I will sheepishly admit – despite their language, violence and occasional lewdness – I’m a big fan of the two previous Riddick movies.
In the 2000 film “Pitch Black,” audiences were introduced to actor Vin Diesel as Riddick, the gravel-voiced escaped convict full of fury and unsurpassed will to survive. An anti-hero to the core, still Riddick lived by a code of compassion that extended about this far: Either survive by following in his wake or die for getting in his way.
Yet the film took a surprise ending, delivering one of the most moving metaphors for the gospel of Christ (and particularly Romans 5:6-8) I’ve ever seen in science fiction.
Then in 2004, “The Chronicles of Riddick” returned with a bigger budget, bigger scope, better supporting cast and a fascinating metaphor for both the deliverance of Jews under Moses and the militant spread of Islam.
Both movies gave audiences spectacularly foreign landscapes, witty dialogue, intense action and a moving sense of the profound, all while Diesel was turning in the best performances of his career.
Now nine years later, Diesel returns in the title role of “Riddick,” a movie that retains Diesel’s “Furyan” character, but sadly substitutes computerized special effects for the philosophical underpinnings of its predecessors.
And I could probably forgive “Riddick” for being a mild disappointment if that’s all it was: too long, not written as well, plastic and cliché supporting characters, overly dependent on green-screen special effects and all.
I can even forgive the writers for simply being spiritually blind, unable to recreate the fascinating truths of faith explored in the first two films.
If it was just Riddick fighting to survive against the usual impossible odds (which I think is what the filmmakers were going for), it would have been a entertaining but disappointing movie.
But that’s not all it was.
In the apparent desire to needlessly make the movie rated R, the filmmakers upped the obscenity (and the first two films were too heavy as it was) to a laughable level, where it only served to highlight the inability of the supporting cast to act and the scriptwriters to write.
Furthermore, the film begins with full frontal female nudity … for no reason whatsoever, except to be pornographic and get that lusted-after R rating.
Then it cast the sadly delusionary actress Katee Sackhoff, whose roles on “Battlestar Galactica,” “Longmire” and now “Riddick” all follow the same pattern: an uber-tough female warrior who nonetheless doesn’t mind being objectified and paraded around half-naked like a piece of meat before leering eyes. On one hand, she’s the very image of macho-girl female empowerment, and on the other the perfect example of how women are manipulated, used and stripped of all power as quickly as they’re stripped of their clothes.
Ms. Sackhoff, if you ever read this, let me suggest you stand up for your self-respect with the same vehemence you stand up to bad guys in your films – then you might actually exemplify the kind of strength your characters only pretend to have.
Finally, “Riddick” doesn’t just spiritually miss the boat, but sinks it, casting a Christian character who has no character, no spine and serves as nothing else but a laughing stock for the “kookiness” of his faith – and it is a bit kooky, as his religion is really just pagan superstition with a Bible on his hip.
At one point in the film, the “Christian” character is attempting to speak of his faith, and Riddick responds, “Kid, leave God out of this. He wants no part of what happens next.”
Frankly, I don’t think God would want a part of any of this film. Even for fans of Riddick who really want to see the character again, this is a movie to be avoided, whether you’re God, man or “Furyan.”
- “Riddick,” rated R, contains roughly 90 obscenities and profanities, most of them the “F word,” scattered so haphazardly about the script as to be the stuff of ridicule.
- The film contains several lewd references and lines, male nudity in the distance, one scene of full frontal female nudity and a pair of female topless scenes. No sexual activity is actually depicted, save a leering man licking a woman’s face.
- The film is abundantly violent and often gruesome, as dozens of aliens and several human characters are killed graphically. Riddick also takes drastic measures to repair stomach-turning wounds to his own body in more than one scene.
- The film’s only religious content comes from a character who carries a Bible on his hip and spouts religious-sounding nonsense at several times in the film. It borders on mocking Christianity and culminates in the line, “Leave God out of this. He wants no part of what happens next.”