Reliving the Past: ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ Franchise
Dating back to 2000, my guess is David Twohy didn’t think Pitch Black would spawn a franchise that was still alive 13 years later. When looking at the numbers, it doesn’t seem like it was a surefire thing either. Even with today’s Hollywood sequel standards, just over $50 million on a $23 million budget isn’t busting the bank.
But here we are, 13 years later and the third feature film (and fifth total if you count the direct-to-DVD movies) is set to release. Riddick, which debuts tomorrow, will be yet another story following Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), a brutal and nocturnal antihero.
Like the previously films, we can expect him to take on some supernatural forces abroad.
But…how did we get here? This franchise review will catch you up on the two feature films up to this point, including Pitch Black (2000) and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004).
Today, Diesel is known for his roles in the Fast & the Furious franchise, but he can credit Pitch Black for his emergence as the strong badass. Even if that’s all we have to thank Pitch Black for, it’s still worth noting. Upon another viewing of the movie, it’s not exactly the greatest piece of science-fiction. And maybe it’s the sequel that is clouding my judgment, but the first Riddick movie overcomes grave plot conveniences and contrivances to end in a more notable fashion.
Pitch Black starts with a space mission gone horribly wrong. When a ship transporting a dangerous criminal, named Riddick, crash lands, the crew slowly realizes the criminal is the least of their worries. On mysterious land, they must work together, criminal in hand, to survive an alien onslaught.
Today, although undoubtedly a different time, it’s hard to fully appreciate Pitch Black because it seems to borrow from a lot of movies. Even taking time into account, everything seems like a slightly transplanted version of the Alien franchise. Still, at least Pitch Black throws a small wrench – his night vision – into the mix…even if it’s one of the only reasons to keep him alive in the first place.
Again, back to the conveniences.
Pitch Black works its best at the very end. Despite some corny moments (which will be compounded later), it pulls through with a much different conclusion than I expected. The film ultimately feels like a standalone film (which it was probably intended to be), but that’s completely okay.
The problems occur the most in the follow-up. With more jobs under Diesel’s belt, The Chronicles of Riddick feels like one of the cheapest franchise tack-ons I can think of. There’s really not a whole lot to like, whether we’re comparing this to Pitch Black, Aliens, or any other sci-fi movie. If I was forced to choose one downfall, it’s that the story gave the enemy a human(-like) face. It sidetracks the things that worked in the original.
While some movies have the ability to rehash what we’ve seen, The Chronicles of Riddick does the exact opposite…with just as much “wrong” with it. Rather than building on what’s work, they tried something completely different.
Their attempt involved bringing Riddick back five years later to battle a mysterious race of Necromongers. These Necromongers basically become exaggerated human races, essentially telling a crappy sci-fi version of something they could’ve just done on Earth. With supernatural components, and bad visuals (even for that time), the movie comes off as bad as it…well, was.
The good news? While I was unsure of how much I liked Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick made me truly appreciate the first film. Even if it did seem to borrow (or steal) from other similar pictures, at least it was exciting and made some sense. The same obviously can’t be said for the sequel.
I’m nervous for what Riddick, the third movie, has in store. If looking at the past, I’d bet the movie is more in place to provide more opportunity for Diesel’s fans to shell out dollars. Perhaps I should be optimistic about the intent. Maybe they’re just trying to right the Necromonger wrong in another installment.
A man can dream…
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle