Spurred in no small part by the enormous support of his fans on Facebook, Vin Diesel reprised his role as Richard B. Riddick—the role that marked his debut as a leading man—in 2013’s Riddick. The character first appeared in 2000’s Pitch Black and his adventures continued in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. Both films garnered a cult following significant enough that when Diesel heard these fans’ cries, he personally secured the rights to the franchise from Universal and turned to his collaborator, writer/director David Twohy, to give fans another action-packed dose of their favorite escaped alien convict with night vision. I’ll admit that the passion of the film’s crew for the character and the project is certainly palpable in the final product (Diesel even went so far as to leverage his own house to finance the picture) and the film is every bit the chockablock-full-of-nasty-aliens actioner I had hoped it would be. However, I have my reservations when it comes to recommending it.
The film begins shortly after a Necromonger leaves Riddick for dead on a hostile planet. There Riddick, out-of-shape after some time serving as king of the Necromongers, must build himself up to the badass he once was. But when a horde of vicious alien serpents bears down on his location, Riddick must lure a group of bounty hunters to the surface if he hopes to get off-world before the creatures make a meal of him. This makes for an incredibly fun bit of cinematic escapism, echoing the creature feature stylings of Pitch Black with a tinge of Enemy Mine (1985), but it all does feel like an unnecessary detour from Riddick’s larger personal narrative. Although exciting in its own right as an action/sci-fi creature feature, there are definitely far more interesting things happening to Riddick on either side of this particular story, namely in Chronicles of Riddick and whatever film is to follow.
What’s more, the film actually stops following Riddick for a significant portion of the running time to focus instead on the bounty hunters he lures to the surface. During this sequence, we meet a female bounty hunter who, as it happens, we learn is a lesbian. And this would be interesting were it not for the fact that her homosexuality is merely a tool to make Riddick look more like the most manly man in the universe than he already does, since he is ultimately able to coerce her into sleeping with him. In the universe of Riddick, then, female homosexuality is merely a choice motivated by a woman’s inability to bed Riddick himself. To my mind, this brazenly offensive slight against the integrity of lesbians transforms what began as a glorious piece of enjoyably mindless entertainment into irresponsibly brainless entertainment. That said, Riddick fans will surely get everything they want out of Riddick (i.e. Riddick doing amazingly badass things), but I urge you to approach it with caution in light of its irresponsible depiction of homosexuality.
This is yet another film you won’t want to miss on Blu-ray if Riddick is your cup of tea, as the Unrated Director’s Cut of the film is exclusive to the Blu-ray release from Universal Studioes Home Entertainment (available January 14, 2014 in a BD + DVD + Digital HD combo pack), as are three behind-the-scenes featurettes. The Blu-ray also, I should note, includes the R-rated Theatrical Cut as well.