Talk about a franchise chasing its tail. When Pitch Black (2000) came out, the film did little in the box office. As I briefly mentioned in my review of that film, what gained a following for the film were people who saw it after it left theaters. There is something, how should I put this, different, about the original. A group of people crash land on a planet, they think they have one human monster to deal with in convicted serial killer Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) being among their number, only to find a planet full of the inhuman type when a total solar eclipse brings a horde of the creatures out of their subterranean home. I guess for variety’s sake, they decided to make the sequel about Riddick, The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), more of a standard, science fiction action flick, something more along the lines of Star Wars. There were conquering bad guys, dynastic politics, and lots of explosions. Star Wars works because the good guys are evidently good. Such a plot does not do as well when you drop a character like Riddick into it, and the box office returns spoke to this fact. Actually, it did over $100 million, but that was also roughly its budget, so I am guessing something went awry. Perhaps people wanted more of the same? I found it to be okay, if a little silly at times. What I did not think anyone needed was another Riddick film. Yet, it would seem the temptation to make a trilogy was too great, so we got something more in line with the first with Riddick (2013).
When last we saw our main character in The Chronicles of Riddick, it was with him sitting on the throne of the galaxy conquering people known as the Necromongers. It would seem something has gone wrong since then as he is marooned on an unknown planet at the beginning of Riddick, severely wounded. His injuries, as is revealed in a brief flashback following him braving the wilds of his new environ on one good leg, are the result of betrayal. Though he had been enjoying the trappings of absolute rule, he still had a desire to see his lost home world of Furya previously destroyed by the very people he came to lead. One of his subordinates, Vaako (Karl Urban), is the only one who knows of its location, but he is not eager to reveal it. When he gives the appearance of doing so, it turns out to be someplace else, and they leave Riddick there to die. As we have seen in the previous two movies, he is hard to kill. After gruesomely setting his shattered leg, he begins figuring out how to survive the local wildlife once he is strong enough to challenge them. Part of this involves raising a wild dog from a puppy that looks like a cross between a greyhound and a zebra. His next goal is to make it onto the grassy plain beyond the cliffs where he had been stranded. Standing in his way, though, are a number of poisonous creatures known as mud demons. After capturing one, he goes about extracting its venom in order to inoculate himself and his pup to the danger. With this obstacle successfully navigated, it is time to explore some more, finding an abandoned mercenary hut not far away. Unfortunately, a coming storm harbingers something far worse. If you have seen the first film, you can kind of guess what is coming. Fortunately, the mercenary structure has an emergency beacon, which he activates and shows his face on the broadcast that is sent looking for help. Since there is still a price on his head for being an escaped convict, despite leading an entire people for a few years, it brings a great deal of attention. The first to arrive are a crew of bounty hunters led by Santana (Jordi Mollà), and he immediately threatens Riddick with telling him that they will be putting his head in a box since he is worth more dead. As it turns out, Riddick had beaten them to the threat punch, having scrawled a message on the door of the building telling them to leave one ship or they will all die. Their confusion as to what Riddick means by giving him a ship is cleared up when a second crew lands at the station, this one led by Colonel R. “Boss” Johns (Matthew Nable). If you recognize that last name, it is the same as William J. Johns (Cole Hauser), the bounty hunter who had been transporting Riddick in the first film, and Colonel Johns is his father. Yet, because Santana’s people got there first, they claim the rights to Riddick. Colonel Johns obliges, but sees that Santana is not taking the risks of going up against a dangerous man like Riddick seriously. Hence, when people start dying Colonel Johns takes over. Of course, it is not long thereafter that the rain finally comes to their facility. This brings a swarm of mud demons, and they begin thinning their ranks even more. Though they had managed to capture Riddick, they need him alive because he had hidden the power cells they need to operate their ships. Riddick and Colonel Johns agree to a temporary alliance in order to retrieve them, all the while demanding to know what happened to his son. On the way back, Riddick is seriously wounded by a mud demon, and it looks as if Colonel Johns leaves him for dead. In a bit of a twist, Colonel Johns comes back for Riddick, and they end up peaceably going their separate ways. Hopefully, this will be the last we see of Riddick.
As an action movie, Riddick is decent, though it does not have the same horror flare as the original. If you are looking for character development, then you are looking in the wrong place, and that is the problem with this film. It seems to want to give Riddick an arc, but ultimately he is the same mumbling killer as he has always been portrayed. For example, this Catholic reviewer noted when Riddick tells the evidently Christian member of Colonel Johns’ crew, Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), that the young man’s praying is useless because God wants no part of what is about to happen when the mud demons attack. This is meant to echo Riddick’s words to Imam (Keith David), the Muslim cleric in the first film that Riddick tells of his hate for God. Thus, it appears that Riddick basically learns nothing. It is for these reasons that I say that it is nothing that he does that makes up the way in which they go about trying to give him development. When Colonel Johns arrives on the planet, his ulterior movement is to find out how his son dies. Riddick does not immediately come out and say it, but strings the elder bounty hunting Johns along until the truth is finally revealed. When it does not match with the cold-blooded murderer image that Colonel Johns has of Riddick, he does not want to believe the story. What changes Colonel Johns’ mind is when Riddick saves the bounty hunter’s life. Having said all this, and after watching three of these films, I have to wonder why everyone sees Riddick as such a terrible person. Most of the heinous things he is purported to have done are not shown. While he will never be accused of fulfilling the Christian ideal of turning the other cheek, he does not randomly murder anyone in the films. I do not enjoy what he has to say about God, or his reveling in violence, but he is okay in my book.
If you like your movies to basically repeat themes you have already seen, then Riddick is the film for you. If you are obsessed with completing trilogies after seeing the first two, then go for it, I suppose. There have been worse third installments. There have also been better. For whatever reason, they decided to throw in some casual nudity into this one, so there is an extra reason why I would not recommend this one. I would skip it, and just know that Riddick lives in the end.