'Riddick': Sci-fi Western
MANILA, Philippines - The Riddick franchise, despite having only one successful movie under its name, "Pitch Black," has created a rich mythos, making cross-media appearances in video games and animation. The attempt to make it a big space opera, "The Chronicles of Riddick," proved to be the biggest misstep. It took what was essentially a lone-wolf character and forced him into a large, intricate setting, removing the character's main draw. Now, almost a decade later, we see an attempt to revive the film franchise.
"Riddick" cuts down the title, the scope of the film, the cast, and pretty much everything else. In the first act of this film we have a man vs. nature story wherein Riddick learns to survive on a harsh planet. Vin Diesel's voiceover speaks of the character getting too civilized and losing his edge. He abandons the space-opera armor and goes back into the wilderness. On multiple levels it's a stripping down, back to basics approach. So it is through this process that he and the franchise try to return to form.
And a return to form this is. For fans of "Pitch Black" and fans of Riddick, as this neo-Western hero in the vein of "The Man with No Name," who doesn't talk much but is big on action, is outside of the law but lives by a code, this is the movie you have been waiting for. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, this becomes a great place to start. You get the barebones of what makes it good: character drama, intriguing anti-hero, and wasted sci-fi landscapes filled with monsters to be battled.
I think that Diesel and series creator and writer-director David Twohy have created a character that, if handled right, has the potential to be as memorable in the sci-fi pantheon as Snake Plissken or Ripley. What makes him interesting is he's a bad dude.But in the right circumstances, and if the choice falls within his moral code, he will do the right thing. Riddick is at home in harsh, unwelcoming environments. He's used to being counted out, being underestimated, being beaten on. There is a lot to this character connecting him to classic heroes, and Diesel gives him just the right attitude and edge to make him markedly different.
Even better is after a first act spent mostly combatting a harsh environment and scary animals, the movie escalates by introducing not one group of hunters after Riddick, but two. These groups are at each other's throats just as much as they are after their target. And while a lot of them fall into established action archetypes, the plotting and dialogue are enough to keep the film going. The second act is filled with suspense, lots of creeping around, lots of wondering just what might be lurking behind the shadows.
This second act operates very much like a classic Western.You are out in no man's land, no law or order to dictate how you should act. All that holds you up is what you can fight for or defend. Though there are spaceships and aliens and high-tech gadgetry, it all rests on the shoulders of men and women with questionable integrity who are all trying to get what they want. The tensions escalate and Riddick serves as a trickster aggravating the other characters and pushing their buttons.
And then you get to the point in the trailers where there are just hordes of monstrous snake-like beasts descending on the human characters. I know some readers might find this spoilerific, but this is in all the teasers and trailers. It brings us back to those sequences in "Pitch Black" where Riddick was fighting off a different set of monstrous creatures.
"Riddick" isn't for everyone. And I'd caution the reader who is unfamiliar with the mythos and who doesn't like sci-fi settings. If you're looking for a big summer blockbuster anyone can watch like the "Fast and Furious" movies, this isn't for you. Those who are looking for a good Riddick movie won't want to miss this. And fans of sci-fi and even Westerns will get a kick of out it. - Rappler.com