It's a well-known fact that 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick fizzled at the box office. A studio-backed sequel to the wildly popular 2000 indie sci-fi/horror hit Pitch Black, Chronicles had a budget north of $100M, with some serious star power including Dame Judi Dench and Thandie Newton. Expanding upon director David Twohy's mythology of Richard B. Riddick in a grandiose manner, it barely turned a profit, and it seemed like the character would be forever lost in space. If it weren't for the existence of social media, the character Riddick might have gone the way of the dodo bird, or more aptly, Flash Gordon.
To most moviegoers, there was no logical reason Vin Diesel would make a third Riddick movie after almost nine years. The release of this film seems even more puzzling when you consider that Diesel is currently a producer and star of one of Universal's most profitable franchises, with Fast and Furious 6 earning over $780M worldwide this summer. When asked how Riddick ultimately came about he answered simply, "If Clark Gable had a Facebook account, he would have made Gone With the Wind 2." After shooting to action-star status with Pitch Black it's clear that Diesel has not forgotten about the character that changed his life: "People identify with his plight, and that's why they gravitate toward him. They identify with being prejudged, ruled out, given up on and underestimated; those are feelings we all have at some point."
With more than 45 million Facebook followers it's easy for Diesel to interact with his fans. It was their pleas for more Riddick that led to this third film: "People wrote, 'When are we going to get more Riddick? You have to make this movie.' It was comments like this that made us feel like we had to make it at all costs." One has to wonder, however, if this was the film that Diesel truly wanted to make. It takes a harsh left-turn from the second film's cliffhanger ending, delaying the character's journey to the Underverse and ultimately to his home planet of Furya. Diesel admits as much, but was undeterred in his quest to bring Riddick back to the big screen, "This is not the film I necessarily envisioned for the third chapter... when years and years went by and we weren't delivering the next movie, we had to make a very conscious decision to find a way to continue the story, even if it meant that we weren't going to get the same budget as Chronicles." It is that comment that is the most telling about how Riddick fits into the overall scope of this franchise.
Riddick can best be described as a return to form for Diesel and Twohy, who first collaborated together on Pitch Black. Riddick doesn't have the bells and whistles of Chronicles, but stripping down the mythology helps to tell a more straightforward tale of a convict stranded on a harsh planet, fighting for his life against deadly alien creatures, and trying to outsmart a group of bounty hunters in order to steal their ship. While there is a quick flashback to the ending of Chronicles and a surprising reveal about the true identity of one of the mercenaries, this is a mostly self-contained film that only briefly foreshadows what may come with future installments.
If we get our way, Diesel and Twohy will finish their story about this antihero from Furya who can see in the dark. If Riddick succeeds at the box office, fans may soon enough see what secrets the Underverse holds for the mysterious Richard B. Riddick. If not, we may never know how Riddick came to be an escaped convict who is most assuredly not afraid of the dark. With that being said, if you're in the mood for a fast-paced, entertaining sci-fi/horror hybrid with enough F-bomb's to satisfy any R movie fan, Riddick is more than worth the ticket price. Throw in Diesel's signature growl and a ridiculously cute alien hyena puppy, and we're sold!
Riddick is Rated R, and opens nationwide on September 6th.