Okay, so this one is less of a review and more of my random, circling thoughts about this film series as a whole. Will I someday do a more individualized, in-depth, movie-by-movie review series? …I don’t know. Depends on how the rest of the series goes. But I do have some thoughts on the entire thing that I would like to share, both for those who are also fans of the series and for those who haven’t really been able to get behind them. (I understand both sides.)
And as if to make this more confusing, I’m going to start with the second movie. Why? Because it was the first one in the series that I saw. I didn’t even know about Pitch Black for years. I caught The Chronicles of Riddick on some random channel while at my grandmother’s house. I was losing (miserably) at our marble game, and I welcomed the distraction, even though I missed the first ten minutes of the movie and had no idea what was going on. And talk as bad as you want to about the plot of the second movie… I liked it. I kinda got obsessed with finding out what was Riddick’s back story, what was going on with the girl named Jack who then became the killer named Kyra, and then the ending (which I won’t spoil for the rest of you) made me about ready to scream, especially when I found out exactly how old the film was at that point.
Was Chronicles a little too story heavy? Yes, especially in comparison to the first in the series (I’ll get there, I swear). We had a lot of plots, including prophecies and quests from various different characters, thrown at us, and there were only two or three characters who were consistent from the previous film, making continuity between the films a problem. Even as someone who was jumping into the series right in the middle of things, I was left sitting there on the couch at my mother’s on my third or fourth viewing of it going, “Okay, some of this HAD to have been established in the first film. Because there is way too much stuff going on here otherwise.” (Answer: very very little was established in the previous film.) And speaking of characters, did I mention there were a lot of them? Yeah, a WHOLE lot of them, and we were expected to remember who each of them was, and what their little quests were, and it didn’t help that Riddick was a little too perfect, too much the center of attention of things either. That said, there were some awesome parts to that movie. It is insanely quotable, just because the dialogue was so well-written. I love the dialogues between characters, especially when someone can gets Riddick to stop being all, “Grr,” long enough to be Vin snarking. It’s the most apparent between him and Toombs and/or Kyra. I may or may not be known for going, “Skittish, Toombs,” or “Death by teacup,” in response to certain questions asked to me because of this movie.
So between the years of my first discovering this movie and the news that there was a third one in production finally reaching my ears, I managed to get a plot synopsis of Pitch Black, and then very recently actually watched it. Yeah, I can see some serious issues between the two of them. Whereas Chronicles was trying to build up this world and plots without really pacing it right, there wasn’t a lot done in Pitch Block to establish the world beyond getting the situation built up for the survival plot of the film. We were given a hint of the back story to Riddick and his relationship with Johns, but everything else was just about getting off the planet (as well it should be, considering what it was). While I could see why fans would want a sequel to it, I don’t think Chronicles was quite the sequel it needed. Or rather, if Chronicles had been half as plot heavy, it might have worked. Pitch Black was focused only on the particular planet and the people who lived on it trying to survive, which worked for it and laid some groundwork, it just didn’t blend well with its immediate sequel.
The third in the trilogy struck an important balance between the two films. While there was some continuing of the plot established in the second movie, there was also some focusing back on what Riddick the character wanted rather than what the prophecies/the writers’ wanted. It set the stage for the same kind of survivalist horror that started the franchise off, but it also played into the back stories established in the earlier films. It fed into those who loved Chronicles, but it also could have (and I hope did) brought back the fans from Pitch Black. The monsters felt a little recycled to me, especially after I watched the first movie at last, since the design looked very similar, even if how they functioned in their world was different. I’m also getting really sick of this whole plot device of whatever finally makes Riddick look human, be it a person or an animal, gets killed. It’s getting annoying. But the film sets up for a fourth, final film well. (If they stretch for a fifth, I might start throwing things.) It was also an enjoyable watch, even if parts of it in the beginning squicked me out a little.
So what are my likes and problems with this series as a whole if it is one of my favorites? As a whole, it works well to balance a rich world and plot with proving the survivalist theme with Riddick. I don’t know if this is me romanticizing the character or not, but I honestly don’t see Riddick as this blood thirsty serial killer. Is he violent, yes. Does he play way too many mind games, also yes. But the former I am more than willing to place on what had to be a rather traumatic upbringing, and as for the latter… It’s an interesting character trait. He survives, and in the process, that has made him into what he is, all in an effort to survive. His race is also potentially a lot more primal than our own, which leads me to think a lot of his mind games are an attempt to establish dominance over other males he encounters. I think that’s part of why people keep cheering for him, even if he is supposed to be waaaay at the bottom of the sliding anti-hero scale.
I touched on one of my problems already, but…I am really sick of the death of anyone Riddick gets close to. I mean, Kyra and him had such an interesting relationship, and I really wanted to see it play out. I even have a friggin’ head canon established over what would have happened if she hadn’t been converted and then killed in Chronicles. (Actually, me and my best friend have this established, we did it in a fit of boredom over two days and just using the wiki.) I wish we could actually see Riddick have to keep up with a relationship for longer than a day or two. Or with something that isn’t a dog/giant cat.
My bigger problem is the mixed medium. I know this has become a big thing, where you have some of the story in the movies/show, and then the rest in some sort of web medium or even a video game. The problem that the Riddick series is having with that is they can’t keep their own story straight. Some of this comes from the fact that Riddick is meant to be the only survivor of the Furyan race, so we can’t know exactly what happened there. But we’ve had two or three different versions on how his eyes became shined like they were. Stick with one, people, stick with one! There needs to be some consistency, or else fans like me get cranky.
I’m hoping we get the next film done soon, so the hype from the last is able to feed into the frenzy. While the series has its flaws, as a whole it is one of my favorites to watch, and I can’t wait to see what happens when Riddick finally makes it back to Furya.