Looking Back at PITCH BLACK…

Riddick: “Would you die for them?”

Fry: “I would try for them!”

Riddick: “You didn’t answer me.”

Fry: “Yes, Riddick. I would. I would die for them.”

Riddick: “How interesting…”

Since Vin Diesel can only make money doing things “Fast and Furious”, or as a “Furyan” in The Riddick series, I thought it might be a good idea to look back at the first and best Riddick film before he and director David Twohy give us what will hopefully be the satisying third installment in 2013.

I’m also thinking a crossover is in order: The Fast and the Furyan? 

So, from the vault (or perhaps the depths of Crematoria) here’s a look at the first and best of Riddick’s tales. There’s really no way to talk about the spiritual themes of this film without spoilers, so check it out if you haven’t had a chance to see it in 12 years.

PITCH BLACK

A space transport vessel crashes on a desert planet and only 10 travelers survive including the pilot, Carolyn Fry (Rahda Mitchell) and Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), a seemingly irredeemable convict. Marooned, the survivors find themselves hunted by the planet’s flesh-eating alien inhabitants, who come out in a rare season of darkness that happens every 22 years. Riddick seems their best chance of survival, with surgically enhanced eyes that equip him to see in the dark, yet he cares nothing for his fellow shipmates, concerned only with his own survival. He mocks the others at every turn, reluctantly helping as he at least realizes there is strength in numbers.

The character of Riddick illustrates some of the worst traits of humankind, murder and cruelty and threats, physical and verbal abuse, but unabashedly. Unlike others, he is transparent. As the film progresses, we see his interaction with the survivors expose the hypocrisy and equal compromise in nearly all the other characters. No one is without sin, and even stereotypical hero types reveal surprising character flaws.

“…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one… All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

The survivors dwindle, slowly picked off by the creatures, and toward the end Riddick abandons the others to seek escape on his own. Fry pursues Riddick to an escape pod and confronts him, and in their struggle he tries to convince her to come with him and leave the rest of the survivors behind. Although tempted, she refuses, even though it means she’ll be left behind as well. Riddick finds himself curious about this woman’s authentic care for others. He dares to help her, but in saving the others finds himself wounded and lagging behind. Fry comes back for him, gets between Riddick and one of the aliens, and is skewered right in front of his polished eyes, pulled back out of sight into the dark. Riddick howls:

“Not for me! Not for me!”

The film presents a harsh world where few seem like “good” people, and yet the viewer is given a tremendous portrait of undeserved grace. Salvation is given to the “worst” offender who certainly hasn’t earned it, a depraved man who literally had his eyes changed to “live in darkness”. This man fully realizes how “wrong” it is that a loving, sacrificial person would lay down their life for one so unworthy. He’s shaken by this in an amazing way, and as the only survivors depart the planet (planning to drop Riddick off before reaching civilization) one of the others asks what they should say, should anyone ask after him. He replies:

“Tell them Riddick’s dead. He died somewhere back on that planet.”

The narrative inference is obvious, despite a quick-buck sequel that blurs the beauty of the first film. Riddick has been changed, his old self “dead” on the planet, the Christ-like sacrifice of Fry forcing him to reassess his view of the world and experience something of a rebirth. The old Riddick is dead, and a transformed Riddick leaves the world to live differently.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

For Contemplation and Discussion:

  1. Do we assume Riddick is “worse” than us? In what ways are we like him?
  2. Would we risk and even lay down our life for an enemy, for someone who might murder us?
  3. Is the cross of Christ an abstract concept of salvation to you, or do you truly understand the weight of sacrifice, pain and death… as directly and vividly as Riddick experiences Fry’s death?
  4. Do you grasp the even greater weight of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as it relates to you?

Comments
  1. Dustin Hjelle

    James,

    Thank you for this wonderful breakdown. This was the first Diesel movie I ever saw, and since then, have always been captivated by his movies/characters, primarily, Riddick & Dom. Also, I wanted to say thanks for this ministry of helping other’s see the depths of movies, their insight into culture and how we can use that to engage it with the truth. It’s helped me out a ton in learning how to break movies down and articulate everything.

    Question for you? Do you suppose, that we see a a type/side of Jesus pictured through Riddick/Dom in that he plays the “bad”-good-guy? Such as his character is the one challenging culture norms, being the one to do what is needed despite the gravity of the situation(s), and being the “older” brother?

  2. James

    It’s true, Riddick does call out the “pharisaic nature” of other characters and leads them in ways no one else can… so the idea is certainly there. Moses was a murderer and David was an adulterer and even biblically God used these real people as foreshadowing and archetype for the messiah fulfilled in Christ, who was none of these things but perfect! You can see this same almost hard to admit archetype in Fight Club with Tyler Durden, so the same holds true from the narrative standpoint with Riddick.

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