Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Complex Character of Richard B. Riddick

Someone at work asked me today if I had seen Riddick and if I liked.  He said he liked it, and I answered yes to both his questions.  After some surface discussion about the three acts in the movie, in which I stated I enjoyed Riddick's character growth, he followed up with a question about what growth I saw.  So I answered with an essay.

But it got me thinking.  There's a lot of complexity to this guy!  No, really.  Psychologically, he's both one of the most basic and complicated characters on the big screen in recent memory.  My thoughts on the matter follow...


In Pitch Black, Riddick is completely mercenary, only out to survive and clearly burdened by how convinced he is of his own wicked nature.  He punishes those he deems worthy of it, even at the risk of his possible survival, without care for the greater good.

In The Chronicles of Riddick, a spark of conscience is lit when he meets Kira, and out of some inkling of respect for the priest's home, he attempts to draw away those who seek to kill him.  But in the end, he knows who's number 1, and he hardly sheds a tear for Kira when she gets murdered.  But.  He did shed a tear.

Based on the flashbacks  in Riddick, he immediately indulges in the glories of power, becoming consumed by hedonistic pursuits and corrupted on a personal level (very realistic, considering his meager existence beforehand).  He makes no lasting changes to the system he claimed to despise, illustrating that what he REALLY hates is being subjugated.  He still longs for home, so he trades in his crown for the chance to return to Furya.

What that pull symbolizes is a deep seated longing to belong.  His emotional connection to the dog is sudden and born from respect for a fierce will to survive.  He finds a kindred spirit, when he had become convinced he was alone in the universe.  Also, it complements the animal nature he's convinced himself he has.

When the bad mercs arrive, he sees them murder a woman who has been repeatedly victimized.  It is implied through the story to date that he has a keen sense of smell, so it's likely he smelled them on her.  It also confirms his sense of justice hinted at in the first two, when he ruthlessly murders select members of the bad merc group (most likely those who had victimized the woman).  However, this time, rather than simply killing enough people to get his own ship, he exclusively punishes the wicked members of the bad mercs and leaves Johns's group alone.

While he talks big, he abandons his first chance to slip away, since it would come at the expense of Johns's female merc.  He could have killed her, but realizes he would be no better than those he seeks to punish and withdraws.  Still, he is driven by ego, so he brags about it the first chance he gets.  His boastful nature hasn't changed.

But...

His sense of morality has started to expand.

When it comes down to it, he trusts Johns and repeatedly decides not to kill him until he has determined whether he's worthy of death.  In the end, he decides he is not.  And that act of mercy (monstrous as it is, coming from Riddick) ultimately saves his life when Johns comes back for him.

So he has grown to love another (the dog), trust a man, figure out WHY he kills, and even does a spaceship dance at the end, for some reason (maybe short-wave comms?).  It's a steady progression that I hope Twohy continues.  Because the complexity of a powerful outcast with deep abandonment issues and an overdeveloped sense of justice is a very interesting character to me.

Thanks for reading!

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