Unemployment once more, my friends--see what it can lead to? I don't think there's any reason I would have seen this film otherwise, but there I was, at a three pm weekday showing. This time it's just a lull between freelance projects, though, so no need to worry. I saw Pitch Black back in the day, which introduced Vin Diesel and this character Riddick, although I didn't think too much about any of it. Then came The Chronicles of Riddick, which was an absolute banquet of chunky turd, which made it a bit of a surprise to have a third round, but apparently Diesel wants to continue a franchise of this character, as he worked hard to get this film made and produced it himself.
We open with him left to die on a desert planet. He chokes a space lizard/buzzard to death and crawls out of the dirt. Then he fights off space hyenas. Then he falls into a toxic pool with evil space eels, which curiously just leave him alone. Then he encounters these aliens with scorpion tails and toothy mouths, and kills a bunch of them. We see him hide in a hole and pull a several-ton rock over himself, because he can pretty much do anything. There is one alien between him and the path to an arid grassland over the ridge (there's no way around?) and he trains for a long time to build up to it, even though we just saw him kill several aliens with relative ease a few minutes earlier. Along the way he raises one of the space hyenas as a pet, and injects them both with alien venom to build up immunity. In here we have a flashback to explain what happened since we last saw him, part of which shows us four sexy women waiting in bed for him. So let's review: he can kill any space buzzard, hyena or alien, can move weights of several tons, and women go crazy with lust over him. Got it all? Okay. Oh, he is also impervious to pain and conducts several self-surgeries, too. He's also an alien dog whisperer. Why not take the next step and have a shot of him chucking his Nobel Prize off a jagged alien cliff?
So anyhoo, after he strips naked (seen from a distance, don't get your hopes up) and climbs to a Lion King-esque promontory for a spiritual rebirth, he sees a huge storm coming! And when the rains come, so do the space scorpions, which otherwise lay dormant under the dry soil. Or so we are left to figure out, as the whole scene really doesn't look like much of anything. Riddick sets off a rescue beacon, trying to draw bounty hunters after him (because he is the most wanted man in the universe, apparently), who soon arrive. This is about thirty minutes in, the first half hour being all Diesel. For this next portion of the film, Diesel is barely onscreen, and our focus shifts to the bounty hunters, and their attempts to capture Riddick. Who outwits them at every turn because he is the ultimate badass superman.
They are led by Jordi Molla as Santana (who looks a bit like Luke Wilson, making me wish he'd be cast against type in something like this), various goons, a pretty boy who spouts bible verses, and Diaz, handsome bodybuilder who provides facial beauty and amusing line readings, if tragically shirted the entire time. They do a bunch of macho posturing, then another ship lands, led by Johns, and his own macho crew, and the only woman in the film (except for a brief turn by Latoya Jackson) is Katee Sackhoff as Doll. She was annoying on Battlestar Galactica, and she's annoying here. She quickly lets it be known that she is a lesbian, but we all know that lesbians are only lesbians because they can't find good cock, right? We follow all of the characters as they act macho (including Doll) as Riddick picks them all off, showing additional superpowers such as sneaking inches from each of them without notice, and eluding bullets.
The movie gets amusement out of making Santana into a bloviator who is constantly humiliated, Riddick's ninja stealth skills, and an excellent suspense scene concerning a bomb that may or may not go off. Then another, even bigger storm is coming (what happened to the last one?) and Riddick, seeing that the place will soon be crawling with space scorpions, turns himself in. Then the movie turns to a rehash of Pitch Black as the characters get picked off while trying to survive the alien attack. The monsters are extremely easy to kill, except when they aren't. Then they all have to go here, do that, get this, come back, stuff like that, and in here we discover that the amazing Riddick can also take four horse tranquilizers before even slowing down. He also states that by the end of the film, he will be "balls-deep into Doll" and that furthermore, she will have asked for this. Because although Doll is a lesbian, once she sees Riddick's awesome manhood and incredible prowess, she will beg to have that superhuman cock, which is precisely how things turn out. Between Side Effects, Passion and this, 2013 has turned out to be quite a bad year for lesbians at the movies.
Alright, so thirty minutes' distance from this reveals it as a contemporary blaxploitation film, in which Diesel plays an invincible, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-sex superman. Let's keep in mind that he produced this thing himself, as well. To review, he can: kill mutant birds, dogs, and scorpions, move stones of several tons, perform self-surgery, evade bullets, pass within inches of people without them noticing, take four horse tranquilizers before slowing, and convert lesbians to heterosexuality through the sheer force of his manhood. He can also see in the dark, a skill which proves almost completely irrelevant here. So it's essentially a wish-fulfillment vehicle for people who want to see the ethnic guy have all the power and be the smartest person on the planet.
All that said, all that irony behind us, the movie squeaks it's way to semi-success for the simple reason that it's FUN. It's all just a good time and we can get into Riddick making bitches out of everyone and there's lots of suspense and escapes and derring-do. And the movie shows us a lot of otherworldly visuals to keep us amused. And the strange overall shape of the thing--Riddick alone for the first third, Riddick gone for the second, and monster attack all through the third--provides variety and keeps things somewhat unexpected. So while I'll stop short of saying you should go see it, I can say with confidence that if this were available on a plane and the only other thing available was Smurfs 2, I would choose this one.
Not really, but it won't be that bad a time if you do.