Reassessing Riddick

Giving Richard a second chance with the new film.

pitchblack-riddickI’m sure that I’ll incur more than a few jokes at my expense for saying this, but Pitch Black is one of my favourite films.

For me, it was a tight and visually spectacular horror film, a survival thriller with a solid science-fiction backbone that had the distinction of being one of the few SF/H features released in recent years where, in all honesty, none of the protagonists were particularly good people. Jack is just an annoying little brat for most of the film’s runtime, who endangers everyone through her lies, Carolyn was going to kill everyone to save herself at the beginning, Johns is a total bastard and Ogilvie gives a new definition to work shy. Riddick is just… well, Riddick. Added to that is Twohy’s excellent use of colour and tone, that iconic shot of the creatures emerging from the mountains, and the shock death at the end – it just works for me.

Conversely, I really disliked The Chronicles Of Riddick, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. The concept was great and the scale was fantastic, but it just wasn’t a decent successor to Pitch Black. It felt like an entirely different universe, using a few of the same characters, and it just fell flat on so many levels that it was impossible to enjoy. Maybe it’s not that any one part of the film is an enormous failure, but it’s a cadence of its constituent flaws coming together, creating a melody of disappointment that rings through the entire production as a whole.

Rumours of a new Riddick film have abounded ever since Chronicles was released, and persisted even after it flopped at the box office. The two videogames spun off from the franchise – Escape From Butcher’s Bay and Assault On Dark Athena – have received widespread critical acclaim, however, and recently, Diesel posted on his Facebook page that there were scouts looking for locations for a new feature. Universal confirmed today that a new film was indeed in production, that it is titled simply ‘Riddick’ at the moment and will be closer in spirit to Pitch Black rather than Chronicles.

This is excellent news. I’m not saying that I want them to simply replicate Pitch Black with the new film, but they should definitely take what worked from that and incorporate it. It needs to be smaller in scale than Chronicles, it needs to preserve that omnipresent sense of claustrophobia that so permeated Pitch Black. Riddick as a character only truly works when his dangerous nature is suggested and encouraged by a few random acts of violence and a lingering feeling that the characters aren’t trapped somewhere by things out to get them, they’re trapped in somewhere with Riddick. Diesel personally has a huge affection for the character, so getting to see him play it on a more intimate scale rather than an SF epic will be interesting.

I’m willing to give Riddick another chance again. Chronicles disappointed, but everything else in the franchise has been excellent. I only hope that Twohy and Diesel have learned their lessons from their failed experiment in the sequel, and understand what makes the character so potent and affecting.