It’s been a big year for Vin Diesel. With Fast & Furious 6 earlier this summer, he scored a massive international hit – one which earned almost $800 million at box offices around the world! Now he’s back this week with a second sequel to Pitch Black, the film that unquestionably made him a star over ten years ago.
Following on from The Chronicles of Riddick (a massive space opera that saw Diesel’s character transform from a hermetic loner into king of space people) the opening scene finds him left for dead on a deserted planet. In this inhospitable hell-scape filled with scorpion water monsters, Riddick wanders the land with his adopted canine friend (a creature that’s frequently referred to as a Dingo-Dango).
One man and his dog in a desert hell-scape? Great shades of The Road Warrior!
But when an oncoming storm threaten to cover the land with thousands water monsters, our man decides to get the hell off the planet. He activates a beacon in an abandoned hunters’ lodge, attracting the attention of galactic mercenaries desperate to claim the bounty on Riddick’s perfectly round head.
And yes, the mercenaries do arrive.
In fact, two competing groups of them drop on to the planet bringing with them just about every action movie cliché: there’s an over-confident sleazeball, a by-the-numbers profession, a taciturn hulk (WWE’s Dave Batista) and a strong independent woman who’s tough as nails (BSG’s Katee Sackhoff).
Naturally, the bounty hunters go in guns blazing, only to find their numbers dwindling thanks to the one-man army that is Riddick.
As a nuts and bolts genre actioner, Riddick is pretty decent. It tries to follow the same formula that made Pitch Black such a successful romp… and it goes some way towards achieving that: the story is pared down to the barest bones, giving Diesel enough space to be a badass and do badass things like walk in slow motion and lurk in dark corners.
If there is one major gripe we have with this film, however, it’s in the way it deals with its only female character. Early on, Sackhoff is established as a capable soldier; a gal who can take care of herself. She is one of those actresses who can exude toughness on screen. She tells one of the characters that she doesn’t sleep with men. The ‘lesbian soldier’ is a bit of a stock characteristic but sure, we’ll go along with it.
THEN we get a totally gratuitous topless shower scene. It’s nice for the lads in the audience, but not exactly the best for her character.
And THEN there’s the central scene in where Reddick, chained to a chair, promises to force himself upon her after he frees himself.
Why would ANY screenwriter put in a scene where his hero (who has up till now been only portrayed sympathetically) threatens to sexually assault the only female character in the movie? In one uncomfortable scene, Diesel’s character is transformed from the underdog into a creep! And not to give any spoilers away but by the end, it’s heavily implied that Riddick has cured her of her homosexuality! It makes so little sense…
But, you know, apart from all that unpleasantness the movie does tick all the boxes for a simple, well-made popcorn flick.
It’s not anywhere as good as Pitch Black – but Riddick is not that terrible either.
Riddick is out in cinemas this Friday