Mania Review: Riddick -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Noah Danby, David Bautista and Karl Urban
  • Written by: David Twohy
  • Directed by: David Twohy
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Riddick

Are we still all so afraid of him?

By Rob Vaux     September 06, 2013

 The way hasn’t been easy of the Riddick series, much like the human predator at its core. Universal’s big-budget sequel to the original Pitch Black failed to catch fire in 2004, so star Vin Diesel and director David Twohy went back to the drawing board. Nine years later, they’re back and it’s safe to say that they’re not done with this franchise by a long shot.

The new Riddick understandably depends on Pitch Black more than Chronicles. It’s leaner, it’s tighter and if we’re absolutely honest, its scenario matches the first film’s a little too closely for comfort. But at the same time, it breathes new life into the series and if (as Twohy has promised) there are at least two more films just waiting for a little box office success to set free, that’s not a terrible thing. (Full disclosure: I dug Chronicles more than a lot of people.)

Two things help this latest effort on its way: the lower budget, which forces Twohy and his crew to think outside the box a little, and the hard “R” rating, which lets the character express himself fully without worrying about padding the box office returns. Riddick displays a pulp savagery that serves it extremely well. At times, it resembles Schwarzenegger’s Conan more than anything else, with individual shots of Riddick striding across the alien landscape that might have been ripped whole from the cover of Thrilling Wonder Tales.

Fans may be disappointed to learn that this doesn’t advance the greater storyline much, though it certainly acknowledges what has come before. It even brings Karl Urban back in a jumped-up cameo that finds Riddick (Diesel) betrayed by the Necromongers and left for dead on a suitably dangerous planet. The first forty minutes cover his fight for survival against the very scary wildlife: a down-and-dirty exercise in getting back to basics. The self-regard is still present, as is the pomposity that the series’ critics have always found insufferable. But fans know that’s part of the fun, and watching Riddick go mano-a-mano with some giant stinger-laden nightmare holds a special delight for those so inclined.

Naturally, things can’t stay in primitive savagery forever, and soon enough a gaggle of bounty hunters arrives to collect him. (No word on how they intersect with the Necromongers, though it’s implied that the latter baddies still have a long way to go before taking over the whole galaxy.) They’re divided into two groups, joined in common purpose but unwilling to concede much to the other side. Riddick, of course, is happy to exploit the existing fissures.

The formula worked well enough for Pitch Black and when combined with the sterling early scenes here, it makes for a solid curtain call. While this go ‘round definitely cleaves too close to the first film for comfort, Twohy provides enough variation thanks to differing dynamics within the circle of hunters and Riddick’s comparative freedom. Twohy comes up with plenty of interesting things for them to do (there’s a recurring bit involving a box for storing severed heads that has a wonderful gross-out payoff), and increased freedom of actively catering to grown-ups can be felt from beginning to end.

Diesel remains the straw that stirs the drink, as always. The character holds a special place in his heart, and his enthusiasm for strapping on those black goggles hasn’t dimmed a bit in the previous thirteen years. Twohy, for his part, is still the best-kept secret in science fiction filmmaking, a director whose comparatively modest efforts display a wit and creativity sorely lacking in more prominent genre productions. Together, they craft another quiet little thrill ride: scaled back but – like more than a few films this summer – achieving so much more by reaching for so much less. If the last few months have left you jaded and spent, then Riddick will do wonders for your exhausted spirit. We needed popcorn this tasty to show up just a little bit earlier.


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Chopsaki 9/6/2013 3:46:21 AM

On the fence for this one, need to hear from my fellow maniacs.

Dazzler 9/6/2013 4:14:53 AM

Nothing.  Else.  Out.

Liquids7 9/6/2013 4:28:12 AM

I got to the part that said "betrayed by the Necromongers" and began to laugh my ass off. Vin Diesel, for me, will only ever be a source of unintentional comedy, and he has been since he wore that fur coat in XXX. To me he is less a human being and more of a finished byproduct resulting from a studio executive asking his hyperactive nine-year-old son what would make the ultimate cinematic badass.

And I'm not a film snob. I love me some actions films. It's just that Diesel reminds me of those early 90s commercials for Applejacks where they played up the "attitude" angle to such a ludicrous degree. Like Miley Cyrus and her recent delving into super-slut mode. She's standing atop a canyon howling to the moon that she's not a little girl anymore but rather an omni-whore with more raw sexuality than the hardest partying porn star to have ever lived. Stop trying so hard, people. On second thought, bring on Riddick II: Attack of the Deathkillers!


SmokingFrog77 9/6/2013 4:30:06 AM

Might just have to check this out now...


ryanwareham 9/6/2013 5:51:55 AM

trying to convince my friends to leave the wives handle the children this weekend as mine has offered to do, so that we can all go out and enjoy a movie none of the wives want to see.

i can't wait!

monkeyfoot 9/6/2013 6:11:40 AM

I'll be seeing this on the weekend.

I especially like that Vin Diesal actually owns the Riddick character and was paid for it by going back into the F&F franchise.

Whiskeymovie 9/6/2013 6:20:28 AM

 LOVE Pitch Black and for once I actually agree with Rob that I enjoyed Chronicles more than most people. I hav ebeen waiting for this movie for 9 years and I am there in IMAX, TWICE opening weekend.....super excited for this....


dalgoda 9/6/2013 6:27:53 AM

I also liked Chronicles of Riddick so I'm glad to see this franchise back in theaters.  Hopefully this does well enough to finish the story they have mapped out.  

wish 9/6/2013 6:32:32 AM

I love this series, I love the video games and Vin Diesel is pretty awesome.  I'm not the biggest fan of the FF series but I do enjoy them, I also quite liked Babylon AD from a few years back, he's a pretty passionate dude when it comes to films, he's all in, involved in a lot of the production aspects.  Twohy is a great director, I've always liked his work and I think this is gonna be a hit for these guys, and if it means more Riddick films then I'll be cheering it on!  Seeing it later today, this has been a long time coming!  Especially for those of us who liked Chronicles of Riddick!

aegrant 9/6/2013 8:52:01 AM

 my local paper gave it a D

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