Directed by David Twohy
Produced by Vin Diesel and Ted Field
Written by David Twohy, and based on characters written by Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
This is an example of what I call ‘Christianity in Film – Type 2′, where Christian symbolism, motif and references are used throughout the film. For example there may be a Bible used by a character, or symbol of the cross present. Possibly even characters named after a Biblical namesake in order to emphasize their role in the story. Also in this category we may see references to prayer, prophecy or angels.
Disclaimer: All examples of ‘Christianity in Film’ are of films NOT marketing themselves as ‘Christian films’.
Spoiler alert: May contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet.
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
This 3rd installment of the ‘Riddick’ films includes our anti-hero battling and killing a whole lot of strange beasts, and then later doing the same with humans. The premise of this film is that Riddick has lost his edge and needs to go into the wilderness to regain his animal side again. He needs to begin again, or as stated by both Riddick and Santana, it is time that “we zero this out”.
This R rated film contains a good selection of graphic killings, female nudity and ‘f-bombs’. So quite a surprise to discover several instances of where ‘Christianity’ appears throughout the film. However the references to Christianity are there nevertheless.
Where is ‘Christianity’ in this movie?
1. When the first group of bounty hunters arrive, we see them quickly preparing their combat gear, just before they land on the planet. As one of the crew dresses, we clearly see him strap a Bible to the front of his outfit. It is obviously a Bible – an old looking book with ‘Holy Bible’ written on the cover.
2. A minute or so later we see that the Bible belongs to the young ‘greenhorn’ of the troupe, Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), who is shown wearing the Bible as he talks to his boss, Santana (Jordi Molla), on the ship.
3. Luna is instructed to set a prisoner free who they have captive on the ship. He does so, but unfortunately for this abused female prisoner, Santana shoots her dead as she runs off. We see Luna react shocked and full of compassion. He places his hands on his Bible for comfort.
4. In the abandoned human outpost there is a first-aid cupboard which is indicated by the giant Red Cross painted across it. Sure, these days we know this is the symbol for first-aid as per the 1864 Geneva Convention, but in the film they could have just as easily used the Red Crescent or Red Crystal symbol – but they chose the cross, which also represents Christianity.
5. After two crew members die, (the first of Riddick’s victims), Luna opens his Bible, as some of the remaining crew stand over the bodies. Santana comes along and instructs him to, “Say something Bible-like over these bodies.”
6. Included in the 2nd troupe of bounty hunters, (the sort-of good guys), is Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), an attractive but tough female soldier. Santana likes her but she tells him that she, “..don’t @#!$ guys”, and so he calls her a lesbian. The audience is left to believe that she is one. After she finishes showering, she leans over the basin and we see what appears to be an old faded tattoo. The tattoo, on her upper left shoulder, is of a Christian cross with a love heart at the center of it. This implies that at some stage in her past she has had some kind of Christian faith, which she has long since lost. It also may indicate that she is not a lesbian, as Santana would have us believe, but is simply celibate, abstinent – like a nun perhaps?
7. During a very tense scene Santana opens a locker which they believe Riddick (Vin Diesel), has booby-trapped. During this moment Luna is seen praying out loud.
8. After the locker is opened and they discover it was not booby-trapped at all, Luna speaks out, essentially giving a prophecy to the rest of the group: “I believe this is a sign. It may be that the good Lord wants us to take these nodes and flee this planet just as soon as we can.” But of course, like all good prophets, his warning is ignored by all.
9. This one I’m a little sketchy on, but… The main antagonist, Santana, is the extreme ultimate bad guy, and he appears to be portrayed in some ways as the devil. Perhaps this is because Santana sounds a bit like Satan – which wouldn’t be quite correct as Santana is a derivative of ‘Saint Anne’, the apocryphal Grandmother of Jesus Christ. However having pointed out that inconsistency, there are a couple of specific examples which lead me to believe that this character is supposed to be a ‘Satan-type’ character. Firstly, leader of the ‘good guys troupe’ Boss Johns (Matt Nable), says, “Because everyone you know by name Santana, winds up dead.” The ‘know by name’ bit may be an opposite reference to Christ’s ‘Book of Life’ which has everyone’s name in it who will live forever. (see Luke 10:20 & Revelations 20:15). Secondly Santana gets decapitated toward the end of the film, which may be a loose reference to Genesis 3:14-15 & Romans 16:20 where Satan’s head is ‘crushed’.
10. After Riddick decapitates Santana, the group goes to retrieve the power nodes, but find themselves in a mess of “Mud Demons” (scorpion type beasts). Luna quotes directly from Psalm 91:11 saying, “For He shall give His angels charge over me.” He says that he thinks the angels are here protecting him, and that maybe they’ll deliver us all.
11. Riddick then says, “And kid – leave God out of this, He wants no part in what happens next.” Then all hell breaks loose. However the film ends with those who may have once had, or do have a faith in God, the only survivors by the end of the film. The viewer is left to ask, did angels deliver them after all?
It would be interesting to chat to the producers of this film to clarify why on earth they had so much Christian symbolism in this R rated Sci-fi action thriller. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason they needed it, but it is there. To me this story, set way into our future, implies that the Christian faith has survived not only this far into the future, but this far out into space. It indicates that there is nowhere and nothing that can separate us from God’s love. Which leads me to conclude that the Controlling Idea of this film is Romans 8:38-39.
Christian filmmakers – should we be making films like ‘Riddick’?
Pastors – I dare you to use this film in one of your sermon illustrations!