Today was the day: I finally managed to get someone to go and see the latest Riddick with me. (Which seems to be ridiculously hard in my new home because most people I know appear not to be fans of action movies – or if they are, they do not like Riddick, or wouldn’t spend money on it at any rate.) I’d been quite excited about it ever since the trailer came out and, considering that I loved the previous ones, I just had to see it in the cinema to give it full credit.
Riddick is set ten years after Pitch Black, and starts more or less where Chronicles of Riddick had left off. After becoming Lord Marshal of the Necromongers, he becomes restless and, sooner or later, through a series of unfortunate and scheming circumstances, ends up on a planet that he hopes to be his home planet, Furya – alone and messed up, and this is how this movie opens. Throughout his stay there, he has his usual conflicts with bounty hunters, makes a gorgeous friend, and quite some human as well as non-human enemies. Like in all the movies, the primary objective is to escape from the planet no matter what the cost…
The first part of the movie centres on Riddick trying to get back in shape, trying to regain his previous self and free himself of the constrains that his position as the Lord Marshal had put on him. I figured that this was to be expected; although it was a nice addition, I did not think that it fit him very well, ‘ruling’ people, especially when in Chronicles he rather accidentally slipped into that position. But as his voice-over declares, the events to follow had softened him and he is now dedicated to return to his roots, to the bare Riddick. This includes, at first, no human company and a lot of animals trying to get a bite of him. In the process, he strengthens himself by poisoning purifying and poisoning himself, and by finding a canine companion. He gets used to the animals, their strengths and weaknesses, indigenous to this planet. And then- enter the humans.
When talking to people about the movie beforehand, I’d heard quite opposite opinions. “It is the worst movie of all.” “It’s my favourite Riddick movie.” “It’s basically Pitch Black, but it’s so awesome.” And it’s true; it is much more like Pitch Black than I would have suspected at first. Indeed, some shots resemble it only vaguely (for instance, his fight with one of the animals at the beginning), others are mimicked in an extremely detailed manner – such as his mocking of the bounty hunters who are trying to find him while he is more or less hidden in plain view, his classification in the system as “Richard B. Riddick. Escaped Convict. Murderer.” – the words he introduced himself with in Pitch Black; and others that I will not reveal due to spoilers. For a Riddick fan, these are quite obvious. It is set on a sun-scorched planet – but then again, which Riddick movie isn’t? The influence of Pitch Black is also revealed with the realization that one of the humans on the planet is a relative of a very peculiar character from Pitch Black. These were mere references though; it started to become a little eerie to me when I realized that it follows the same concept, a similar storyline, and even a similar character setup: a badass woman, a religious guy who does not seem to do much apart from praying, extremely easily agitated bounty hunters, and so forth.
I can see how this might annoy some people; to me, this was somewhat brilliant. Sure, the movie was not very special effect-wise, and if I recall correctly it did not exactly have a high budget. But the question that puzzled me was: what is it exactly? Is it a homage to Pitch Black? Is it somehow a mere remake? Or is there significance to be found in the fact that it resembles it so much, visually and structurally?
For me – and I might be over-interpreting here, merely putting some thoughts out there – it is significant in terms of human nature. Riddick, like all Riddick movies, is first and foremost there to show his badass nature – but, even though action movies, there might be more to them still. Riddick is a character who has abandoned all concepts of good and evil; he is what he is, what his past has made him, and he is fine with that. Nevertheless, there is a side to him that is very appealing: despite his lack of allegiance to such concepts, he becomes loyal and attached to certain characters – people in the previous movies, and here his faithful dog companion. Seeing the interaction with him, without societal human restraints is refreshing indeed. There is mutual loyalty and respect between them. On the other hand, we have the humans; the bounty hunters who, technically, should be the ‘good guys’ because they oppose criminals. More often than not, though, the Riddick movies have shown the bounty hunters as evil scums with a low concept of morality. There surely are exceptions to this, but it seems to be the general rule. What does it mean to display this relationship again and again, to have people turn onto their comrades time and again when the real danger comes not from Riddick, but from the animal world? Maybe it is something about fundamental human nature: if in crisis, does morality or ‘friendship’ even count? Do such concepts even have an impact if it’s a matter of survival? Riddick is a loner; he may not be the most charming or most reliable guy on the block, but his lack of ‘sides’ makes him work so well: there is no matter of principles. Things which are necessary to survive get done, but if they are and the deed is complete, then that’s it. ‘No hard feelings,’ so to say, as long as he is being left alone to do his thing, whatever that might be. And it’s no surprise either that he prefers non-human companions, who have the same animalistic simple drive as he does, to the humans who always bring another unnecessarily complicated dimension to the whole situation. For me, Pitch Black was the purest Riddick movies of all because of was so deprived of anything political, societal, and merely focused on survival. It is reasonable, then, to show how easily the Pitch Black scenario can get repeated – and this, for me, opened up these interesting questions about human nature as such.
Then again, it could just have been ‘another action movie’, but I’d prefer my interpretation.
I definitely agree with the view that it is a good movie. I loved it, I enjoyed it every much – the badass action scenes, the blood, and the humour in it all. Vin Diesel once again did a good job here – even at the beginning, it is obvious that something is ‘off’ with Riddick, that he is not the guy we met two movies ago.
But he becomes that guy again.
Yes, that he does.
Also, Vin Diesel has produced this film independently, as far as I know, because he now has the rights to the Riddick franchise. So that might be an interesting perspective as well – to see the film with this in mind. I believe it does enhance it and gives it a different perspective.