It was the spring of 2000, and rather than going to some lame St. Patrick’s Day dance my middle school was putting on, my parents took me out for pizza and a movie. That movie was “Pitch Black.” The catlike Richard B. Riddick, with graceful lethality and disappointingly-fictional 20 menthol Kools shine job quickly enthralled the young me. Here was a protagonist who was not a shining do-gooder, but one who did what had to be done, protected those he deemed worthy, and was more than a match for alien creatures the likes of which humans had never seen. The fact that he was a convicted murderer made no difference to me when many Hollywood heroes pile corpses high enough to serve as barcaloungers.
I remember sitting in a room where “Chronicles of Riddick” was playing, but the only things I actually remember from the movie were cool knives and the line “I’ll kill you with my tea cup.” Well, those and the still-not-sure-if-awesome-or-dumb name “Necromongers.”
The simplistically named “Riddick” is very much a return to form for the franchise. The plot is somewhat of a commentary on the franchise as a whole, as Riddick ends up on the planet after having “lost his way” in his conquest of the Necromongers. An early flashback shows the powerful man dispassionately surveying the spoils of kinghood and deciding to seek Furya, the deadly planet of the first film.
Personally, I feel this is a good direction. “Chronicles of Riddick” turned him into, essentially, Space Conan. The franchise is much stronger when its central conflict is “Riddick versus The Wild,” as it was in “Pitch Black.” It may have something to do with the character having been conceived for this conflict. Perhaps that is simply the theme in which Riddick’s story thrives.
This strength of the movie is also its failing. While the return to form is very nice, “Riddick” is very similar to “Pitch Black.” In both, Riddick finds himself on a barren planet the fauna of which are lethal and perpetually hungry. In both, he trounces the alien creatures handily (though he is inconvenienced by a broken leg in the latter). In both, he is hunted by bounty hunters only to have them eventually accept his aid in surviving an inimical planet. The threats are different, the people are different (though a name other than Riddick does return), and the planets are entirely different.
Overall, if you liked “Pitch Black” and felt that “Chronicles” was lacking, or had strayed, you will probably enjoy “Riddick,” as I did. If you feel that going more space opera/Conan in “Chronicles” was a smart decision, you will probably be disappointed that “Riddick” does not dwell more on that story. I would give the movie 3.5 stars out of 5.