True confession: I’ve never seen Pitch Black or Chronicles of Riddick. For the first, because horror movies scare me (because I believe them), and for the second, because I hadn’t seen the first. And for both because at the time of their releases I wasn’t much of a Vin Diesel fan.
How things change.
I can’t say for sure when I started loving the Vinster, but I know that The Pacifier — yes the Disney family movie — showed me an actor with a sense of humor and range. Yes, range. Then I found out that said Vinster is one of us — a total D&D loving, comic book quoting, full on geek-nerd combo, and true love was born.
I love him in the Fast and the Furious franchise. He’s one of those actors who can play the role of the antihero because he truly makes you CARE about said antihero. And of all the antiheroes out there today, Riddick is absolutely the Alpha Male.
Riddick starts after, well after, Chronicles of Riddick and, as my Slice editor pointed out, it starts with (mostly) the web comic provided to bridge the gap between two very different movies. And here’s the first nice thing — you don’t have to have seen the other two movies OR the web comic to both understand and enjoy this one. There’s enough backstory dribbled in (and, as an author, believe me when I say that I know how hard it is to dribble in just the right amount of backstory so that you don’t bog the current story down) that any and every viewer can catch up fast.
The first half was, to me, like a much more violent combination of John Carter and Robinson Crusoe, with the second half being Aliens crossed with, well, Pitch Black. No, there is absolutely no new ground traveled here, at least in terms of storylines. But no one goes to this kind of action-adventure-horror type of movie expecting a lot of changes. You go expecting a wild, enjoyable ride. And you get it.
However, in terms of science fiction, the world Riddick finds himself stranded on is amazingly detailed, thought out, and presented. It’s a world of terrible, brutal beauty, and Riddick fits in very well there. Until he realizes that the really bad times are coming, and he has to get off this scary rock.
He does so in an inventive and believable way, and once the other humans arrive, he does what Riddick does best — scares the crap out of them while proving that, on this world, he’s still the ultimate predator, even if he does have a soft spot for kids, animals, and kickass women.
A special shout out to Dave Bautista, whose performance was both good and incredibly nuanced, and to the creature animators who made me terrified of the beasts on this world while falling in love with one of them. The animals of this world are extremely believable, both in their existence and in the way they look, move, and act — and some are extremely frightening — and the attention to this kind of detail really sets this movie apart. There was obviously some thought given to what kinds of animals would make it on a world like this, as well as the predator hierarchy. And, of course, the terrifying truth of just why rain on this planet is not to be wished for.
This movie isn’t going to be up for any Oscars other than the technical ones (which right now I’m saying it should win because, DAMN, that world and all the spaceships and creatures and all the everything else is AMAZING), but, again, that’s not why anyone goes to see these kinds of movies. However, for what it’s aiming to be — a fun, popcorn movie filled with thrills, chills, and bad, badder, and the baddest guys around — it succeeds brilliantly.
I saw this in IMAX and it was great and pulled me in much more than a 3D version would have. My rating is based on rating it for what it’s trying to be — Riddick isn’t trying to be Citizen Kane. What Riddick IS trying to be is a hella entertaining ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering who, if anyone, is going to make it, and in that it performs exactly as intended.