Riddick Review – by Kenny T. Wilson, III

urlWhen I first heard that another Riddick was going to be made, I was filled with mixed feelings. After watching the first three installments of this franchise I will admit that the last movie left things in a kind of purgatory story-wise.

We last see Riddick taking control of an immense army of near-undead necrotic worshipers that had supernatural powers and abilities that seemed hell-bent on destroying or converting anyone that crossed their paths.

This is the army you really want a man like Riddick to control?

The primeval anti-hero Riddick has gone through some deep and resounding character changes that has many wondering if a new movie can recapture the essence of the character, as he has gone from ruthless and lone-wolf to dependable, caring and wolf-pack hero….something like Wolverine (who his character is often compared to). Let’s recount what has happened up until now. In Pitch Black you are introduced to a myriad of characters from the good guy-type heroes, the spiritual type, and the worldly, people-of-the-earth types.

Then there is Richard B. Riddick. When I first saw him, I really didn’t know what to expect from Vin Diesel’s latest performance vehicle.  Was he just some charismatic killer? Was he there for fear factor (remember, when this movie came out it was being billed as a sci-fi horror with him having all the elements of the villain in the trailer)? Would he be the man who sacrifices himself in the end to atone for all of the evil he has done?

None of the above.  By the end of that movie we see Riddick staying truthful to himself. The fact that he went back for anyone in that cave was almost obligatory since he fought a guy to near-death and let him get killed by the planet’s wildlife for even suggesting that they let the young girl in the party die because she was slowing them down. After doing that, you kind of had to go back for them. Besides…he didn’t let the death of the up-til-then protagonist heroine stop him from getting on that ship and getting the hell out of Dodge.

url-1The second movie, titled Dark Fury (actually it is Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury) which was depicted in animation format, shows the survivors of that ship being taken hostage by a new group of mercenaries that were collecting bodies for experimentation and strange decoration as the ship’s controller loved to turn convicted felons into art deco pieces for her own enjoyment. Since this animated movie comes after the second live-action film, many references from the first movie as well as a little foreshadowing of the next official sequel are made in this film. The first is that Riddick tries to impersonate Johns, the marshal/mercenary from the first movie that tries to capture Riddick, but is found out to be Riddick when the new merc group uses voice analysis to identify him. The second is that the future antagonist (or one of many for the sequel Chronicles of Riddick or COR) named Toombs is featured in this movie as one of the many mercenaries that are kept in suspended animation until they are needed for jobs. We see why is so set on capturing Riddick in COR and why they have so much knowledge of one another in that movie. Too bad that wasn’t explained BEFORE the live action sequel came out (one of many inconsistencies of COR). Since the plot was ridiculous and nothing of importance happens except the character development of Jack (the girl mentioned earlier in Pitch Black) and how she grew her initial obsession/admiration of Riddick and how she gets use to the idea of wanting to be just like him. Its fun to watch if you want more story for this character.

Then we have Chronicles of Riddick.  I can guarantee you that when this movie was announced, what everyone thought this movie would be….wasn’t. With Riddick being on the run and in hiding at the beginning of the movie, many were wondering why he would be in such an isolated frozen hell in the first place. I mean, the Riddick from Pitch Black was completely different than the one being depicted here. And the animated movie that made an attempt at explaining this doesn’t count since they released that movie AFTER they did this one. It turns out that the mercenary group that found him in his self-imposed isolation was sent by a would-be friend from the first movie; the only other guy who escaped form that planet in addition to the girl. After tracking him down on his home world, we see why the mercs were sent and what happened to the two survivors in the mean time. Turns out Jack is all grown up and has embraced the dark and wild side by becoming a merc herself, only to be betrayed and framed for murder which lands her in a prison that Riddick himself hasn’t been to yet.  They take extremes in character development here by trying to give Riddick an actual origin/back story of his birth and race. Here you see that they pulled a Goku/Dragon ball Z story in that Riddick is not human, but in fact something called a “Furyan” (note the similarity between that and “Saiyan” of DBZ fame) which is a warrior race that was obliterated by the main villains of the movie called Necromongers, who were led by an individual who feared a prophecy about one of these warriors being the one to end his life and future conquests (again, see DBZ Frieza Saga).

url-2This is where character development gets crazy.  Initially you are led to believe that Riddick is just some amped up guy with cool, freaky eyes that can see in the dark. In Pitch Black he did show incredible strength and martial skills as well as a keen sense of tactics. That’s about it. Just a badass that can kick ass.  Even in the animated movie that was set in between the live action movies he is shown as being able to take a beating and give one.  But in this movie, he is able to go toe to toe with soldiers who have supernatural strength and powers, even holding his own against the main baddie who is able to do all sorts of neat tricks. Where the hell did this Riddick come from?!

He is almost so amazing that I half expected him to shoot energy projected fireballs from himself…..and then he does (at least he does in the director’s cut which goes more in-depth of who and what he is as well as his hidden powers and abilities). Turns out Furyans are the stuff of legend, and if you thought Riddick was dangerous before, you should really hear how his race was perceived before they were wiped out.
Another thing about the character development was that this Riddick was less of a loner and more of a big brother and vengeful BFF of the survivors of the first movie.  He makes it a point to kill the big baddie that offed his preacher friend that survived with him in Pitch Black, gaining the attention of the main villain himself.  By the end of this movie, both survivors of the first movie are dead, but Riddick gains the keys to an incredibly powerful army and spares the planet that was to be destroyed by them.

This was NOT the Riddick I loved in Pitch Black or the video games.  Even though the movie was shiny and spectacular to look at for its special effects and graphics, the story just left this feeling like a generic hero movie in the veins of already-established anime and comic storylines that were done much better.  The ending just left you feeling…deflated.

Which is why I was hoping that this new movie would finally give us the Riddick we were missing and hoping to see again.  The final verdict?

Been there, done that, why do it again?

This movie was basically Pitch Black 1.5 and only rehashed the elements from the first movie but with none of the nostalgia or anticipation. We have seen this movie already. Desolate planet? Check. Group of mercenaries trying to get Riddick? Check. Weird monsters that love to kill at night? Check. Obligatory nipple or exposed breast scene? Yup (thank you, Katee Sackhoff!).  Even right down to the lines he delivered in both movies….the preternatural warnings of things to come and the weird killing style Riddick has of turning every small opportunity into a killing one.  Even the need to escape the planet in a ship before the darkness comes is straight from the first movie. Nothing new happens in this movie except for Riddick getting puppy love and sentimental when he rescues…well, a puppy.  By this point I am surprised Riddick hasn’t developed the ability to fly yet. The beginning of this movie cleans up that pesky problem of him being the new LM (Lord Marshal) of the Necromongers with them betraying him and leaving him for dead on this desolate world while he was in search of Furya (his home world). The plot leaves this part of the movie completely cold and shut off, since they never revisit it or explain how Riddick is going to get his revenge as the movie’s description suggests.  It was too long on the in between moments of it just being him versus nature and it was way too short after he teams up with the mercs to get off the planet.  In the end, I just keep the feeling that this would have been better off as a direct-to-dvd movie.  Not to give away any major spoilers….but they pull a Die Hard 3 move and bring back a relative of someone killed in the first movie that wants revenge for that loved-ones untimely demise. Even this isn’t handled properly and you just lose interest.

I would suggest waiting for this movie to go to DVD…which is where it should have gone in the first place.  2 out of 5 for me.