Back in 2000, Pitch Black came out and proved to be one of the best cinematic surprises of that year. It was a B movie, for sure, but it was unique enough and entertaining enough to elevate it to cult status. One year prior to The Fast And The Furious, Vin Diesel already cemented himself as a charismatic lead and a worthy action hero.
Pitch Black was a good sci-fi horror B flick on a budget.
Riddick is... something else.
On the one hand, this is a labour of love and you can tell: Vin Diesel did a lot to get this movie made and clearly he cares about that character and the world he lives in. Riddick is mercifully not a reboot or a remake but instead a direct sequel to Chronicles Of Riddick and a sort-of direct sequel to Pitch Black so it's obvious that the film is primarily aimed at fans of the franchise. There will be complaints that Riddick is too much like the first movie but, honestly, that's hardly this film's problem. Actually, there's a lot to enjoy here, especially for Pitch Black fans. Yes, there are similarities and the last 20 minutes is basically Pitch Black Redux but the film is at its most fun when it starts feeling like old times. Once Riddick is held prisoner by a group of bounty hunters before the night starts providing them with Gremlins aplenty, the movie becomes tons of fun until the end. You've got gratuitous gore, nudity, one-liners, slow-mo, video game-style action, stereotypical one-dimensional characters, all the ingredients for great B movie are there. Unfortunately, the first half of the film is much too bare and much too slow to feel entirely necessary. Before the bounty hunters show up, and even a little after, I was pretty darn bored. You're made to sit through 20 minutes of Riddick on his own, frollicking with bad CGI creatures in what is essentially Doctor Dolittle meets Conan The Barbarian. You see him fight for survival in the wilderness of wherever he is, befriend an alien dog, fight puddle snake monsters, have a bunch of flashbacks (watch out for a Karl Urban cameo), inject himself with venom in what is quite possibly the most "scientific" part of the movie, walk around butt-naked in the moonlight... you're basically waiting for the plot to start and it feels like forever until it does.
The entire first half of the film could and probably should have been boiled down to a simple voice-over-led montage sequence.
Riddick wants to be both Pitch Black and I Am Legend and it just can't do both.
Whereas Pitch Black felt like a good B movie, Riddick feels more like a guilty pleasure: a not-so-good B movie in the vein of, say, Ghosts Of Mars, but with enough charm to keep it from tumbling down into C movie territory. Just about. That said, once night falls and those pesky bounty hunters (which include Katee 'Starbuck' Sackhoff in a rare big-screen role) are made to explore the idea of working together with Riddick, you're in safe hands as the film starts doing what it should have done a long time ago: get to the point. The performances range from hilarious (Jordi Molla's douchey Santana) to Diesel to pretty bad and the special effects range from cool (the infamous sword slice) to kinda rubbish (EVERY background). Where Pitch Black came off as one single, solid entity, Riddick is messy and inconsistent. Your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you care about the franchise, how much you're willing to leave your brain at the door and how patient you are. Personally, I enjoyed most of Riddick and as bored as I was for a good chunk of it, even then there were enough lols to keep me watching. This is more of a guilty pleasure than it is a legitimately badass sci-fi flick but hey, at least we got another Riddick movie! Don't know about you but I'm pretty happy with that.
Overall, fans should find enough to have fun here and by the last 20 minutes, you'll be in goofy B movie heaven. The uninitiated might not warm up to Riddick, though, as it takes far too long to get started and really is to be enjoyed with more of a tongue-in-cheek attitude than an earnest outlook.
Uneven but hard to hate.