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Diesel at his best in the sci-fi sequel, 'Riddick'
on September 6, 2013
If you're a diehard Vin Diesel fan, then you probably remember him even for his lesser known roles in films that include Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, and Knockaround Guys. But, the rest of us have come to know Diesel in basically two roles and two roles only: Dominic Toretto in The Fast and the Furious franchise and Richard B. Riddick in the Riddick franchise. Depending on how you feel about these two particular franchises - odds are that's how you judge whether you like or dislike his acting choices, which have largely included the role of the thug or tough guy. Regardless, The Fast and the Furious franchise quickly lost its flavor without Diesel involved, eventually leading him to disappointing and lackluster roles in films, such as The Pacifier and Man Apart. Eventually, Diesel reclaimed his role in the Fast franchise over the course of three more sequels - not to mention his fame. And, much like Sylvester Stallone with Rocky and Rambo, Diesel hasn't forgotten the character that put him on the map. It's been nearly 10 years since Diesel played the role of Riddick, but after a lengthy wait - the saga of the shiny-eyed convict finally continues in the second sequel (unless you count Dark Fury, then it would be the third sequel), simply titled - Riddick.
David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick) is back to direct Riddick, starring Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick - a convict, last seen in The Chronicles of Riddick, had just conquered the Necromonger Empire. However, it was only a matter of time before Riddick was betrayed by his underling, Vaako (Karl Urban). Riddick attempts to return home, but is instead marooned on a desolate planet by the Necromongers - and must once again ward off not one, but two groups of mercenaries looking to collect the bounty on his head. At the same time, a storm is approaching that will once again allow a massive race of predators to unleash maximum carnage. Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable, Dave Bautista, and Katee Sackhoff also star in supporting roles.
Personally, nothing pleases me more than when a franchise has the same director for all of its films. As a devoted fan of these flicks, I believe it's of the utmost importance to establish and maintain a rock-solid continuity. It appeases the fans that have stuck with the franchise and makes the entirety of the story flow in ways that most franchises just don't care enough to sustain. More often than not, it's brutally (but not always) obvious when a film is shot by one director, and then said director hands off the reigns to someone else. A recent example would be Jon Favreau leaving his directing duties on Iron Man 1 & 2, giving way to Shane Black in Iron Man 3 - who obviously has a completely different style of directing than Favreau. In any event, director David Twohy is back in the director's chair for Riddick - his third stint (out of a possible three) in the Riddick saga. His imagination and fingerprints are all over this franchise, from the development stages to the plot direction - all of which have contributed to this pure, high-octane series of action sci-fi films.
It seems relatively easy to say any given role is the best for an actor. Since I already used the Iron Man reference, a perfect example would be me saying Iron Man 3 is Robert Downy Jr.'s best performance to date. Some people might agree with that assessment, but it's the same character being portrayed by the same person over the course of several films, so why does it really matter? That's the rule of thumb I'm applying to Vin Diesel in the Riddick films. Without a shadow of a doubt, Riddick is Vin Diesel's best work. In this case, that's not a very large stretch to say since Diesel has only had a handful of characters in his tenure as an actor. Riddick could be comparable to Dominic Toretto, but Riddick is much more a savage character - active, deadly, and a character that says what he means and means what he says. I suppose that's a completely backwards way of saying he's a total badass. If you've seen the first two flicks, then Riddick is more of the same - meaning immensely enjoyable in terms of overall entertainment quality.
While Diesel thrives in his role, there are still some bothersome issues about this film. First and foremost, Riddick reflects Pitch Black too much for its own good - visually and plot-wise. Don't get me wrong, Pitch Black was a quality flick with a pleasing plot and plenty of action, but there's still a moderate amount of disappointment surrounding the fact that after waiting nearly 10 years for more Riddick, the film is a rough rearrangement of the first film. Speaking of disappointment - it's also a major disappointment that Karl Urban only shows up for a matter of seconds. You heard it - he has nothing more than a brief cameo. There's an endless amount of potential lost with writing a script that didn't include Urban, especially since he's established himself as a top name in Hollywood. Since his role in The Chronicles of Riddick, he has ballooned into a near household name - but I suppose a brief appearance is better than no appearance at all. Hopefully, Riddick will accumulate worldwide success and before long, Riddick will be knocking on Vaako's door in a not-so-distant sequel.
Overall, Riddick is chock-full of memorable moments that will have Riddick fans screaming to the rafters with joy (present company included). Recent news reports have cited the difficulties Diesel endured financially to make this sequel, so he should be commended for making a film for his fans - especially since there are plenty of actors out there that would have passed on such a gamble. In my opinion, Riddick pays off with dividends in terms of action, CGI visuals, acting, characters, and complete quality of the end product. Even more impressive is the fact this movie was filmed on a reduced budget of $38 million, compared to its predecessor, which cost more than $100 million. Obviously, this film warrants a view, but there are strings attached - and this is where Riddick might hit a snag in the "success" department. The major drawback is that it's been 13 years since Pitch Black was released, and 9 years since its sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, was released. Naturally, that means if you haven't seen these two films, you'll need to watch them before watching Riddick - as there are heavy details from both films that tie into Riddick. But, if you're caught up on these flicks already, you're good to go.