If Vin Diesel does to the “Riddick” franchise what he did to the “Fast and Furious” series, sign me up.
The latest “Riddick” movie, which never would’ve happened if not for Diesel reinvesting into the series on his own, was a great throwback to the series’ original movie “Pitch Black”, released back in 2000. Creative aliens, action during the night and cool tech and gear brought back some of that spice, intensity and excitement in the sci-fi creature feature flick. Diesel has more clever tricks up his sleeve as he reprises his role of being the most fearful criminal in the galaxy.
The way new life was breathed into the “Fast and Furious” serious was the change in direction to focus on the action, the cars and the characters while balancing some semblance of a story and inserting witty dialogue that gives the characters a bit of dimension, particularly focusing on their interactions. “Fast and Furious” also connected the newer movies with the originals, interweaving storylines and reinventing the timeline while not deviating from where the first few movies were going.
“Riddick” does a lot of that. And if there, indeed, will be at least two more Riddick movies, they likely will follow suit, as “Riddick” already started doing.
The one hang-up with newest flick is its lack of connection with the second film of the series, “Chronicles of Riddick.” In the opening scenes, we find our anti-hero left to die on another barren planet. How he got there is revealed through a few flashbacks that pick up the story from the end of “Chronicles,” which had Riddick in charge of the necromongers.
Instead of continuing on that storyline, it gets cut off. Riddick gets betrayed by the necromongers, who fail to kill him, but manage to strand him on the strange planet and leave him to fend for himself.
The sad thing is, the decision to depart from the trail “Chronicles” forged was probably for the best. “Chronicles” was a good movie, but it didn’t feel like it belonged in the series, per say (though the preconceived ideas for the next two movies involve “Chronicles” and the underverse, so who knows, maybe it’ll end up belonging more later).
That familiar feeling is what makes “Riddick” relieving. From the outset of the main story, Riddick goes through battles with a couple physically imposing creatures—though they’re no match for the brawn of this blade-wielding criminal—and raises and trains an alien dog of sorts as he learns to survive.
The crux of the movie kicks into high gear when not one, but two, bounty-hunting groups arrive at a rescue station after receiving a distress call, which of course, was set up by Riddick so he could get a hold of a ship and get off the rock he was stuck on.
Page 2 of 2 - From then on, it’s classic Riddick. He thwarts traps to catch him, intimidates his foes at all times and even hatches a plan to work with them (he has leverage to make this possible, of course).
Riddick is one of those enemies an audience roots for. He’s a killer, sure, but maybe not at heart anymore. He has his rough, tough-guy exterior, but there are those moments when he clearly struggles with the conflict within him as he eventually shows at least one or two signs of sympathy. Heck, he even comes across as a helpful man who seems like he’s ready to change his ways. That is, before he eventually reverts to his true side, his animal side.
Diesel has moments of brilliance, but also moments of inconsistency. It seems he was born to play the role of a guy who can be witty and have that threatening, scratchy voice that he knows how to fade in and out for that certain creepy effect. He even draws you closer to the character with some emotional kinks in his armor when he deals with the death of one particular character. But Diesel also had a couple awkward scenes, particularly one or two with Dahl, the one female of the group played by Katee Sackhoff (of “Battlestar Galactica” fame).
In the final action scene, there’s a great wide-angle camera shot of Riddick backpedaling to the edge of cliff as he tries to fight off a horde of monsters coming his way.
The rain brings a weight to the setting, and the lightning flashes give off, for a few brief moments, a stark contrast to the cold emptiness of the dark of night.
The shot looked like it could be one of those philosophical deep, yet colorful, paintings with a caption reading something like “Fight to the death.” It was a memorable image; the music built up dramatically as the end of the line for Riddick seemed all but certain. You truly feel like he will die in this moment.
Yes, “Riddick” is very similar in concept to “Pitch Black,” but the execution is vastly different as the movie breathes new life into a series that hopefully extends to a memorable saga.