I expected quite a bit from Riddick. I loved Pitch Black (2000) and the animated movie – The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004) – that served as a bridge between the first and second film, but I thought Chronicles of Riddick (2004) was just ok. Chronicles had some decent moments, but it didn’t quite gel as well as I’d hoped. Visually, though, it was impressive. Writer/director David Twohy managed to take what worked so well from the first film, plus what worked in the second, to come up with a solid narrative on a new, nasty world, with Riddick licking his wounds and trying to regain an edge he thinks he’s lost with the new film, entitled simply Riddick. Vin Diesel does a great job with the character, and it definitely feels more like the Riddick from Pitch Black and the prequel video games than the toned down version from Chronicles of Riddick. Twohy is really good at building worlds, and coming up with some interesting creatures to populate said world with, and Riddick is not an exception. The critters are decidedly lethal, and so is Riddick. They definitely earned their “R” rating with this one.
The film starts off with Riddick just trying to survive after the inevitable betrayal of the Necromongers from the second film. They’ve dumped him on a planet that is, as Riddick puts it, “Not Furya”, when he’d have been more than content to be dropped off on Furya and have washed his hands of them. If it was a simple dump job he might have started off all right, but he’s left trying to survive while injured and wondering what went wrong. So we get to see Riddick rebuilding himself into what he thinks he needs to be for the first part of the film, learning about his new home and the nasties involved, and even training his own pet. It’s when things start going decently for him that he realizes that he’s got a big problem incoming. He decides to fire off the emergency beacon at the mercenary way station he’s found to get himself a taxi ride off the planet.
While Riddick is trying to hone his animal side, the film spends some time showing us that he is still capable of connecting, just not so well with people. His adopted “Dingo Dongo”, as it’s called, is a native wild dog that Riddick trains as his own, and it works to provide a human connection despite Riddick being a Furyan. It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition, and really lends to the fact that Riddick can still be an anti-hero of sorts, all the while being a complete and total killer without much conscience about it.
There is a lot of Pitch Black’s DNA in Riddick, and one might even go so far as to call it a remake or a reboot, but after almost ten years on the shelf, it feels like more of a litmus test to see if the property is still viable for more of a go ahead. Vin Diesel has proven to be bankable with the Fast And Furious franchise after all. If they keep it in this vein I’d be more than happy to see this series continued. I actually think the reduced budget helped this film, as they had to get more creative with what they had here. It still feels like something with a bigger budget, which is a testament to Twohy and Vin Diesel’s ability to pull something like this off.