Riddick (film review) by Frank Ochieng.

In all fairness, ‘Riddick’ is not the first clumsy film franchise to not recognize how it overstayed its welcome and it won’t be the last neither. It all began with the birth of 2000’s ‘Pitch Blac’k, a rather half decent and taut sci-fi chiller that caught many by surprise in its tension-filled originality. The follow-up, 2004’s anemic and inconsistent ‘The Chronicles Of Riddick’, failed to capitalise on the thrilling impact of its predecessor four years earlier. Now, nearly a decade later, this turgid sci-fi spectacle decides to conveniently make its presence known at the box office as the summertime sizzle for action-packed fodder start to simmer down.

The Chronicles Of Riddick Dead Man Stalking... stick-in-the-mud.
Nice muscles, Vin. Now, give us more Sackhoff…

Balding badass Vin Diesel reprises his role as the titular anti-hero wandering the galaxies as he tries to duck and dodge the persistent bounty hunters looking to capture his wanted high-priced hide. As everyone is familiar with the story, Diesel’s Riddick was the intriguing ex-con (and breakout star) from the aforementioned ‘Pitch Black’. Clearly, the swagger and infectious naughtiness of the menacing and muscular scamp warranted Diesel’s return to parade on screen as the edgy futuristic fugitive (not to mention his popular resurgence in the inexplicable high-in-demand ‘Fast & The Furious’ flicks that add considerable clout to his current box office appeal).

Writer-director David Twohy (‘The Fugitive’, ‘Waterworld’, ‘G.I. Jane’) has put his cinematic handprint on all three of the ‘Riddick’ film series yet has shown little or no deviation from the formulaic clutter that bogged down the second entry in ‘Chronicles’. Basically, ‘Riddick’ strays and strains while never serving up a throbbing storyline to justify why the audience wants to reacquaint themselves with the pumped-up planetary bad boy. Besides merely coasting on the roguish reputation of Diesel’s screen alter ego, Twohy oversees a predictable and pointless sci-fi actioner that resorts to the standard yet overdone man-on-the-lam premise accompanied by serviceable CGI effects, forced and pretentious spontaneous banter, scattershot doses of kick-butt gumption, trivial goriness and interchangeable characters that more than grate on the nerves. Twohy’s big-budgeted twitchy tale of one maligned man that can never return to his galactic restful roots again certainly offers a tainted and tarnished element of…get ready for this…utter Riddick-ulousness.

The story showcases the hardnosed killer convict Riddick, who is the target of betrayal by his deceptive escorts as he is left on a desolate planet that is plagued with an immense sun-scorching, arid atmosphere. Riddick’s immediate expectations was to find his lost home planet of Furya but is left stranded with the uncertainty of his fate placed in the steamy, deserted and rocky environment. Thankfully, Riddick locates a cave-oriented retreat/post where he can wait out his time for contemplating how to depart this furnace-coated planet.

As a threatening storm approaches the area, Riddick has to worry about a pack of feuding bounty hunters known as the Mercs that are hot on his trail and looking for that robust payday when he’s finally caught and bonus money is given if Riddick’s lifeless carcass is produced on a slab…what an incentive, huh? The status of Riddick is driven to the ground — he’s deemed the most notorious outlaw and the argumentative double sides of the Mercs have conflicting agendas as to how to manhandle the runaway felon.

As if the existence of bizarre-looking beasts and intolerable weather conditions are not enough to tangle with on-going frustration, Merc leaders Santana (Jordi Molla) and Johns (Matt Nable) clash with diverse viewpoints about Riddick’s seizure. The sadistic Jordi wants Riddick chopped into pieces and spread out for the planetary pests to devour while Johns is more practical and needs to keep Riddick in one piece to answer some personal questions near and dear to his heart pertaining to his deceased son. Female second-in-command Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is a tough-as-nails lesbian crusader armed with an acid-tongued wit and will let it be known that her male counterparts are not dealing with a dainty, curvaceous cupcake that needs taming behind bedroom walls.

‘Riddick’, consequently, is reduced to one repetitive and unimaginable fight scene after another pitted against the grainy backdrop of the dreary planet set designs. The dim-witted dialogue is uninspired in raunchiness. The chintzy writing for this boisterous future-world farce is convincingly hollow and dank more so than the mountainous hole in which Riddick temporarily resides for shelter.

There is no need to practice his acting chops in this pedestrian popcorn thriller as Diesel mumbles his delivered lines as if he has swallowed a box of nails while harboring a sore throat. Molla’s chewy turn as the vile law enforcer out to destroy Diesel’s Riddick feels cartoonish and desperate. Only Sackhoff’s refreshing showing as a same-sex sass with warrior-like tendencies is mildly acceptable among the frenzied foolishness of her insufferable supporting players.

