"Riddick" -- the third sci-fi film to star Vin Diesel as the interplanetary antihero of the same name -- arrives nine years after its predecessor, "The Chronicles of Riddick," and 13 years after the original, "Pitch Black." Unfortunately for Diesel and series writer-director David Twohy, "Riddick" hasn't exactly returned to a hero's welcome. For every film critic who finds it a fun, gory slice of genre entertainment, there's another who finds it stale and one-dimensional.
In the Los Angeles Times, for example, Michael Phillips calls "Riddick" "extremely violent, cleverly managed fun." He explains, "This is not one of those Johnny-come-lately sequels preoccupied with getting a new audience up to speed on where the story was. It's about living in the moment, in the now, and killing in the now."
Diesel, Phillips says, "has discovered what it means to be a certain kind of movie star, working hard but not too, serving material that, here, does what it's supposed to do."
On the other hand, USA Today's Claudia Puig warns, "Move along, there's nothing to see and no one to root for in this murky franchise reboot." She adds, "Not only is this third installment in the series tedious, grisly and inane, its star, Vin Diesel, plays a ridiculous amalgam in the title role. He's a killing machine with a heart of gold, a malevolent mush-ball who plays fetch with alien critters." Speaking of which, it's probably not a good sign when "Riddick's computer-generated pet dingo … is the best actor of the lot."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis agrees with Phillips, calling "Riddick" "a satisfyingly primitive spectacle" and adding that "Mr. Diesel has come into his own as a contemporary hero, one who suggests a postrace ideal, even as he affirms old-fashioned power with displays of annihilating violence."
Twohy, Dargis says, "has smartly gone back to genre basics with this installment, which serves as an effective reboot. Gone are the silly costumes and wigs, the overstuffed plot and exotic-sounding villains .… Now, there’s one man alone, stranded on a seemingly desolate distant planet with only his wits, his fists and his voice-over."
Count the Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe among the dissenters. He writes, "the latest installment feels tentative even at a flabby 120 minutes, more like a placeholder that barely advances the considerable Riddick mythology. Playing it safe with a script that offers Riddick up as a lone avenging hero, Twohy passes on the opportunity to effectively shade the character's distinctive dimensionality."
Lowe continues: "Plenty of bone crunching and blood gushing, along with some selective nudity, have boosted the movie's rating up to an 'R,' but lacking the distinctive visual style, robust production design and planet-hopping pace of its predecessor, 'Riddick' feels mired in stasis."
Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post chimes in, "'Riddick' can be cheesy and silly, not to mention excessively violent, but it's also fun. The story moves quickly along, and even when the outcome is plain, the journey remains entertaining. Diesel looks like an oaf but makes for a winning anti-hero. It's almost enough to make you wonder what he could accomplish if he stopped reprising the same roles again and again in the 'Fast and Furious' franchise, not to mention this series."
The AP's Jocelyn Noveck calls the screenplay "lethally inadequate" and the dialogue "ridiculously clumsy," but also writes, "Not all is bleak. The bald and beefy Diesel, whose sturdy commercial appeal is proven again and again with the huge success of the 'Fast & Furious' franchise, is always fun to watch. But his presence alone, comfortably durable as it is, can't make up for the total lack of other interesting characters."
Perhaps she forgot about the computer-generated pet dingo?
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