As the third film outing for Richard B. Riddick approaches we thought it was time to do a quick round-up of his film career and extended universe adventures. What is eye shine? How do you get it? And when will we see the third film, simply titled Riddick? These answers, and more, below…
Pitch Black was pitched (that’s right, pitched. We went there) as a movie about survival when a spaceship that crashes on a remote desert world orbiting twin suns. Despite the sci-fi monsters on the planet’s surface, the unknown cast and tight, clever script meant the budget was a meager $23 million dollars. The film attained a slow but strong cult following, leading to The Chronicles Of Riddick, $120m worth of sequel behemoth.
Pitch Black’s story was a rather clever bait-and-switch. While there’s an opening voiceover from Vin Diesel’s Riddick, convicted criminal and murderer, most of our initial introduction is to apparently-heroic, apparent-lawman Johns (Cole Hauser) who’s intent on tracking down the dangerous psycho. Only gradually and under threat from the dark-dwelling beasts that rule the world does it become clear that Riddick may not be so bad, and Johns may not be so good.
In the original script, Riddick was a woman called Taras Krieg. The character was given a gender change early on since it was felt she’d be more menacing with size as well as speed. The last of his species, the Furyans, Riddick’s defining characteristic is his eyeshine, allowing him to see in pitch black without difficulty. He’s also tough, strong-willed, a ruthless killer when necessary and a pushover for kids. That’s why we like him – it’s like when Rocky stroked the puppy (not a euphemism).
Pitch Black boasted a curious pre-release mockumentary on the Sci-Fi Channel called Into Pitch Black. It followed lawmen investigating the crash of the Hunter Graztner (the doomed ship) and hunting Riddick. That can be found on YouTube and region 2 copies of Pitch Black. But be warned: it has lots of inconsistencies with the first two films. Riddick also appeared in an online flash prequel a month before the first movie, called Slam City. The title refers to a slang term for the prison in which Riddick finds himself, and, because he’s awesome, promptly escapes from. While there, he does find time to have a fellow inmate “do a shine job” on his eyes so he can see in the dark.
With the success of Pitch Black and xXx, Vin Diesel founded a video game company called Tigon Studios, whose products mainly depict the man himself. Surprisingly, the games are pretty decent. As a massive gamer, Vin is personally involved in the making of each one, including the two movie tie-ins to his Riddick franchise: Escape From Butcher Bay and Assault On Dark Athena.
Much like The Clone Wars or The Animatrix, the Riddick franchise also has a short animated film designed to bridge the gap between two live-action outings. Dark Fury was released back in 2004 just before Chronicles Of Riddick to explain the interim. It’s a tense, dark short in which Riddick stows away on a ship full of mercenaries and provides interesting character revelations about Pitch Black’s Jack (Rhiana Griffith) and how she became Kyra in Chronicles.
The Chronicles Of Riddick sees our hero going it alone again, visiting Helion Prime just as that planet comes under attack from the fearsome and apparently invincible Necromongers, led by Colm Feore’s Lord Marshal, Karl Urban’s Vaako and Thandie Newton’s Lady Macbeth-alike Dame Vaako. Riddick, with the help of Judi Dench’s faintly angelic Aereon, escapes the invasion, stops off on prison planet Crematoria (where he picks up with Kyra again, now played by Alexa Davalos) and returns to defeat the leader of the Necromongers and become de facto ruler of their race. Boom!
The director’s cut for Chronicles Of Riddick delves deeper into Riddick’s background. In there, a Furyan from Riddick’s past, Sheira (Kristin Lehman), lays her hand on Riddick’s chest and says, “This mark carries the anger of an entire race... but it’s going to hurt,” suggesting that the energy wave he obtains is fueled by his own rage at being the last of his species.
Despite Chronicles Of Riddick’s disappointing box-office ($115m in global grosses) the efforts of Diesel, writer/director David Twohy and the fans have landed a third instalment, due next year. Twohy is back to helm the third film, having co-written and directed the first two. Don’t expect any diversions or genre shifts on the level of James Cameron, but a lot love and care for the finale.
Twohy is keeping the concept simple for the third film. Our favourite Furyan has been left for dead on a desert planet. He’s pursued both by murderous predators and even more bloodthirsty mercenaries who will stop at nothing for their trophy. Diesel and Twohy have stuck to their guns for an R-rating, meaning a much leaner budget (shot in Canada for only $60 million), but hopefully all that talk of bloodthirsty predators isn’t just words on a page, but claret on sand. We’ll find out next year – but you can read more about it in the September issue of Empire.