortable advances at the lesbian character aside), but it’s fun to watch him sneer and kill people.

In terms of B-movie essentials Riddick delivers nasty deaths, turn-off-your-brain plot, neat technology, bad CGI and gratuitous nudity, yet the gaps between action scenes are too long and too stationary to carry through. The best creature features know how to play silence as terror; Riddick treats silence as empty. [subscribe2]

About Jess Kroll

Jess Kroll
Jess Kroll is a novelist and university professor born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and based in Daegu, South Korea. He has been writing film reviews since 2004 and has been exclusive to Pop Mythology since 2012. His novels include 'Land of Smiles' from Monsoon Books and young adult series 'The One' and 'Werewolf Council' from Epic Press.


  1. Patrick Renfrow

    I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to check this out yet, and I’m quite sure that I’ll enjoy it for what it is when I do; for the same reasons I love Carpenter’s godawful & over-bloated Escape From L.A. and “Raggedy Man” with the heart of a babysitter Thunderdome. I love a anti-hero. Can’t help it. But I can see where some that don’t necessarily share my passion for that particular character arc are put off by the later installments of this franchise.

    What made Riddick so effective in the first film was the danger and mystery surrounding him. Well, two theatrical entries, “two” video games, and an anime installment… well, the mystery is all but gone. You have a fully developed backstory, some super powers thrown in, and both the surprise and wow factor are gone, replacing menacing snarls with (frequent) cheesy one-liners. And you know he’s far more Rambo than Hannibal Lecter, and that despite his reputation, he IS the good guy and he WILL come out on top. You knew none of that in Pitch Black. The suspense is pretty much gone when the film is titled after it’s main character.

    • Jess Kroll

      I thought about seeing the first one (perhaps not the second) before this one, but figured it’s also important that a film be able to stand on its own. Plus, all reports are that Pitch Black is a quite good, and I didn’t want this one to be further hurt in comparison. I shall check it out though. As said, I wanted to it this, I just found myself far too bored at times and stretching for justification for enjoying it more than I was. A lot of people online seem to love it though so good for them. It definitely has its moments. If there’s a fourth it’s pretty clear what the story should, and if the issues from this one are addressed, it could be really good.

  2. It’s as dumb as you can get, but it’s still a bunch of fun and I think that’s all that matters with something as cheesy as this. Good review Jess.

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