Monday, September 9, 2013

Riddick (2013)

Title: Riddick (2013)

Director: David Twohy

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Dave Bautista, Karl Urban

The Riddick franchise has been a very strange franchise in the sense that is goes up and down in tone, like the rising and falling of the tide. The first film, entitled Pitch Black (2000), was a simple monster flick about a group of people trying to get off a planet before these nasty carnivorous critters eat their asses. In comparison the second film, Chronicles of Riddick (2004), is epic in scale, with Riddick defying a group of dictators who call themselves ‘Necromongers’;  a race of beings that go around conquering planets and destroying those who don’t won’t join their crusade. I love both movies for different reasons; the first one successfully fuses the horror and sci-fi genres. It’s dark, it’s got awesome visuals and it’s entertaining; it kept things simple yet effective. The second film I like because it’s a more lavish production that expands on the universe that David Twohy created on the first film. Still, no matter how epic in scale Chronicles of Riddick was, the problem with this second film was that even though it was a more ambitious production, it didn’t make its money back at the box office and so, this is the reason why we had not seen a new Riddick film in such a long time. Studios won’t give you millions if your previous flick failed. But both Twohy and Vin Diesel don’t want to let Riddick die, and so they’ve decided to give the character another spin. Vin Diesel even went as far as putting up his own money to make this one happen, so that turns this one into a passion project for both Twohy and Vin Diesel. So finally, we get a third adventure in the Riddick franchise. Was it any good? Is it a worthy sequel?

This time around, same as in the first film, Riddick is trying to survive on a planet filled with deadly wildlife, a planet in which you can’t walk five steps without some fanged creature trying to kill you. But if you know Riddick, then you know that’s just the way he likes it. It seems the guy was meant to thrive in adversity. Like Mad Max or Conan, Riddick works best alone and under strenuous circumstances.  So it isn’t long before he learns to survive on this deadly planet just fine. But it seems this planet won’t leave Riddick alone, soon the weather starts to change and Riddick decides that this planet is no longer fit for him to survive in, so he does something unexpected, he calls a bunch of Bounty Hunters to come and “get him”. In reality, Riddick’s just luring them in so he can take their space ship and get off this dangerous planet he currently resides. But the bounty hunters seem to think they actually got a chance of capturing the famous escaped convict. All they care about is capturing Riddick, chopping off his head and getting double their pay. Question is: do these guys have a chance in hell? Don’t they know their messing with one of the baddest mothers in the universe?

So yeah, that synopsis you’ve just read is in a nutshell what this movie is all about. It’s not a very complex film which is where it differentiates itself from the previous one; Chronicles of Riddick is Shakespearian by comparison, while this third film is like going back to basics. Its closer in tone and feel to Pitch Black (2000), the first film, which means that yeah, we’re back in monster flick territory again. Not a bad thing if you ask me, the problem is that people are going to be expecting a film that would bring a conclusion to the second film and Riddick is the furthest thing from that. You know how the second film ends with Riddick sitting on a throne, essentially becoming some sort of King to the Necromongers? The film ends like Conan the Destroyer (1984) saying “but that’s another story” and so of course we’re all expecting a big conclusion to that story line with this new film, we all want to see what Riddick would be like as a ruler, will he change things? Would greed devour his soul? Would he be a good king? Riddick the Conqueror, that’s what I wanted to see! And well, this new movie kind of explains what happens when Riddick becomes king, but in a few seconds, which isn’t fair. It brushes through his whole king phase in five seconds, as if it didn’t matter all that much, as if it was some footnote in Riddick’s history. I mean really, we only get a glimpse of his days as a king; I wanted the full story! 

