This has been a long time coming… (No spoilers)
It’s been 13 years since we were first introduced to the murderous anti-hero, Richard P. Riddick and since 2000’s Pitch Black first hit our screens, we’ve had one animated short, in the shape of the oft-overlooked Dark Fury, and the universe expanding [proper] sequel The Chronicles of Riddick.
Pitch Black is just great (seek it out if you’re new to the Riddick franchise). A proper B-movie alien film, with morally questionable characters throughout (including Vin Diesel as aforementioned wanted convict) – it was sci-fi fun, with a solid cast to boot.
For 2004’s criminally underrated Chronicles, writer/director David Twohy courageously attempted to create a whole universes, (along with multiple races and religions, around our lead character and, with a couple of character nods to its predecessor, it arguably succeeded (with the Director’s Cut DVD proving vastly superior to the cinematic release, with more emphasis on the mythology and spirituality of what it means to be Furyan. Again, seek it out). If you’ve come this far, then you’re probably aware of the the events that close Chronicles – our man Richard found himself in a very interesting place indeed.
Which leads us to the third live action film in the series, the succinctly titled ‘RIDDICK’.
A film of three acts, RIDDICK opens with its eponymous protagonist alone, injured, and in danger – deserted on a planet inhabited only by blood-thirsty killers creatures that live in the water, on the ground, and in the air. A walk in the park this will not be. But (and this is no spoiler) Riddick heals, Riddick gets bad ass, and Riddick gets a pet dog… This last part clearly a nod to the fans who wanted more of Riddick getting on with this kind of animal, if you remember the scaly felines from Crematoria in Chronicles, you’ll know what I mean.
Act two: two sets of bounty hunters arrive. One set wants his head (literally). And another wants him for something else.
Act three: Pitch Black: Redux.
There’s a quote that I’m going to lift from iO9 and it’s spot on:
There’s a standard sort of scene in these movies, which goes like: 1) Everybody underestimates Riddick. They think they’ve outsmarted or outnumbered him. 2) Riddick says something cryptic, like “don’t forget the anchovies,” and everybody laughs at him. 3) Something dramatic happens, the tables are turned, one or two mooks die. 4) Riddick says, “I told you not to forget the anchovies,” and suddenly everybody realizes that Riddick knew what was going to happen all along.
However, I’m willing to forgive it for this because Riddick is Furyan and – as far as we know – he’s the only one left. They might have this weird crazy super vision thing, or something. I don’t know.
Anyway – what of the actual film?
Well y’know what? I really liked it. I’m a fan of the Riddick films and think we need more interesting sci-fi like it. Vin Diesel is a compelling leading man (shh there at the back) and its actually a real treat to catch up with one of his more popular characters after all this time. Also, this is a very different flavoured film to those that have gone before. The opening 30mins is enough to tell you that. Twohy has taken revised his adventurous Chronicles thinking, stripped it back to Pitch Black bare bones, but has gone one step further than that and stripped its leading man back too.
A move that can only be applauded.
The supporting characters are a mix of good and forgetful. Katee Sackhoff is basically Starbuck from an alternative universe, but still manages to stand tall. And the rest are meat, with a few surprises.
Like I said, it’s very much a three act film. Act one almost gets a little too much, act two is amusing, the bounty-hunter team banter combined with the Riddick-is-just-messing-with-them to-and-fro proving to be genuinely funny in places. And when act three turns up the tension with the introduction of other, more murderous planetary inhabitants, all hell breaks loose.
I enjoyed it. If you’ve seen Pitch Black and you enjoyed Chronicles too (hell, even if you didn’t), you’ll definitely enjoy RIDDICK. I really like where they’re taking this character and, at the end of the film, you get a rough idea of where exactly that will be.
Riddick has scores to settle, but he also wants to go home.
On the strength of this latest outing, I’ll be first in line for tickets when that time comes around.