Review: ‘Riddick’ third round falls flat

Closing out the summer movie season is the sci-fi deathmatch movie “Riddick,” so unremarkable that it doesn’t deserve to be a feature film. It feels more like a made-for-TV movie with its hollow characterizations and almost nonexistent plotting. That the filmmakers managed to stretch it out into two hours is astounding, considering that nothing of consequence transpires until the very end.

The movie stars Vin Diesel as Riddick, the mythically dangerous convict who spent some time on the throne as Lord Marshal of the Necromongers, whatever that may mean. The point is that Riddick is a bad, bad dude, endlessly eluding mercenaries who have been hunting him for years. He’s got Vin Diesel’s strangely soft, yet trembling baritone as well as his muscles. He also has eyes that allow him to see in the dark, though the movie doesn’t care to explain why.

Though “Riddick” offers a few expository flashbacks to set up the premise, it’s still bewildering for anyone who hasn’t seen the first two movies in the series. And even then, there’s a good possibility it still doesn’t make sense.

“Riddick” alienates every audience member not familiar with the movie’s lore and mythology by centering on a conflict that has origins in “Pitch Black,” the series’ first entry released in theaters about thirteen years ago with pretty much the same premise as “Riddick.”

This movie concerns a group of mercenaries and bounty hunters that have tracked Riddick to a desolate planet to either kill him or take him alive for a handsome reward. Once they arrive, they quickly learn it’s smarter to work with Riddick than to try and kill him in light of the giant scorpion-esque creatures that come out at night, creatures that Riddick is rather adept at slaying.

What follows is a lot of gory violence and cringe-worthy dialogue. Every character talks like a tough guy even the sole female character and it quickly grows tiresome, as do the macho-military stereotypes. And there’s nothing charismatic about Riddick himself, who can always be relied upon to emerge victorious in battle.

Whenever he makes a prediction, it comes true. After he tells a character he’s going to kill him with his own weapon in sixty seconds, he follows through in a bravura display of implausible techniques.

Why should we care about a guy who always knows he’s going to come out on top? It’s as if the filmmakers are so in love with this character that they can’t bear to see him in any real peril.

Pity, because Diesel is capable of so much more. His malleable face suggests unimaginable chasms of anguish and determination. Remember his turn in “Saving Private Ryan?” Where did that guy go?

Watching “Riddick” is an entirely passive experience, with no shifts in tone, style, or pacing. It is as ineffective as the mercs who try to take down Riddick. What might have otherwise been a visually splendid tale of survival-director David Twohy has an eye for the terrible beauty of deserted landscapes-quickly descends into monotonous displays of pseudo-mythic machismo.