Will the third time prove to be the charm for Vin Diesel’s blade-wielding antihero in “Riddick”? With Diesel back on top and no competition to speak of during the first official box office weekend of the fall, the future looks bright enough for Riddick that he will certainly need his trademark goggles.
Box-office watchers predicted a debut in the neighborhood of $23 million during an otherwise slow weekend. Critics have described “Riddick” as closer in scale and tone to “Pitch Black” than the more grandiose space opera vibe of “Chronicles of Riddick.” Reviews are mixed, but they are better than what was written about “Chronicles,” which Roger Ebert dismissed as “an exercise in computer-generated effects.”
The evolution of this weekend’s destined-for-#1 hit runs almost parallel with the arc of Diesel’s career. His self-financed short films caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who gave him a part in “Saving Private Ryan.” He did the voice of “The Iron Giant” and co-starred in “Boiler Room,” but it was in the small, claustrophobic and violent “Pitch Black” where Diesel stole the show.
Next there was “The Fast and the Furious” and “xXx,” catapulting Diesel to the upper echelons of pop culture and giving him carte blanche to take his “Pitch Black” character and build a sci-fi universe around him.
Not unlike “Star Wars” getting officially retitled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” the first movie became “The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black” as Diesel enthusiastically told MTV News shortly before he started shooting the big-budget epic. “I’m ecstatic about the size and the support of the studio to really create this mythology,” he said in 2003, detailing plans for at least two more sequels beyond “Chronicles.”
“The Chronicles of Riddick” made just $57 million at the domestic box office, but video games, shorts and other forms of media (all benefiting from Diesel’s continued participation) kept the character alive. Now with Diesel back on top with “The Fast and Furious” franchise getting bigger and bigger, a voice role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and all the rest of it, Diesel was able to get his original bad boy back in space.
The rest of the weekend box office should see three-time champion “The Butler” finally relegated to #2, Spanish-language hit “Instructions Not Included” upgraded on the charts as it expands into more theaters and continued success for “We’re the Millers” and Disney’s “Planes.”
One Direction documentary “This is Us” will likely drop out of the top five during its second weekend, while “This is the End” should crack $100 million thanks to a rerelease from Sony.