The first few minutes of ‘Riddick’ does show some resiliency in tranquility but goes downhill from there as Twohy’s disjointed drama pointlessly plods along as Diesel’s monosyllabic protagonist grumbles and groans about his predicament at large. Oh well…Diesel can always rev up his opportunistic engines for another money-making race-a-thon that has proved so lucrative for him in the ubiquitous ‘Fast & The Furious’ film franchise that will maintain his hip relevance amongst the doting teenyboppers and gearhead crowd.

Riddick (2013)

Universal Classics

1 hr. 59 mins.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Bokeem Woodbine, Katee Sackhoff and Matt Nable

Directed by: David Twohy

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventure/Fantasy

Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2013


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

8 thoughts on “Riddick (film review) by Frank Ochieng.

  • Doesn’t sound as if you like Riddick movies, so why did you go see it? I loved the movie Riddick, thought the planet was great. The CG for the creatures was wonderful. Story was fine, lots of emotion as well as action.

    • If this is Stephanie Ann Johanson from Neo-opsis Magazine then fine…you make for a wonderful and innovative artist, assistant editor and art director for your progressive science fiction publication. And I am always receptive to those that do not happen to share my insights on films as there is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree. You enjoyed RIDDICK and that’s fine and dandy. I did detect a little snippy attitude in your statement “Doesn’t sound as if you like RIDDICK movies…so why did you go see it? Well for starters…you are partially wrong in that I liked the first RIDDICK movie (PITCH BLACK). And secondly that is a foolish thing to quip about why I chose to go see it because movie reviewers tend to see films of various genres and that’s what I do Stephanie…critique films so I can give you and others a perspective about the said film that you have the luxury of checking out or not based upon what I have assessed in my write-up. Why did I see RIDDICK? Why do you design decorative covers for your magazine? Why do nudists like playing volleyball? Why do ants overstay their welcome as uninvited guests at a picnic table? In any event I do appreciate your welcomed comments and glad that you liked RIDDICK regardless.

  • I was perhaps flippant with my comment. I sometimes review movies and books, but I tend to publish those reviews that are favouring, rather than those that are negative, as I am usually trying to encourage people to read books and see movies in the SF genre.

    There seem to be a great many reviewers that enjoy finding all the faults in a production, or telling everyone how unimaginative the story is compared with other great works. Some seem to feel that if the movie or story is popular that it is all that much more important to educate people in why they should not like what they like. I had wondered if this review was in some way doing just that, because it didn’t seem to be rating RIDDICK on its own merits, but rather on the previous movies.

    RIDDICK seems to have done well enough at the box office that another movie is being planned.

    • Hi Stephanie:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond yet again to this film review of RIDDICK. Obviously, I do not totally agree with your assessment about how I reviewed RIDDICK but you are entitled to your insights nevertheless.

      Look, it’s admirable of you to select the certain movies and/or books that you find comforting and review them with an optimistic eye if you have the luxury to do so. As a movie reviewer, I do not prefer to sugarcoat a film because I am obligated to do so in the name of favoring SF films and/or books, etc. Basically, I call them as I see them…either a movie is rave-worthy or it’s not–simple as that. And RIDDICK (in my humble opinion) was not rave-worthy.

      Sure Stephanie…it is an ideal agenda to support the genre of SF/fantasy in films and books as this is clearly a topic that is near and dear to your heart. But remember…it is possible that there are movies and books that can be considered sub par in the realm of science fiction. Just because one does not fancy a particular film or book with sci-fi leanings does not mean that they are automatically turning their backs on science fiction/fantasy as a whole.

      Stephanie, you are somewhat right about one thing in that certain film critics enjoy putting a poison pen to the films they critique. Some do it with an obligation to convey to their readers the necessity to not waste time and money on an inferior product; others do it for the amusement of selfishly entertaining themselves and their agenda. I would like to think that I fall in the former rather than the latter.

      To say that I did not rate RIDDICK “on its own merits” is quite unfair of you as I offered a review as to why I thought this sci-fi flick was flimsy. Did I compare and contrast RIDDICK to its predecessors? Indeed I did. However, this is one of the used devices that film critics routinely do is reference the original installments or its sequels. It may be gimmicky to you but it is an inevitable technique for movie reviewers. For you to suggest that all I did was basically skewer RIDDICK because I mentioned its two previous editions and merely compared them is not true on your part. I thought I gave a comprehensive reason for RIDDICK’s mediocrity.

      Stephanie, you seem to be liking RIDDICK based on your previous affinity for this movie series and the character so is that kinda wrong of you to harbor such favoritism for this third installment of this movie franchise and turn a blind eye to its faults?

      As for your comment about how RIDDICK must be the cat’s meow just because it did well enough at the box office to justify another movie being planned…well, I have news for you…RIDDICK wasn’t exactly tearing up the box office receipts. If RIDDICK was so in demand by Hollywood why did it take over a decade to do another RIDDICK movie after the lackluster “Chronicles of Riddick” back in 2004? The reason that this RIDDICK movie was done at all was to merely exploit the popularity of star Vin Diesel’s impact from the inexplicably heralded “The Fast & The Furious” car chase popcorn movies thus hoping to pump some life back into the RIDDICK film franchise.

