New Riddick movie goes back to basics, franchise back on track

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The last Riddick movie, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” ended on a cliffhanger, leaving its audience with many questions about the next movie in the series, first and foremost: “Will the new film be worth watching?” And also, “Is it a prequel?” and “Will Vin Diesel’s romantic interest be killed off once again?” The debut of “Riddick” this weekend answered those questions: yes, no, and…you’ll have to watch to find out.

“Riddick”‘s premise is a type of “call of the wild” scenario, with our Furian protagonist sensing that needs to get back to nature. Franchise fans may recall that in previous movies, Riddick has always been very in touch with wild animals. While in prison at the beginning of “Chronicles of Riddick,” for example, Riddick tames the fire leopards sent to attack the inmates. In this movie, the unnamed planet on which he finds himself at the start of the movie seems to hate him.

At one point, a rainstorm begins rolling in. At first Riddick rejoices at the sight of rain, but as he takes a second look, something about this ominous cloud makes him think twice about staying on the foreign planet. He goes back to the mercenary outpost he’d found earlier and sends a distress beacon. This is where the movie proper begins.

The emergency message clues everyone else in to Riddick’s location, and he is, of course, the universe’s most wanted man. Soon, two teams of bounty hunters arrive to capture the fugitive. One is a rag-tag gang of misfits full of amateur bounty hunters. Dave Bautista, professional WWE wrestler, plays a member of this group — a sharpshooter who can’t shoot. The other group, decked out in space SWAT team gear, is chocked full of professionals.

After a bit of chest thumping over which team will be the one to take on Riddick, the two gangs team up. They take power cells out of their ships that render the ships powerless and lock both teams up together. Essentially, the bounty hunters are stuck on a planet with Riddick. Since we are to believe that the professionals are the good guys in this movie, Riddick only kills members of the rag-tag team, while attempting to scare the bounty hunters into letting him have one of the ships.

After playing a bit of cat and mouse game, the storm comes and Riddick turns himself over to the bounty hunters, recognizing that they all have bigger things to fear. During his interrogation, audience members finally find out what scared Riddick so much that he invited bounty hunters to come and find him. The rain cloud brings with it a horde of rattlesnake scorpions that turns the movie’s storyline into one similar to the franchise’s first installment, “Pitch Black.”

Somebody sabotages the hover bikes, so to get back to their ship the group has to take a long walk in the dark with the scorpions chasing them, just like in “Pitch Black.”

The entire movie seems to be an indictment of the franchise: “Pitch Black” good, “Chronicles of Riddick” bad. Riddick’s lines during the flashbacks seem to be Vin Diesel himself saying that he didn’t like the last movie. Hence, this movie feels more like a second go at a “Pitch Black” sequel.

Yet, while it seems to be a rehash of previous movies, the plot holds up. It isn’t trying to completely remake the first movie, but rather it’s building on the idea that people like backstabbing Riddick on remote planets. I give this movie four out of five stars. I like how “Riddick” recognizes some strengths of the franchise, and I appreciate the man versus animal motif embodied by Riddick that runs through the film.

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