When it comes to an abandoned sci-fi franchise, a little heart apparently goes a long way.
Riddick aims to resurrect a character and story that has been absent from the screen for nearly a decade. The film certainly achieves that while establishing the potential for it to continue beyond a trilogy. Back in 2000, the first film installment, Pitch Black, earned $53 million at the box office, just barely doubling its $22 million budget. The flick’s modest returns aren’t why the 2004 sequel The Chronicles of Riddick got the go-ahead, but rather the fact that Vin Diesel had risen to global stardom following the release of The Fast & the Furious (which itself would spawn a surprisingly lucrative series) and the extreme sports/action spy thriller xXx.
But while it’s easy to understand why The Chronicles of Riddick got the green light, the fact that Riddick made it into development is a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, plenty of films get sequels for absolutely no reason these days, but Chronicles barely earned back its $100 million budget, taking in a disappointing $116 million globally.
So just how did Riddick make it to the screen for a third time? That’s largely due to Diesel, who agreed to make a cameo in The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift after sitting out 2 Fast 2 Furious on the condition that Universal give him and his One Race production company the rights to the Riddick character. Diesel and writer/director David Twohy, who helmed the first two installments, then worked tirelessly to get Riddick back to the screen. (The actor has publicly discussed working on the sci-fi film for scale upfront rather than salary.)
Riddick has more of a character-driven storyline than its predecessor; that’s a smart move on Twohy’s part, as the light-sensitive Riddick is one of the more appealing anti-heroes to hit the screen.
Left for dead and separated from his home planet Furya at the hands of his nemesis Vaako (Karl Urban), Riddick finds himself on a seemingly lifeless planet. But he quickly learns he must defend himself against ruthless alien creatures, like mud demons. Though the no-nonsense escaped convict is able to fight them off, he won’t last on the sun-scorched planet for much longer. In order to escape, he must activate an emergency beacon that would have mercenaries flock to rescue him. Unfortunately for Riddick, he has a seemingly endless list of enemies who, coupled with an impending storm, serve as a grave threat.
The “against the clock” format is effective and viewers are kept in a constant state of suspense. We never know just who or what is lurking in the shadows. Not only is it enjoyable to watch Riddick fight off some pretty inventive monsters (at one point he wrestles with a zebra-like dog), its a treat to see him set out to destroy his enemies – horror movie style. Additionally, the atmospheric Riddick serves as a stripped-down alternative to the bloated Chronicles and is stylistically more aligned with the thrilling Pitch Black.
Of course Diesel is the film’s main draw, and rightly so. The actor has made a career off his distinguished charisma and his ability to make hollow archetypes alluring characters.
Unfortunately, the film’s single setting becomes somewhat tired and claustrophobic, making one long for a planet change. And if you’re someone who cringes at cliched one-liners and eye-rolling dialogue, you may want to avoid this one. Naturally, one must suspend disbelief and shrug off a whole lot of ridiculousness to appreciate the film, but it’s a worthwhile adventure. While it remains to be seen whether or not Riddick generates decent returns (it shouldn’t be too hard to earn back the $38 million it cost to make), the film leaves room for another followup.
It’s clear that Diesel never met a potential franchise he didn’t like. Following the success of the decent Fast & Furious 6, there’s a seventh currently in development. If that’s not enough, he’s also set to reprise his role as Xander Cage in a follow-up to 2002’s xXx, inventively titled xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Now we just have to cross our fingers for The Pacifier 2.
Since Diesel literally owns the role of Riddick, we’re pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of this intergalactic badass.
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