(First published in The New Indian Express)

Riddick, the antihero from earlier films like Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick returns after quite a long while in this self-titled film directed by David Twohy, who also helmed the earlier films. Vin Diesel reprising the eponymous role, the film has more of mercenaries, alien creatures and Riddick’s predictable but nonetheless fun ways of escaping from both.  This film however is a welcome relief from Chronicles’ hypermetropia and a return to what the first film gave us, the action confined to a single planet with a small crew or two, Riddick and the monsters.

Riddick, the character, was built up as the reluctant superhero. He is of course more of an antihero with his past, but there is always a detached quality to him and things that fall onto him. The first film had him saving a bunch of stranded travelers from a planet and its deadly creatures making some tough choices while at it. The second one was pretty much a mess with its misplaced lofty ambitions and laughably poor execution of a plot that was mostly Riddick playing Krishna to the Necromonger Lord Marshall as the Kamsa. The third film takes away from the first, adopting the successful doctrine of smaller scale but larger scope and tastes much success. The negative connotations to the Riddick legend also helps the writers to take some bold decisions with the material. The first film dealt a lot with Riddick’s moral obligations and how he handles them, his relationship with people he tries to help and save and it never flinched from tossing off characters that you’d root for. The new film is relatively far less ambitious but packs a lot of action and is ultimately quite rewarding.

The peripatetic Riddick finds himself – like he so often does – marooned in a lonely planet populated by vile creatures in air, land and water that isn’t even potable. A flashback takes us through the events after Chronicles though the third film can be watched without the knowledge of the first two. The initial portions are a James Bond like prologue to the action that is coming and it is vastly entertaining if you have the stomach for the alien creatures. If you don’t, there is bad news galore for you for rest of the film’s length. Riddick finds an excuse of a civilization with his panoptic gaze across the planet and soon the mercenaries looking for him give him company. The crews include a man concerned with the events of Pitch Black and Katee Sackhoff who probably just jumped ship from Battlestar Galactica.

Riddick is David Twohy trying to put the eye shine back on the franchise and he has sure done a fine job of even if it doesn’t touch the peak earlier achieved. The lines are still sloppy. What is good though is that the atmosphere is better defined, the alien creatures are whole and fully formed. It makes you wonder what someone like Guillermo del Toro can do with this monster heavy franchise.


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