Review written by John McGinn
Haven’t I seen this before? That was the question that kept popping up in my head as I viewed Riddick, especially in the second half of the film, which mimicked very closely to characters, tone and even the plot elements of Pitch Black. Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick first made his appearance in 2000’s Pitch Black, a self-contained sci-fi thriller or at least it should have been a self-contained film. Pitch Black had a simple premise as a group of people with different personalities stranded on a planet with creatures that only come out at night, which just happens to be a few hours away. What separated Pitch Black from other sci-fi thrillers was Riddick. Riddick in Pitch Black was the perfect anti-hero to go along with the likes of William Munny, Leon, and Snake Plissken. Riddick was vicious, ruthless, and in general looked out only for himself, yet Riddick was also cool, calm, intelligent, and at certain times caring that audiences and I couldn’t help rooting for Riddick. Even with the truly enjoyable anti-hero Riddick and the refreshing sci-fi film Pitch Black there was nothing about Riddick or Pitch Black that should have garnered a sequel with being a fan of Riddick I still don’t think there should have been a sequel let alone two of them to Pitch Black.
Now with that I will give Diesel, Universal Pictures, and One Race Films props for trying to find a creative way to expand the history of Riddick and the universe he exists in. 2004’s Chronicles of Riddick was far from perfect especially with the Necromongers and the Furyans, but the Chronicles of Riddick is an underrated and unappreciated sci-fi film. The above three tried to expand their franchise too far too fast, creating an entertaining, fun yet very flawed film, and both Diesel and the Riddick franchise paid the price for their hubris with Diesel’s career nearly dying until he smartly returned to the Fast & Furious franchise that gave rise to his stardom, and putting the Riddick franchise into a nearly unrecoverable coma. With the huge success of the last couple of Fast & Furious films Diesel, Universal Pictures and One Race Films managed to reawakened the comatose Riddick franchise, but with the memories of the failed Chronicles of Riddick close in mind the three smartly decided to not try to expand beyond their limitations, and it both works and hurts 2013’s Riddick.
The simple problem with Riddick is two things one it is two separate films and that the second film is essentially Pitch Black just slightly altered in plot, and a different assortment of characters. The first third to half of the film worked great. Director and writer David Twohy brought the desolate yet beautiful planet to life and showed a different side to Riddick. Riddick was betrayed by the Necromongers and Vaako (Karl Urban) and left for dead on an unnamed planet with a variety of dangerous creatures. Riddick is alone, and actually afraid as he struggles to survive and regain his warriors spirit. I thought as we have never seen this side of Riddick in the other two films that this was a great addition along with adding depth to Riddick. As I said the first third to half of the film was really good, what made it go downhill was the rehash of the same premise of Pitch Black along with William J. Johns father. I didn’t mind the two teams of mercenary’s/bounty hunters: in fact I enjoyed the two groups, but especially Santana (Jordi Mollà) and his misfit group that included the entertaining Diaz (Dave Bautista).
With these entertaining and fun assortment of characters I wish Twohy and the other writers had found a way to refreshingly bring back Riddick without rehashing Pitch Black premise. Even with Twohy and Diesel realizing this, and winking at the audience as Riddick basically saying what is going to happen in the film this plot element still can’t be saved from hurting the overall product of the film. Riddick was also hurt by the lack of Karl Urban with only a tiny cameo appearance. Any film with Urban in it makes the film better, and Universal along with One Race Films should have found a way to bring Urban back. I’m sure the writers could have found creative way to add Vaako to the film like having both Riddick and Vaako stranded on the planet together later to be joined by the mercenary’s/bounty hunters. I know people bash Diesel’s acting, but I do think he does a great job with Riddick conveying so much without saying much, which I guess could be a good thing for some people.
I do even with being the fan of the Riddick franchise that Pitch Black should have been a one off film, but Riddick does rise like the phoenix reviving the Riddick franchise just not as high as Pitch Black as it essentially has the same premise as Pitch Black just with a slightly altered plot. Still even with the rehashed premise Riddick’s plot is still enjoyable with an entertaining assortment of characters that is ultimately saved by Diesel’s refreshing performance as Riddick. Riddick won’t erase the memories some still have of the Chronicles of Riddick, but it is a start as the Riddick franchise is brought back down to earth with its story telling, and world that could be a start of a whole new chapter in the Riddick franchise, and for that I have to recommend this fun and entertaining science fiction film.
3.5 out of 5 stars