42 Screens: The Chronicles of Riddick – Dead Man Stalking

There is a legend in Hollywood about when director David Twohy went into Universal to pitch a Chronicles of Riddick trilogy, he took with him three binders, all with closed locks. The first one contained the script for what became 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick; the other two were either outlines for the two follow-up sequels or the screenplays themselves. Twohy left behind the key for the first binder.

Our last image of convict Richard P. Riddick was him sitting on the Lord Marshal’s throne with his newly gained Necromonger army swearing their loyalty to him, and at the time this seemed to be the final image of Riddick ever, but the universe is a crazy place and things never are what they seem.

The Chronicles of Riddick – Dead Man Stalking

Riddick 3, which is already under development, has been given the financial middle ground between Pitch Black and Chronicles, with Twohy (back as writer and director) being given a budget of $60 million.  With a lean and mean-ass 100-page script to raise interest from investors and one year out from its likely start of filming The Chronicles of Riddick: Dead Man Stalking has the ingredients to get this franchise’s engine retooled.

The Riddick seen in Dead Man Stalking has bulked himself up better than even his Pitch Black days. Shortly after Riddick finds his world turn upside down again Twohy has the character say a line which encapsulates what went wrong with Riddick these past two movies and to put him in his current situation: he got civilized. He began to care too much about the people whose lives crossed his path.  The point is made clear to the anti-hero: he’s got to return back to being a predator, a hunter and the worse living thing in the universe, if he’s to survive the trials in Dead Man Stalking — and Hollywood. Back to basics. Back to killing.

Parts of the script have been revealed to get investors.  When it opens we see Riddick as a bloody battered mess, crawling for his life on the baked floor of an alien world. The native predators are circling in like vultures waiting for death so they can feed at Riddick’s corpse — but he won’t let them. Riddick realizes here that he’s got to let what happened to him in Pitch Black and Chronicles go if he’s to survive the next ten seconds, let alone get off this forsaken pit of hell.

The script show that Twohy, who could have easily written out Chronicles in a couple line,  isn’t forgetting what happened in the past.  With flashbacks we find out how Riddick got to where he is and why he’s messed up.  We see what life was like for Riddick after killing the Lord Marshal. Vaako, Karl Urban’s Necromonger, is Riddick’s right-hand man and loyal to him — to a point — but the Necros are not, Riddick hasn’t accepted the vow of being the Lord Marshal to the Necromonger army and that’s fostering resentment amongst their number. Assassins are coming from out of the shadows and Riddick knows that he can’t kill every one of them, so he pitches a deal to Vaako: take him to his long lost home planet of Furya and he’ll bail and give the Necros to Vaako. Even though Vaako is perplexed by the offer he still follows the orders of his commander and orders course to Furya.  Things go amiss and Riddick winds up left for dead on another planet populated with a fair selection of nasty creatures.

All this happens in the first fifteen minutes of Twohy’s lean script.  Twophy continues to boast that this is a hard R script — it’s full of death action and nasty, filthy language befitting the characters you’ll see in it, Riddick included.  This is The Road Warrior to Pitch Black’s Mad Max; a stripped-down, hard-edge action film that take place on a world where there’s three moons, mud demons, trisons and two shipfuls of mercs hunting down Riddick. The movie, which is free from the constraints of PG-13, is more suited to a film like Training Day; the mercenaries are hard living people and not those common space marines from most sci-fi.

Dead Man Stalking plans to bring back the killer in Riddick but in this third appearance of Riddick Twohy is showing us how smart he this man is when hunting human prey.  We will see the scary part of him, like from Pitch Black when he cuts the hair from the back of the head of the pilot and in Chronicles when he escapes from the UV planet and Crematoria, but in Dead Man Stalking its focus falls on hunter Riddick for about two acts of the movie. Dead Man Stalking has potential to be the setting stone for any follow-up sequels, with the mysteries that lay beyond the planet that Riddick is stranded on and with his past, his homeland of Furya, and why he keeps seeing visions of a woman asking him to come back home for the end fight

Two other nice elements from a writer’s point-of-view about Twohy’s story: there’s an interesting reveal to a character that has a connection to a major character from one of the earlier movies and a mirroring of the premise to Pitch Black that dominates the action in act three.

David Twohy has proven himself to be original in a very full genre.  With Pitch Black’s sightless alien flyers that only emerge during the dark of that planet’s trinary eclipse, or the technology of Chronicles’ Necromongers which uses dead people for faster-than-light communications. Originally I was disappointed to learn that Riddick was not going to lead his army into Underverse, and therefore fore not able to see what Twohy had in store for it, but I find me disappointment fading with each new revealed tidbit of the story.

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