Chronicles of Riddick
Sequels, although a main stay of the Hollywood studios, are a strange thing, they are made to exceed the original but rarely do. As such, when viewing a sequel it is often best to consider it on its own merits rather than constantly comparing to the first film. This was the mind set I had to adopt while watching the Chronicles of Riddick. The only similarities between Chronicles and the film that spawned it, Pitch Black, is a handful of characters. Those that have reviewed this film as Pitch Black 2 would most likely be disappointed, but, as a glass half full kind of guy, I prefer to see it as a Saturday night Sci-Fi action flick. There are some rules with this specific genre of film, among the most important is the expository scenes are for getting popcorn, the action sequences are what really matters. Donít worry about missing something important and not understanding the film, the actual story line is unfortunately muddled enough but the action drives and sustains this flick. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing, a lot of films I enjoy again and again fit into this category. After all sometimes you just have to shut off that thinking portion of your brain and enjoy watching really fit people fight it out in novel and incredible ways.
Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a killing machine, a man that sees a hundred against him as odds in his favor. He is also outfitted with special eye implants that allow him to see in the dark and require his wearing really cool goggles in the light. Riddick is also a hunted man, an escaped convict and all round really bad guy. This is not a tale good versus evil, its more evil versus really, really evil as Riddick is forced to take on the dreaded Necromongers. The Necromogers are sort of if the Borg went on a religious crusade instead adding technological implants, they believe in the Underverse, a place where the dead that embrace their ways will live again after the present universe is destroyed. You can either convert or die. The head Necromonger is the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore) who commands a vast, completely obedient army. Well not completely obedient, one in is ranks Vakko (Karl Urban) and his politically ambitious wife (Thandie Newton) who wants to see her husband kill the Lord Marshall and take the throne. While this does smack of Shakespeare with the wife using her womanly wiles to induce her husband to action, this theme gets lost. There are too many themes that intersect here. There is a look at the prison system, religion, and the ephemeral creatures called Elementals such as Areon (Dame Judi Dench) who moves by turning into mist. The underlying feel of the film was similar to that of Dune, the lavish sets, the influence of Islamic style and the undertones of religious fervor.
You do not go to see a Vin Diesel flick for the acting. There is little chance you will see him in a tux accepting the Best Acting Oscar. His films are for action, non-stop, gut wrenching action. To this end he delivers in excellent form. Diesel is a mass of muscle that takes on unthinkable odds and the audience sits back amazed. A group of men armed with automatic weapons, no problem, a ghost like foe that moves like the wind, simple, his presentation of Riddick delivers the action. There is even a bit of girl power here with Alexa Davalosí portrayal of Kyra. This character held over from Pitch Black originally disguised herself as a boy but here she is a buff and lethal young woman. She is the only one that has bonded with Riddick and can keep up with him as the body count constantly increases. Thandie Newton has the only real acting chore here as the deceptive wife. She plots and schemes to advance her husband and is perfect for the role. Colm Feore is one of those actors that shows up in the least likely places but always takes his role seriously, committed to his part no matter what it is. As for Dame Judi Dench, I donít know what they promised her to get her in this film but as always she adds a touch of class to any production.
David Twohy took his favorite characters from Pitch Black ad created the Chronicles. His style of writing and direction is imaginative although you can see the various influences others have had on his work. His visual style is ingenious, contrasting the hot colors such as yellows and reds with the utter blackness of night. He has a grand vision of action films; his sets are elaborate and visually interesting. Twohy knows how to direct action. He sets up the situation, gives the impression there is no way out and then lets Riddick loose to do his thing. He paces this film well; the action is never far off. Sure there is a little talking to get out of the way but the film starts with a fight and builds one battle on the next.
The unrated directorís cut is the way to go for this film. Watered down to a PG-13 for theatrical release the action is diluted, but with this DVD release you get everything you expect and more. The anamorphic 2.40:1 video is awesome. The color palette is clear and reflects the directorial decisions to push the colors for effects. There are no artifacts present, especially with the extremely fast camera action. The Dolby 5.1 is near perfect, better than a lot of action flicks I have recently reviewed. The rear speakers enfold you, drawing you in the middle of the action. The sub woofer is in almost constant use. Even when there is a fairly quite moment the low hum of the space ship can be felt through the sub. There are two ways to view the film, both the extended cut. With one version there is a little jump at the point where the additional scenes where spliced in, interesting but I hardly noticed the difference. The extras are well done for this type of film. There is a commentary by Twohy that goes into the tribulation of the production. A scene specific trivia track is great for subsequent viewings and was entertaining. Get this for the action, invite some friends to watch and enjoy.