Riddick (2013)

I am one of those weird people who loved The Chronicles of Riddick.  I thought Pitch Black was okay, but Chronicles is what sold the character, and the universe he inhabits, to me.  Through the efforts of low-budget director David Twohy (whose films, like The Arrival and Terminal Velocity, I had enjoyed previously) and Vin Diesel, they scraped up what they needed to make a grand space adventure.  And it failed, miserably.

This was largely due to a number of cuts to make it PG-13, and a good part of the story being lost.  Happily, I never saw that version.  I saw the version, as Twohy and Diesel intended, once it came out on DVD.  So did a number of other people, and the movie was somewhat redeemed.  What both of them had in common, though, was an abrupt ending.  Riddick (Diesel) had become the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, a barbaric scourge upon the galaxy that destroys entire civilizations in their quest to find the mythical Underverse.  Riddick's home planet of Furya was destroyed by the Necromongers, and at the beginning of Riddick he has been led to a planet that was supposed to be Furya and, in his blunt way of describing things, is "Not-Furya".  The guide, and Vaako (Karl Urban), he second in command, betray him and leave him for dead on the uncharted desert planet.  Thus, his association with the Necromongers is dealt with - at least for now.

As usual, Riddick proves to be a survivor, which is important on a planet with little surface water which is largely inhabited by wolf-like creatures (one of whom he befriends as a pup) and venomous serpent-like creatures that live in the pools of water that do exist.  Survive he does, but once his companion starts showing nervousness when the rare rains begin to approach, Riddick decides it is time to leave his new home.

Although not currently inhabited, a mercenary base was at one time established on the planet, and Riddick uses it to make sure his survival is broadcast far and wide, knowing mercenaries and bounty hunters will show up trying to claim him.  And show up they do; Santana (Jordi Molla) and his band want to bring Riddick's head back in a box, while Boss Johns (Matt Nable) has been looking for Riddick for revenge for his son's death in the events that took place in Pitch Black.

Riddick informs them that they should leave one ship for him so he can escape, and promises to leave them alive.  However, driven by greed and revenge, they disable the ships so he cannot steal them and go after him.  Tension mounts as Riddick's attacks take their toll, Santana's advances on Johns's associate Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) become more violent and, with the coming of the rains, the true danger of the planet rears its ugly head.

The first part of Riddick features little dialogue other than the titular character's narration as he survives what the planet throws at him, and this is where the movie really shines.  While it is fun watching him deal with the mercs (especially Santana's group), the last part of the movie, though not the central plot as the previews may have made it appear, does resemble Pitch Black more than a little bit.

Another quibble is that Dahl is presented to be a lesbian, but it appears that Riddick "turns" her heterosexual by the end.  The truth, as explained by Sackhoff, is that Dahl was straight all along, but pretended to be lesbian due to people in her profession like Santana who look at women as pieces of meat to take advantage of.  It would have saved a lot of controversy if this would have been made clearer, but it is obvious that Twohy still has some of the narrative troubles he's had in the past.

Riddick, despite some similarities to the first movie in the series, stands on its own, even if it does more tying up of loose ends from Chronicles than it does significantly advancing the story.  Still, it is quite worth seeing, and the end says that the whole situation with Furya will be handled with the next movie.  It is also nice that this time around they remembered that Riddick's universe is supposed to be brutal, and didn't bother releasing a lifeless PG-13 version.

Riddick (2013)
Time: 119 minutes
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff
Director: David Twohy

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