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‘Riddick’ is worth all the trouble, once it gets going

By Gary Clift

Sometimes it’s tough being a moviegoer. Ticket prices keep going up, so that a seat at the Friday or Saturday night showings of the new movie “Riddick” cost $10 each, and this is not a 3D movie. Compare the relentless inflation of ticket prices with what’s happened to other consumer prices the last five years, and you’ll soon be checking your commitment to sitting in a theater with dozens of habitual cell-phone users.

Then, too, seeing a movie may require substantial pre-curtain preparation on the ticket-holder’s part. To make sense of what the “Riddick” characters are talking about, you have to know what went on in a 2004 movie called “The Chronicles of Riddick,” a movie that surely no one serious will claim was memorable.

And, then, to make the enjoyment of the current film even at little more arduous, writer and director David Twohy has stuck on a lengthy and dull early section. Now Twohy is not trying to waste time here. The opening part of “Riddick” does set up a major turn that is coming in the story. But the set up seems to take forever while it is running.

All this considered, though, “Riddick” probably repays its audience for attendance better than do most recent general-release films. Once it gets to going, the movie is an obvious near-relation of Twohy’s “Pitch Black” of 2000, the film that introduced Vin Diesel’s on-going sci fi character, Riddick.

In the new movie, Diesel is back to playing the gritty murderer who has bounced from planet to planet. Here he is left wounded on one of the series’s deserted planets, all of which look like covers for a 1970s Yes album and all of which are photographed with blue and green filters so that every thing looks really yellow. Riddick has asked someone to take him to his home planet and has been taken here instead, attacked, and left for dead.

After some arduous setting of his own broken bone and screwing a shin guard into his own leg, he begins to recover from his injuries. He learns something about the two chief native predators, one a cross between zebras and doberman pincers and one an “Alien” like being with a long tail topped with a scorpion. This last lives in water and, we’re going to learn, dehydrates to hibernate during the dry season.

Riddick gives himself and his pet pup small and increasing doses of the scorpion-tail’s venom, building up tolerances which allow the two of them to defeat a couple of the monsters who guard the way out of the planet’s desert. There the two friends find a man-made cabin holding an emergency beacon. Riddick presses the button and it sends out a call for help and a scan of his person revealing his identity and noting the hefty bounty on his head.

Here’s where the movie begins to get interesting. Two space ships arrive. On is full of ruthless bounty hunters—their leader kills a captive girl just to convince us that they are ruthless. The other is manned by a crew looking for Riddick himself. The captain wants him to tell what actually happened to a man Riddick saw die in an earlier movie. The first mate is played by Katee Sackhoff, an interesting journeyman actor who has, most recently, been playing Vic in t.v.’s Longmire series. She gives herself a sponge bath.

In a way we’re back to the “Thing” plot, where the gang of rough characters is stuck inside institutional housing while a specially-powered enemy (Riddick, who is demanding the use of one of the two ships, can see in the dark) comes and goes as he pleases. At first he picks off the space travelers one at a time. But then he steals a required “node” from each of the ships and more or less allows himself to be captured. What he knows that his captors don’t is that the rain is coming, and that something unpleasant will happen when the rain begins.

There’s some suspense here. Twohy knows how to tell this sort of story. And Diesel is someone we root for if only because his opponents are such villains. So once “Riddick” gets going, it seems just about worth all the trouble, expense, and research that watching it requires.

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