By Susan JAMES
Whoever your favorite superhero is – the guy with the bat ears or the cape or the spidey hands – he’s a total wuss compared to our boy Richard Riddick. With his moonglow eyes that see best in the dark and his in-your-face physicality, Vin Diesel’s wanted criminal has been dodging enemies throughout the galaxy now for three heart-pounding films. In this latest version of one man’s eternal battle, directed by David Twohy, a restless Riddick is bored with his life as king of the Necromongers, an enemy he defeated in 2004’s “Chronicles of Riddick.” Tricked into abdicating in exchange for a return ticket to his home world, Riddick finds himself wounded and abandoned on a viral desert planet filled with grotesque creatures, all of which want him for dinner.
Hunted by a pack of zebra-striped jackals, Riddick escapes but manages to capture a puppy who grows up to become his only companion. He morphs into a Robinson Crusoe, fighting to survive despite the odds and discovers that the greatest danger on the planet are mouth-gaping, stinger-tailed scorpion-like creatures, most of whom lie dormant under the sand. After a run-in with one of them, Riddick captures a small one, milks it of its venom and uses it to inoculate himself and his dog against their poison. But he can’t hold out against them forever. A storm is coming and Riddick knows that the unleashing of the rains will create a seething sea of monsters.
He needs a ship and an escape plan and he finds it in an abandoned station set up as temporary housing for intergalactic mercenaries. Activating the emergency alarm system, a message is sent out that a wanted criminal with a bounty on his head is at the station. The bounty will be doubled if Riddick is dead and as two mercenary ships arrive determined to capture and kill him, Riddick plays a quickly escalating game of hunter and hunted with warring mercs, killer scorpions and an approaching deadly storm.
One of the fascinating things about the movie is the aura of brutal violence it conveys without actually showing a great deal of brutality. Do bad things happen? Of course they do but compared to the slugfests that recent films like “Man of Steel” and “Wolverine” have been, “Riddick” puts more thought into its violence. This guy doesn’t need a super suit or retracting claws or an iron helmet; he has his fists and his wits and that builds a character infinitely more interesting than his super peers. Vin Diesel, with his graveled voice and bulging biceps, is not everyone’s cup of tea but with his moonshine eyes, his animal cunning and casual arrogance he dominates a screen full of thugs cast for their evil looks. Diesel brings to Riddick the mythology of a Prometheus, trapped on a mountain with the vultures attacking his vitals. You know the vultures won’t win and that they will pay a price for their viciousness.
But you also know that Riddick will pay a price too. Defiantly alone in a hostile universe, his man against all odds is a strangely arresting one. The story is simple and it seems Diesel likes it that way. And such simplicity has always been his best showcase.
See you at the movies!