The common view about the Riddick movies is that 2000’s Pitch Black (which introduced the night-visioned hero and ignited Vin Diesel’s rocket to superstardom) was great, although its sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, didn’t quite live up to it, despite the presence of a certain Dame Judi Dench.
But a franchise is a cash cow, and Diesel (not his real name) does a good steely stare, so writer/director David Twohy has dusted off his own mantle to deliver this totally derivative yet mildly diverting follow-up.
In a fairly engrossing, dialogue-free first act “Riddick Gets A Dog”, the ex-convict is alone on a hostile planet, doing his Bear Grylls thing in order to ward off zebra-striped dingos and giant Alien-like scorpions. When he coaxes two rival teams of mercenaries to land in order to capture his scalp, the story gets more interesting (watching Diesel’s two facial expressions as he conducts gruesome auto-surgery or battles creatures can wear a little thin).
Naturally, the mercs don’t want to work as a team, so a traditional sci-fi plot unfolds with power-plays, stilted one-liners and the gradual picking off, one by one, of a cast of no-namers who have bigger weapons than brains.
Clearly a lot of expense was spared, as the sets, costumes and acting frequently evoke a 1960s episode of Doctor Who, though the special effects have moved on. But the story is as turgid as Diesel’s thighs, earnest without being remotely tongue in cheek.
Remarkably however, while it’s impossible to invest emotionally in any of the characters and the transporter scenes remind you of the ET ride at Universal Studios, it’s still kind of – wait, I nearly said “fun”, but that would be Riddickulous.