Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Jordi Molla, Karl Urban
DIRECTOR DAVID TWOHY
REVIEW SHANNON HARVEY
You’ll like this if you liked Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, Aliens, Enemy Mine, The Naked Prey, Doom, Dune, Starship Troopers
He's been a B-movie star since he burst on to our screens with 2000's gritty low-budget sci-fi Pitch Black, which was shot on the other-worldly Moon Plain of Coober Pedy in South Australia.
Yet the bald-headed, baritone-voiced macho man Vin Diesel has now become one of the world's most unlikely megastars. He led Fast & Furious 6 to be the fifth-highest grossing film of this year. Fast 5 came in sixth last year, Fast 7 is already under way and soon Diesel will not only return to his absurdly dumb xXx franchise but take on Telly Savalas' role in the adaptation of Kojak.
If there's a more improbable megastar these days, please step forward.
Yet Diesel taps into the kind of silent, macho yet honourable warrior made famous by Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, so it's great to see his best character - escaped convict and murderer Richard B. Riddick - return for this third chapter in in the Chronicles of Riddick series.
Better still, this $41 million action-sci-fi goes back to its roots and almost copies the stripped-down, people-versus- predators plot of Pitch Black. In doing so, it hopes to erase the memory of the talky, boring sequel (who thought it was a good idea to put Dame Judi Dench alongside Diesel's grunting brute).
It sees Riddick (Diesel) marooned on a desolate, rocky planet populated by even bigger, badder alien bugs than before. Just as Riddick learns how to harness the planet's primal forces, not one, but two teams of bounty hunters arrive.
The first is a savage group of mercenaries led by the reckless hothead Santana (Jordi Molla), whose group of Mad Max-style bounty hunters have come to collect Riddick's head - literally. The second is a more elite military unit led by Johns (Aussie Matt Nable), whose name will suggest a more personal vendetta for fans of Pitch Black.
With Riddick on the loose, however, the alien bugs are the least of their worries.
There's a lot of giddy B-movie fun about this ballsy threequel, which not only apes Pitch Black but plays like a lightweight version of Aliens, with the macho military men and their cool weaponry struggling to survive a hostile planet hopping with creepy crawlies.
But it's alternately kick-ass and clunky. Diesel's fleshy, primal desert warrior jars against some clearly fake-looking computer-generated sets and some of the most hokey-looking alien creatures created in a computer. Disappointingly, the film delivers only two species; a scorpion-like mud monster and a dingo-style dog beast (one of which Riddick raises as his companion/protector, making for the film's few comic and charming moments).
And although this was shot in Canada for its tax incentives, it's great to see former Aussie rugby star-turned-actor Matt Nable as the lead mercenary, while Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff adds sex appeal - and awfully sexist banter - as the lone girl among the grunts.But this is the Vin Diesel show, and the beefy brute oozes screen presence with his enviable body, gravelly voice and dark, sardonic wit. The film has its moments too, such as a virtuoso sequence where a chained-up Diesel is about to lose his head, but two slick moves sees his executioner's head lopped off instead. So Riddick is a welcome if not quite triumphant resurrection of the series, which seemed dead and buried after 2004's disastrous Chronicles of Riddick. Diesel promised to give audiences what they want here, and he and Twohy deliver on that promise without really taking the giant alien scorpion-bull by the horns.