      Again Stephanie…glad you love RIDDICK and any other sci-fi movie and book that you do not want tarnished. However, it does not give you license to erroneously chastise me for misrepresenting a sci-fi thriller that I thought was uneventful based upon a thorough review I thought was honest and straight-forward. I guess knee-jerk reactions are human nature after all.

      Take care and I appreciate your feedback!

      • My apologies if I made it seem that your review was badly written. This was furthest from my mind. My first comment was merely written to, in a round about way, defend those who enjoy Riddick.

        As to my candy coating books and movies, or making them sound better than they are, that is not what I do. If I don’t like or if I find a great deal of fault with a movie or book, then I don’t publish my review. Of course I have limited space to work with, since my reviews have to fit in a magazine. Where as you have more space online.

        I didn’t say that RIDDICK was a blockbuster, merely that it made enough at the box office that they are going to make another movie. Actually it may have been the DVD and Bluray sales that tipped their decision.

        So perhaps I was just pointing out that you will have to suffer through another Riddick movie, if you feel it necessary to continue reviewing a series that you haven’t liked since the first movie. ; )

        I should point out that I did find fault with things in RIDDICK. Those faults just didn’t wreck the movie for me, as they must have for you.

        • Stephanie,

          My apologies as well…I guess we are both putting misleading words and thoughts into each other’s mouths. Sure, you can “defend” RIDDICK all you want for you and the movie’s ardent fans but to discredit me in my critique of this movie by merely dismissing my insights as only “comparing it to past RIDDICK predecessors” was indeed kinda RIDDICK-ulous (please excuse the pun). And you did in fact indicate that in your reply to me. Rather than express why you thought I gave RIDDICK a bad wrap you chose to appear defensive hence talking about how “it merely made enough at the box office that they are going to make another movie about it”. So what? If Hollywood had an opportunity to make a sequel out of the trials and tribulations of a heroic ham sandwich that saved New York City then they would so that means nothing as to why you’re giddy that they made RIDDICK as a sign that this film franchise is so successful.

          I didn’t say or indicate that you thought RIDDICK was a blockbuster but your point was to try and portray the movie’s ability to manufacture yet another sequel as a sign that RIDDICK was actually more desirable than what my critique led everyone to believe. The box office receipts do not lie Stephanie…RIDDICK did not exactly knock the socks off moviegoers during its initial release. And I’m sorry…as cynical as I sound I still believe that Vin Diesel’s popularity in the ultra-popular THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS movie series was the motive to try and revisit the RIDDICK character to jump start this dormant movie series so avid followers such as yourself can jump on board courtesy of Diesel’s big screen clout. I seriously doubt that DVD and Blueray sales had any vital impact to develop this third installment of RIDDICK especially after ten years since the lackluster CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK was released and barely made an impact at the time. Hey, maybe I am wrong and you are right? Who knows?

          I can respect your decision to concentrate on reviewing/evaluating only the agreeable content that you feel is worthy, positive and ideal for your readers especially if your magazine’s spacing is limited and you simply want to showcase the excellence in sci-fi/fantasy films and books. Still, I shouldn’t be penalized for elaborating on displaying both praised and panned movie critiques because I have the flexibility and convenience to contribute to an elaborate online magazine. Bottom line: my job is to review movies for the SFcrowsnest readers. Whether they agree with me or not is their option to pursue. And I really do not understand your preoccupation with why I even bother reviewing the RIDDICK movie series at all? I review sci-fi/fantasy films that are pertinent to SFcrowsnest readers, Stephanie. You act as if I want to purposely trash RIDDICK as an automatic instinctive reaction. Well guess what…if I thought RIDDICK was worth its weight in gold then I would have gleefully expressed this opinion. I don’t go into a film looking for the worse to happen in order to rev up a poison pen. If RIDDICK was serviceable in the first place then I wouldn’t have to “suffer” (as you put it) and we would not be having these exchanges of disagreement right now. If another RIDDICK release is hatched I would review it for the interest of the SFcrowsnest community. Whether or not I find it passable remains to be seen until the ending credits roll. You are more than welcomed to counter my negative review with a more optimistic spin if you prefer.

          Once again Stephanie…I appreciate your comments and thanks for taking the time to set the record straight.

          • I think it best if I do not comment on your review or the comments further, as my words are all being taken as being negative, rather than to show other opinions. I had no wish to insult.

          • Stephanie,

            That’s fine by me if you no longer want to comment any further on the RIDDICK review. It’s like beating a dead horse I imagine. All I did was extensively clarify my position and respond to what you previously indicated in your previous correspondences to me. I didn’t twist your words or berate you in the process–just added my two cents on the matter…nothing more, nothing less. Did I ever state that you had the motive to insult? Not at all. In fact, I appreciated your feedback as you generously took the time to respond. Plain and simple…we can agree to disagree and leave it at that, okay? Your contrary opinion is duly noted. Take care!

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