Riddick Review – Black as pitch
Let’s say it, The Chronicles of Riddick was something near to a complete failure: David Twohy, not an independent anymore, let Universal influence his work far too much, and the results were visible to everyone. It seemed that the announced trilogy would have stopped at the second chapter, but Twohy is a tough one, just like Vin Diesel, actor and producer: the third Riddick finally happened, and the director/writer managed to obtain from the studios more creative freedom than he had for the second episode; for example, he was free to create a mature oriented movie, thus being able to rediscover the horror-like sci-fi of Pitch Black.
In Riddick, we find the main character exactly where we left him: now leader of the deadly Necromongers, he lives as a king. However, he sorely misses his home, Furya, a planet erased from every map or record. In exchange for the crown, his advisor and right hand Vaako (Karl Urban in a cameo) agrees to bring him home – but actually, he abandons his former Lord Marshal on a hostile planet, a never ending desert full of creatures specialized in killing and hunting. Riddick, made “softer” by civilization, has to rediscover his instinct, his animal side, in order to survive. Meanwhile, he’ll face a bunch of bounty hunters, and a pack of killer alien scorpions.
The movie is all about Vin Diesel, which is hardly surprising since Riddick, along with Dominic Toretto from the Fast and Furious series, is his most famous and loved character. Everyone else in the movie, including bounty hunters or Necromongers, can be identified as background characters, shadowy figures who justify the protagonist’s evolution (or involution, depending on the point of view) from a “civilized man” to his old, barbarian self. Twohy keeps following Robert E. Howard‘s scheme, and he turns his own version of Conan the Barbarian from an adventurer to a king, and then to a brutal savage once again, arriving to the old literary stereotype which proposes that a primitive life, immediate, pure, powerful, is always preferable to the false, deceiving and unnatural one of civilization.
Riddick can be divided in three different sections: the first one, with the protagonist becoming a survivalist once again the middle of the desert planet (recreated in Egypt); the second one, the slaughter game that sees Riddick hunting down and killing the bounty hunters who are supposed to be hunting him; and the last one, a horror part that resembles Pitch Black in both the environment (an obscure alien planet crowded with deadly monsters) and characters (as a link, Matt Nable‘s character is the father of Cole Hauser’s one from the first movie). Everyone works, even if in a different way, and Vin Diesel alone acts as a trait d’union that avoids changes of tone in the storytelling.
Finally, the independent-horror movie atmosphere is back, and Twohy abandons the Baroque visual style of Chronicles. Riddick comes back to his dark, violent and brutal self, for the joy of all the fans.
The rhythm is not exactly hectic, and the movie sometimes slows the action for a while, but that is part of the genre, a western-like sci-fi that Twohy brings on screen with characters that are living stereotypes, an environment that immediately calls the Far West to memory, and a protagonist that could perfectly fit a lonely gunman from the Arizona desert.