Vin Diesel goes back to his roots as Riddick, the evil-eyed antihero from his commercial breakthrough “Pitch Black” back in 2000 and its forgettable follow-up “The Chronicles of Riddick”. The sequel’s botched attempt at launching an epic sci-fi franchise apparently convinced the makers to strip back the formula to its basic blueprint this time around: Diesel deserted on a deadly planet. He crawls out of his grave, creaks broken limbs into place and fights dehydration while fighting mutant scorpion-reptiles. (He even gets to domesticate an alien hyena pup for fun.) Yet, somehow, it all manages to be entertaining, even halfway engaging – at least for a while. The stunning visuals certainly help: panoramic views over barren deserts, smoldering pits, and outlandish rock formations – a mesmerizing hellscape all lush shades of crimson and ochre – invite the eye to linger. Pure CGI-kitsch, but not in a bad way.
Invariably, other characters step on stage to shatter the idyllic intimacy, and the plot morphs into more conventional action-flick patterns. Two crews of bounty hunters are after Riddick’s head, but the joke’s on them, naturally. As Diesel’s growling voice announced early on: “This ain’t nothin’ new.” So we settle for a solid if silly genre slugfest.
Riddick | Directed by David Twohy (2013) with Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Mollà. Starts September 12