But that’s not what you’ll get, so scratch that idea from your noggin. What you will get is Riddick surviving on a bad ass planet fighting off monsters and greedy bounty hunters. You’ll take that and you’ll like it! I see what Twohy and Vin Diesel are doing. They’ve brought down production costs so that this third film will turn in a profit; in this way assuring that they can make a fourth film, basically, they are attempting to save the franchise, which in my opinion is a franchise ripe with stories to tell. So here’s how it went down: Chronicles of Riddick (2004) costs 105 million dollars, unfortunately it was a box office bomb and didn’t make its money back. This of course spelled tragedy for both Vin Diesel and Twohy, their beloved franchise was apparently dead on its tracks! But wait, suddenly Vin Diesel’s Fast and the Furious franchise is making kajillions! The actor has reached an all time high; each of the Fast and the Furious films making more money than the last! So now the studio can risk making a third Riddick movie, considering how popular Vin Diesel is these days. But of course, the studio will only make a calculated risk, so they make a smaller film, a more personal story on a much smaller budget. This is the reason why Riddick cost “only” 38 million, because they want to make their money back. A lot is riding on this film, they want it to be successful so they can make another, so the franchise can live on. So my friends, this is the reason why this story is smaller in scale; still, I have to admit I liked this more personal take on the character.

Unfortunately, the film will feel like filler to fans of the Riddick films, like it’s not an important story in the life of Riddick, in all honesty, it feels like just another day in the life of this character; surviving and wiping out his enemy from the shadows. What I did like about it though is that we get to spend some time with Riddick; we get to know him a bit better, the loner, the survivalist, the bad ass mother. Those scenes with Riddick surviving in the alien planet reminded me a whole lot of those first scenes in Conan the Barbarian (1982), in which Conan is out in the world for the first time, fighting off wild dogs and scavenging the world for food and women. Other scenes reminded me of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), especially those scenes in which Riddick gets himself a dog like companion, just like Max did in The Road Warrior. So you’ll get a lot of scenes of Riddick against the planet, all on his own. It’s the second half of the film that turns into a wild goose chase, with the Bounty Hunters running after Riddick. And if that doesn’t keep your butt on the seat, then you’ll certainly have fun with the deadly creatures that inhabit this dangerous planet, which were pretty cool creations. Monster fans should be happy with this one. And if that isn't enough, fan boys should love the fact that the beautiful Katee Sackhoff is on this one! There's something about that lady! Wowzers! 

So, taking in consideration that this is a smaller film, and not the one we were expecting, I still think this is a solid slice of sci-fi. Visually speaking, the film doesn’t look less expensive, which is an asset. I mean, usually a smaller budget means cramped sets and a cheaper looking film, but this is not the case with Riddick, the film still looks majestic and awesome, so my hats down to David Twohy for achieving a good looking picture with considerably less amounts of money. As I type this, Riddick stands number one at the box office, this is its first week out in the world, let’s hope that like its main character, the film manages to survive in the big bad Box Office. If it makes it's moolah back we can expect a bigger adventure come next film. So in many ways, it's up to the fans of this franchise to save this one. You hear me fanboys of the world? The future of the Riddick franchise lies in your capable hands! So go see this one! Now!

Rating: 4 out of 5   


Aylmer said...

Seeing it when it comes out here later this week. Really looking forward to it.

Franco Macabro said...

Wasn't dissapointed, but I also wasn't blown away. Still, a solid Riddick flick, can't bring myself to say it's "bad" because it's a good production, smaller in scope, but still a quality production in my book. Hope you enjoy it Aylmer!

Maurice Mitchell said...

The visuals and scope of the first film are second to none, so if this one is half that I'm sure it's great Francisco.

Franco Macabro said...

Maurice, Riddick is closer to what Pitch Black was, so I think you should be pleased with it!

Dan O. said...

Nice review Francisco. Terribly dumb, however, I would say that there is some fun to be had with this material, especially if you know what you're getting into. Or, in my case, just watch the first two movies right before you see it. Then, you'll know what to expect.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I was expecting something with a little more meat to it, but then I heard Vin Diesel saying this was a "smaller film" and that we'd maybe get to see the Underverse in the next film...which is why some might be dissapointed with it.

The next natural step (had they had the budget) would have been the Underverse and Riddick as King...but alas, we get this smaller adventure, which was fun and cool and all that, but lacked what we truly wanted to see.

Still, not a bad film at all, it just plays with peoples expectations.


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