Tomorrow, something surprising happens: We see another Riddick movie. In fact, by all accounts, if this one is remotely successful, we’ll be seeing another couple of Riddick movies. So we thought we’d look back at Pitch Black and The Chronicles Of Riddick, and see if time had been kinder.
There are actually two men who define this particular set of movies: Vin Diesel, obviously, but also writer and director David Twohy. Twohy wrote The Fugitive, Critters 2 and a few other movies before graduating to making very offbeat and unusual movies within the Hollywood system. His last movie, four years ago, was the odd thriller A Perfect Getaway, and he actually got the money to make Pitch Black on the back of The Arrival, one of the more memorable alien invasion movies of the ’90s, if for no other reason than Charlie Sheen delivering the line “I feel like a can of smashed @$$holes.”
Pitch Black is, and remains, one of the few good examples of its subgenre: The Aliens knockoff. It’s a tight thriller and a lot of fun, and oddly most notable beyond that for featuring one of the few Islamic characters on screen in recent years who isn’t a bomb-throwing terrorist. But it’s The Chronicles of Riddick that’s, well, classic Twohy.
First of all, it’s important to see the director’s cut. While it doesn’t mitigate Karl Urban and Thandie Newton doing a summer camp version of Macbeth very much, unfortunately, it does make clear what, exactly, Twohy was up to, namely making a freaking Conan movie in space.
Stop and think about it for a second, and a lot becomes clear. Riddick is the iron-thewed “barbarian”, recruited by a witch. He’s fighting a wizard ruling a corrupt kingdom. And by the end of it… well:
Viewing it through that lens, it’s both gleefully insane and really kind of awesome, and explains the movie’s rabid cult following. Unfortunately, it also makes it pretty clear why the movie tanked; Conan isn’t exactly relevant with the kids these days, and it probably explains why we’re back to fighting aliens in the dark in the third movie.
But, with a franchise this weird, and a director this offbeat, we’re probably going to see something special. And, hey, if nothing else, the series has given us plenty of GIFs!
What, you didn’t think we’d forget Escape from Butcher Bay, did you? It’s the rare licensed game actually worth playing, another notable achievement for the series that most movies can’t pull off.
This really needs a sudden note of brass.