Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Director: David Twohy
Stars: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
Pitch Black was a movie that came out of nowhere and I loved it when I finally caught it on DVD and immediately consumed it’s rewarding “sequel” in The Chronicles of Riddick. So the latest installment in this series, simply titled Riddick was something I definitely wanted. Was it worth it? Well, let’s explore.
Riddick and the CGI Beasts
Until I had to geek up and edit imdb.com – the trivia listing for Riddick stated that the first ten minutes of the film had no dialogue. That’s not true because the first spoken line that opens the film is “Don’t know how many times I’ve been crossed of the list and left for dead. Guess when it first happens the day you were born, you’re gonna lose count. So this, this ain’t nothing new. ” It’s a line that does a very fine job of setting up the tone of the movie – because everyone and everything in this movie is out to kill Riddick. Left for dead on an uninhabitable planet, Riddick starts as a survival film as he battles a variety of hungry wildlife that all want him for dinner. What fascinated me the most about what takes up about the first half hour of the film is the fact that this wasn’t the film I saw advertised. What I saw from trailers was what felt like a revamped version of Pitch Black, but this was something new and different.
While Riddick struggles we also get some flashbacks that catch us up on everything that happened since The Chronicles of Riddick. He becomes Marshall of the Necromongers and daily has to deal with assassins. Disillusioned with the life he has there, Riddick follows a tempting offer from Vaako (Karl Urban) to seek out his home planet of Furya. Unfortunately for Riddick, he’s double crossed and abandoned on this planet. At first I didn’t like this story tying itself back in to the story of the previous film. I wanted a stand-alone Riddick adventure and that’s what I was hoping this movie would beg. However, and spoiler alert, if you’re watching the uncut version of the film with the extended ending, those flashbacks are important. For the theatrical cut though it feels like padding and a chance to toss Karl Urban’s name in the credits.
Riddick: Man Hunter
Eventually Riddick formulates a plan to get himself off this planet when he stumbles across an abandoned base. His plan is to get someone to respond to the emergency beacon and simply take their ship. Riddick can’t exactly ask for help, he’s a wanted criminal – so despised that the bounty on him is actually doubled if Riddick is returned dead. Two ships respond to this call, one is a group of gruff bounty hunters led by the machete-wielding Santana (Jordi Molla) and the other group professionally led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable) and the sexy lesbian Dahl (Katee Sackhoff).
It’s now that we see WHY Riddick has always been a wanted man without having backstory shoved at us. Riddick is a ruthless and feared man-hunter. There is a lot of wonderful tension as the two groups of mercenary fall to paranoia and fighting among themselves because they don’t know what kind of traps Riddick has set for them. When they all arrive on the planet they are confident that these two groups are more than a match for Riddick, but as they begin to get captured and killed, one-by-one, they begin to see that they might not be the best prepared. Eventually they capture Riddick (well, more like he turns himself in almost) and the story takes on a brand new direction.
Riddick – Hero
There is a storm coming. With this storm comes a deadly menace in the form of several of the planet’s vicious native animals – blood-thirsty and venomous monsters that will kill everyone. Well, everyone that chooses not accept Riddick’s offer of help in exchange for a ship to get off the planet. The story shown in the film’s trailer, the group survival story that seemed like a retelling of Pitch Black, that’s only the last act of the film. While the trailer made me feel like it was going to be Pitch Black all over again, how the final third of this film plays out is very different. It’s thrilling, full of great character moments and plot twists and all leads to a rather fulfilling conclusion. The ending is something of a debate because it depends on the version of the movie you watch. The theatrical cut of Riddick ends on a happy note while the extended version available on DVD goes one step further and sets up the story for a sequel. I am really waiting for this sequel.
The character of Riddick is Vin Diesel’s pet project it would seem. The actor is an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and something of a geek, not quite the person you would immediately suspect from the star of XXX and The Fast and the Furious. The universe in which Riddick lives and the way each film in this series is very similar to a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, so one can certainly see why Vin Diesel has the love for Riddick any player would have for their character in D &D. This movie almost wasn’t made but Vin Diesel ensured it would by personally funding a lot of the production himself. I’m hoping that he continues to do that because there is an audience for more Riddick movies. It may not be the largest and most profitable demographic in the eyes of Hollywood, but it is a severely dedicated fanbase. Pleasing the more dedicated fans is more rewarding than pleasing everybody, something I’m sure Vin Diesel is aware of since he’s already hard at work on not one but two more Riddick films.