After almost a decade Riddick returns – but is that a good thing?
Back in 2000, co-writer/director David Twohy and Vin Diesel brought the character of Richard B. Riddick to life in the film Pitch Black. The movie was a financial success and the studio wanted the duo to make a sequel. Twohy didn’t want to just throw Riddick back on an alien infested planet and rehash the first film, so instead they moved away from the R-rated horror aspects and focused more on the PG-13 science fiction side of things in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. While the film went on to garner just over $100 million and wasn’t a bust, the film was deemed unsuccessful due to its larger budget and any hope of a franchise seemed to fall into darkness.
Flash forward to 2013 and Riddick, against all odds (just as he likes them), is back on the big screen thanks to the sheer determination by Diesel to not let the character fade into oblivion. In 2006 when Diesel made a brief cameo at the end of The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, instead of taking any money he chose to take over the rights to the Riddick character. Now the real question at hand: is Riddick a film that is strong enough to revitalize a character that’s been lying dormant for nine years? In short, hell yes.
What’s so great about Riddick is that it’s clear early on that this film is a labour of love for both Diesel and Twohy. It’s also obvious that while The Chronicles of Riddick made quite a lot of dough, the real key to success was to bring Riddick back to his modest budget, monster battling, sci-fi roots. That’s not to say the character is a one-trick pony, it’s just that he works best when things are kept simple, and that’s exactly what Twohy does this time around.
The film starts with a badly wounded Riddick waking to find himself stranded on a sun-scorched, nameless planet. While battling to survive the elements, he also finds that the planet is inhabited with various predators that he’ll need to contend with in order to make it through each day. As I stated earlier, Riddick is a labour of love, and that’s clearly shown by how Twohy is never in a rush to jump into non-stop action at the cost of character. The entire first act is pretty much Riddick adapting to life on this planet, and Twohy smoothly transitions time simply by showing how Riddick’s wounds are healing from scene to scene. Of course, there’s plenty of action to be found during this time as well, it’s just more story/character driven, and not there to simply appease audiences — though it does that too.
Things pick up quite a bit in the second act, when Riddick and his new loyal companion (a dog-like creature he rescued/tested on as a puppy) find an abandoned bounty hunter station on the far side of the planet. With the knowledge that danger is on the horizon (quite literally), Riddick uses the station to send out a distress call, which identifies him to those watching as the convict that he is who has a bounty that’s doubled if he’s brought in dead. This catches the attention of two mercenary ships in the area that come down to claim Riddick: one carrying a crew led by a man named Santana (Jordi Molla), and the other carrying a much more elite crew led by a man (Matt Nable) who wants answers about Riddick’s past more than he wants the bounty.
What Riddick does best is it flawlessly ties in both Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick so that it really brings the series full circle. This is especially true for how it answers the question of what happened to Riddick at the end of Chronicles where he was put in charge of the Necromongers – with a cameo by Karl Urban just to make it all the sweeter. The explanation flows beautifully with the narrative, never convoluting or slowing the story down.
While you definitely don’t have to have seen the original film or the sequel in order to understand or enjoy Riddick, having done so will help greatly in the overall entertainment value of the film. Certain reveals will have more impact, and there will be a greater sense of depth to the overall story; however, even Pitch Black jumped into the life of Riddick as though audiences were somewhat familiar with him. Sometimes it works best for a film to just have faith that those watching can put two and two together without having everything spelled out for them. Again, I’d recommend checking out the first two because of how much it adds, but it’s not a requirement.
On the directing front, Twohy really captures the visceral feeling that is Riddick, with his fast paced, up close and personal shots. There are a few battle scenes with the creatures on the planet that you want to see pulled back a bit, as it sometimes feels a bit too choppy; though it’s once again easy to see that Twohy has a clear understanding of what it takes to make an action-packed, intense sci-fi film. It’s also amazing to see the special effects in this film, and how this desolate planet is brought to life with the addition of these lifelike creatures – some of which have incredibly unique looks and attributes.
While fans of Riddick (which include Diesel and Twohy) have had to wait nine long years for a follow-up feature, the wait was well worth it. Not only does Diesel fall perfectly in sync with where the character left off, but he knocks it out of the park and comes off as an even bigger badass than he did almost a decade ago. And with a supporting cast that includes the stunning Katee Sackhoff (of Battlestar Galactica fame) as a tough as nails sniper, and former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista as a big merc with a not so great shot, Riddick is full of characters you both want to see more of, or simply want to see dead.
While the future remains uncertain in terms of whether or not this underdog sequel will bloom into a full-fledged franchise, Riddick at least brings a sense of closure to the saga of the character that Chronicles simply didn’t. Twohy and Diesel should be proud, as this is the sequel fans have been waiting for, filled with enough monsters, violence and overall badassery to make it the best Riddick film yet.
Director: David Twohy Writers: David Twohy, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Karl Urban, Bokeem Woodbine
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.
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