Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Riddick

It's hard to believe that the first film in the Riddick series, Pitch Black, was released 14 years ago. Upon release it did reasonably well at the box office, but received a pretty large cult following in the years after. In fact, it gained such a strong following that 2004 saw various Riddick related media, including a direct-to-DVD animated film called Dark Fury, a videogame called Escape from Butcher Bay, and most notably, a second film in the franchise, The Chronicles of Riddick.

This second outing cost around 100 million more than the first and expanded the Riddick universe to new exciting heights. However, something was lost in the sequel. With a larger, expanded universe we lost the thrilling simplicity that made Pitch Black so impressive. Now, 9 years after the slightly lacking sequel, director/writer David Twohy turns the series into a trilogy with 2013's Riddick. Riddick brings it back to basics. Whereas The Chronicles of Riddick perhaps tried too much, this entry into the franchise tries to replicate what made the first film work, yet also tries to offer something new.


The film begins 5 years after The Chronicles of Riddick, after which Riddick is growing increasingly frustrated of being the Lord Marshall to the Necromonger fleet. He makes a deal with Commander Vaako; someone, who before Riddick became Lord Marshall, was intent on killing him. Riddick's deal with Vaako is that if he brings him to Furya (Riddick's home world), he will make Vaako the next Lord Marshall. The deal is accepted, but Vaako brings Riddick to an unknown planet, tries to assassinate him and ultimately buries him under a mudslide. As Vaako departs the sun-ravaged planet with the new title of Lord Marshall, Riddick emerges from his intended mud tomb. He's injured, alone on an almost uninhabitable planet, weapon-less and not only is the local ferocious wildlife out for his blood, but Mercenaries arrive on the planet keen on collecting the bounty on probably the most wanted man in the galaxy. Yep, this isn't going to be easy for Riddick, folks.


The first 20 minutes or so in Riddick is entirely without dialogue. It's just him surviving on this unknown death trap of a planet. It's a pretty ballsy move, but also serves as a stylish way to get Riddick back into the game after 5 years of not honing his hunting, stealth and fighting skills. It's during these 20 minutes in which he befriends a creature on the planet, and though entirely CGI, the various interactions Riddick has with the beast are surprisingly charming. However, the real meat of the film kicks off when the Mercenaries land on the planet. It doesn't take long for them to find out Riddick was the one who sent out the distress signal, and this leads to two opposing groups of Mercenaries working together to take out Riddick at any cost. The film does go beyond this simple set-up, and begins to play out quite similar to Pitch Black, especially in the group-of-people-surviving-against-a-planet-full-of-creatures department.

The action in Riddick is absolutely fantastic, and it’s various gruesome, graphic and bloody death scenes is a world away from the PG-13 rating of its predecessor. Of course, this is only helped by the great script put in place by David Twohy, which not only welcomes in new viewers to the series, but also awards those of us who have been with Riddick since Pitch Black. You don't have to have seen Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick to enjoy this, but it helps! This excellent action and great nuts-and-bolts story all comes down to Riddick and how Vin Diesel just hurls himself into the role. While the Mercenaries could be anyone, there's only one Riddick and his mission to get off the planet alive remains the focus of the film. While other characters are of course fleshed out, they don't take the reigns of the film.


Overall Riddick, while a little too similar to Pitch Black, is a complete success. It could have been horrible, and ultimately the final nail in the Riddick coffin. Instead it reinvigorated a franchise that still has plenty of life in it yet. It's a simple action sci-fi with plenty of thrills and kills to please even a newcomer to the series. Riddick is back. I eagerly await the next film, videogame, comic, animated adventure, Riddick themed underwear, etc.

Riddick triumphantly emerges from the shadows with an 8/10.

Denis Murphy


Riddick at CeX



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