Thoughts on The Chronicles of Riddick

03 Apr 2009
Posted by jcfiala

I recently got a copy of The Chronicles of Riddick Trilogy, which is a bit of a misnomer, given that it contains two full-length movies and a short animated film bridging the two. That said, the word 'Trilogy' on an inexpensive disk probably sells better than 'Duo', so why worry about that? The following review/commentary contains spoilers for the film, but it's been out for a few years so I doubt that's a big problem.

I'd never seen the original film Pitch Black before I saw the Chronicles of Riddick (or CoR), so my first viewing of CoR was a little confused. There's a bit of backstory for the first half hour that's based on the assumption that everyone saw Pitch Black, and on my second watching of CoR with that context the movie made much better sense and held my attention.

The movie has it's silly bits. It's very clearly meant to be a science fantasy along the lines of Star Wars and heading west towards Lord of the Rings rather than east towards 2001, and keeping that in mind some of the more ridiculous bits of science can be ignored. Another problem with it is the almost total lack of exposition - they don't explain a lot of things going on, and just go through them, expecting you to work it out yourself - the sleeping during voyages, the relationships from the first movie, and so on.

But what really struck me at the end of CoR on watching it this way is how Riddick has almost completely failed at everything he tried to do during the movie. He succeeds in killing the big bad guy at the end, admittedly, and that's a satisfying bit of bad-assery, but that's not something he wanted to do, so it doesn't really count. Let's go over his goals:

  1. He wants to get the huge price off of his head

    Arguably, he fails at this - the elemental was the one to place it, and by the end of the movie there's no real infrastructure to rescind the bounty with. That said, any bounty that says 'Payable upon delivery to Helium Prime' is probably going to be ignored, but that's not through Riddick's actions.

  2. He wants to save his friend Imam

    Well, friend may be pressing it, but Imam is one of the few folks in the universe Riddick seems to like. He fails - Imam dies saving his family.

  3. He wants to free his friend Jack from the prison planet

    Nope. Oh, he almost does, but instead ends up handing her over to the Necromongers. He tries to lead a whole band of prisoners off of the planet, and fails to rescue anyone but himself

  4. He wants to free his friend Jack from the Necromongers

    And again, failure. Jack dies in his arms.

See? The only thing Riddick is good at is keeping himself alive. He hasn't succeeded at the end of the movie - he's only survived it. It's got a bit of a similarity to The Empire Strikes Back in that the end of that movie is the same - the main characters haven't won so much as survived the entire movie.

Reading up online on wikipedia and the like, this movie is apparently supposed to be a start to a trilogy that Universal (who produced and released the first two films) isn't interested in continuing but that Van Diesel and the director David Twohy are planning to continue on their own. When I first saw CoR (in a drive-in), I would have thought they were throwing their money away on sequels to a bad film... but now that I've taken a second, longer look at what's been made so far, I'm really rather interested in seeing where they're going. This film leaves Riddick with everything he professes to want (his life, the power to make people not mess with him) but nothing that his actions show he desires. So... where does he go from there?