Today is the day we finally see the release of Riddick. The third live-action movie in the Riddick film series has been in development limbo since the release of The Chronicles of Riddick in 2004. While Vin Diesel has the star power now to appear in any action movie franchise he wants, the character of Richard B. Riddick is dear to the 46-year-old’s heart. So why did it take nine years to release the sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick?
While there are many obstacles in movie-making, the biggest one for the Riddick series was obtaining the film rights. In 2000, Pitch Black was a box office hit with its breakout star Riddick getting a spinoff movie. In 2004, Chronicles didn’t perform as well as Universal Studios would have liked. It only grossed $115.7 million worldwide against a production budget of $105 million. The studio wasn’t itching to make a third movie, so they placed the property on their dead franchises pile. Until, that is, another one of Universal’s franchises was looking for a jump-start.
According to THR, Universal Studios wanted the third entry in the series, 2006’s Tokyo Drift, to be a fresh start for the franchise. Director Justin Lin took the Fast & Furious movies in a new and exciting direction after the abysmal 2 Fast 2 Furious. Universal wanted Vin Diesel to make a cameo appearance in the Tokyo-set film, with the promise to star in more Fast/Furious movies. Diesel agreed, but waived his acting fee in exchange for the film rights to Riddick.
With the rights now held by Vin Diesel’s production company, One Race Productions, they quickly started to plan a third Riddick movie. In 2009, Diesel and Riddick‘s co-writer/director David Twohy sat down in Diesel’s kitchen to hammer out the film’s story. Production on the third film was also scaled back drastically to a smaller budget of $38 million with the hopes that the new sequel would perform better at the box office.
Also in 2009, Diesel starred in Fast & Furious with Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster. The new direction of the Fast/Furious film series took Diesel away from Riddick, but at the same time relaunched his career as an action star. In 2011, Fast Five grossed $626.1 million worldwide, while Furious 6 took in $787.4 million worldwide in 2013.
The seventh film in the series (I hope it will be titled The Seven Fast and The Furious and it’s a modern remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai) is projected to make even more money, with no telling how high the series can rise. With the success of the Fast/Furious franchise, Vin Diesel can pick any film project he wants, like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or perhaps another Riddick movie if this new one does well.
Production began on Riddick in 2012, but Diesel and Twohy ran into another speed bump when the completion bond fell through in Montreal. Vin Diesel personally advanced funds for the film until bank loans were secured, so the production could go back to Montreal to finish the film. Diesel turned to Universal, who also agreed to take an equity position and ultimately distribute Riddick. Keep in mind, the movie studio was happy to get rid of the character in exchange for a simple cameo appearance.
If Riddick is a box office success, Diesel will have successfully relaunched a franchise that few wanted. At the moment, Riddick is tracking to gross $21.4 million this opening weekend. You can read Brent’s review here.