Riddick, one of the more physically intense science fiction anti-heroes of this century. Vin Diesel’s now iconic character wasn’t originally destined to be a major player. While Diesel had big plans for his Furyan character, the original film Pitch Black (2000) didn’t mention the character’s name in the title, nor did the original box art show his face. It was only later that the film was retitled The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black and the character’s intense mug, along with unique eye gear, graced the cover of the film. Four years later (2004), a motion picture sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick was released with a significantly higher budget ($105 million USD vs $23 million USD for Pitch Black) and larger overall story. It was paired with a DVD release of an animated short film, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury which takes place directly after the original film and included Vin Diesel’s voice work.
To keep things interesting, Universal didn’t want to take on a third film, which Diesel had originally planned, because the sequel did not earn enough at the box office. Diesel, knowing that he couldn’t do anything with the franchise without the Universal Studio rights, used Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift to his advantage. In hopes of reviving the car franchise, Universal wanted Diesel for a cameo. The deal was simple. Diesel would not make any money off of this cameo. Instead, Universal would hand all of the Chronicles of Riddick franchise rights over to Diesel and his One Race production company. That is how we get Riddick, the third feature length installment of the franchise. To be fair to Universal Studios, they did end up helping release this new Riddick film but that might have something to do with the incredible success of the Fast and Furious franchise.
So, on to the film. First, if you have a chance to watch the original two films first, do so. It’s not a make or break situation and you don’t even have to know the first two films to enjoy this one but some references are made to both of the original films… so it couldn’t hurt. Riddick is a much smaller movie and not just in budget ($38 million USD). The film returns to its Pitch Black roots in many ways. Rather than focusing on an entire universe and army of Necromongers, Riddick must attempt to survive alone on a wasteland planet, much like the planet in the original. Riddick confronts even deadlier alien lifeforms, harsher environments and more well-equipped mercenaries than ever before. We see our anti-hero discovering himself, fighting for survival, becoming more animalistic. Meanwhile, we get more bounty hunters, some are better characters than others but Dahl, played by science fiction icon Katee Sackhoff is bound to get extra attention.
The special effects are very solid but then again, we don’t have to worry about any massive space battles or futuristic cities. With that said, the aliens on the planet are handled strongly and I was impressed with their design. The story is straight forward and I feel like we get back the Riddick character I grew to love in the first film. If you enjoyed Pitch Black, if you enjoyed the Riddick character from the original film, then you will certainly like Riddick. If the film has any downfall, it’s that in many ways, it is too similar to the original, with a plot that only differs in a few key ways. To avoid spoilers, I’m only going to say that yes… this is a bad planet and Riddick wants to leave, but you’d get that from the trailers available. Finally, while yes, it’s an action, science fiction film, there are a couple of moments where you just have to watch a character get killed in a ridiculous way, look at the person next to you and laugh. If you don’t have fun, then what’s the point, right?
Honestly, I really liked Riddick. I liked where it was going, what it was trying to do and how it brought back the soul of the Riddick character in a much more personal story. As long as you go into this film with the right expectations, remembering that it is a Chronicles of Riddick franchise film and that the focus will be much smaller, closer to Pitch Black, then you should walk away happy. My hope is that it does well enough for a sequel which will allow Diesel to begin exploring Riddick’s Furyan heritage and maybe even lead us to his home planet. Also, that some kind of Blu-Ray box set is released of all four (including the Dark Fury short) films together.