Bigger isn't always better, but for anyone who enjoyed Pitch Black, a nominal sequel like The Chronicles of Riddick should prove adequately entertaining. Writer-director David Twohy returns with expansive sets, detailed co... more »stumes, an army of CGI effects artists, and the star he helped launch--Vin Diesel--bearing his franchise burden quite nicely as he reprises his title role. The Furian renegade Riddick has another bounty on his head, but when he escapes from his mercenary captors, he's plunged into an epic-scale war waged by the Necromongers. A fascist master race led by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), they're determined to conquer all enemies in their quest for the Underverse, the appeal of which is largely unexplained (since Twohy is presumably reserving details for subsequent "chronicles"). With tissue-thin plotting, scant character development, and skimpy roles that waste the talents of Thandie Newton (as a Necromonger conspirator) and Judi Dench (as a wispy "Elemental" priestess), Twohy's back in the B-movie territory he started in (with The Arrival), brought to vivid life on a vast digital landscape with the conceptual allure of a lavish graphic novel. But does Riddick have leadership skills on his resumé? To get an answer to that question, sci-fi fans will welcome another sequel. --Jeff Shannon« less
Michael J. Tresca | Fairfield, CT USA | 06/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Chronicles of Riddick is the continuing story of Riddick (Vin Diesel), the bald-headed, night seeing convict who escaped from prison and was ultimately so tough that he could beat up aliens with just a knife. Given that the first movie was called Pitch Black, Riddick's peculiar eyes lent him a particular advantage - both against his captors and the aliens that inhabited the planet.On the surface, one could summarize Pitch Black as an Aliens knockoff. But it was so much more than that. Just as Aliens was more than about soldiers blowing up aliens, Pitch Black was about how people hide behind who they really are and that people don't change - they just reveal their true natures. The movie was also noteworthy for being a science fiction film that portrayed Muslim beliefs in a positive light and as the dominant religion.Keeping those elements in mind, the Chronicles of Riddick (TCOR) is the logical extension of the first movie, even though it doesn't involve many aliens or all that much darkness. No, TCOR stays true to its characters and appeals to what made the first movie so much fun - Riddick's bad, sure...but the bad guys are even WORSE.Those bad guys are the Necromongers, a race bent on the total conversion of the universe to the "Underverse" - sort of an anti-Mecca. The Necromongers aren't just bad guys; they're an entire style. Statues abound of torture and self-mutilation. The Necromonger ships have faces built into their hulls of the uncaring tyrant known only as Lord Marshal. Everything, from the staves the captains wield to the weapons of mass destruction the Necromongers use to obliterate planets - it all fits. The Necromonger ships even hum along on roiling clouds of black energy.The troops match the architecture. Their helmets model the pain and suffering they believe in. Undead watchdogs, their faces encased in strange helmets, "lens" out the living, seeing through darkness and right through walls. Those who are caught are converted to "half-dead," uncaring soldiers in service to Lord Marshal. The most powerful Necromongers can steal a person's soul right out of their bodies.In short, the Necromongers are really cool bad guys.If the Necromongers seem familiar to some, it's because they're modeled after the concept of a negative energy universe that so many Dungeons & Dragons players are familiar with. Vin Diesel is a self-professed gamer and his roots show - heck, Judi Dench plays an "air elemental." Nobody uses an air elemental in a sci-fi context these days unless they're a gamer.Unfortunately, this assumption may lose those who aren't sci-fi fans, gamers, or fantasy fans. Indeed, many of the criticisms of the movie is that it's too confusing. My parents (who admittedly, raised me to be the gaming freak that I am) understood the plot just fine, and they are not gamers.If the plot were merely about the Necromonger's quest to take over the universe, it would make for a rather feeble rip off of the Borg from Star Trek. Instead, Riddick is prophesized to kill the Lord Marshal, and as a result his second in command (played by Karl Urban, of Eomer fame from Lord of the Rings) along with his scheming wife plot to bring about the conflict.Why? Because the Necromonger way of life (er, death?) is "You Keep What You Kill." In other words, whoever kills the Lord Marshal gets to take over the entire legion of Necromongers.Of course, Riddick wants nothing to do with his fate as one of the last members of a race known as the "Furions." The Furions have been all but wiped out by the Necromongers. But Lord Marshal is to be killed by his own knife by Riddick...so bounty hunters are once again on his trail.Being on the lam is not a good way to raise a kid. Riddick has long since left the Imam on New Mecca and Jack (the kid from Pitch Black) to her own devices. When the Necromongers finally back Riddick into a corner, he discovers there's no escaping the bad guys...or his past.TCOR is filled with a lot of important relationships, commentary about the nature of evil, snide swipes at religious institutions, free thought, and morality. It also has plenty of action. Instead of running across a pitch-black planet, Riddick must traverse a burning planet aptly named Crematoria.With the majesty of the Necromongers and the amount of planet hopping that takes place, digital effects are rife throughout the movie. These are expected - indeed, the movie would be unwatchable without the effects, some of which are integral to the plot. The most subtle effect is Riddick's eyes, that shine like silver plates in the darkness.Critics of the film have pointed out that Lord Marshal does not appear to be a physical match for Riddick. That's kind of like saying "The Emperor doesn't seem like he can take Luke Skywalker in a duel." The physical presence of Lord Marshal is not the point. He is the only one to have touched the Underverse and upon doing so acquired incredible power. He SHOULD look like a "normal guy."The Chronicles of Riddick is a good old-fashioned science fiction ride across the universe in the tradition of Conan (especially the ending). The movie will only seem confusing to people who are not familiar with gaming and fantasy tropes...and thus critics and boring people SHOULD NOT SEE IT.But for the rest of us...watch it, then watch Pitch Black again. They make an excellent pair."
You keep what you kill
Schtinky | California | 12/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even if I have to apologize to my Friends and Favorites, and my family, I have to admit that I really liked this movie. It's a Sci-Fi movie with a "Mad Maxx" appeal that, while changing many things, left Riddick from `Pitch Black' to be just Riddick. They did not change his attitude or soften him up or bring him out of his original character, which was very pleasing to `Pitch Black' fans like myself.
First off, let me say that when playing the DVD, the first selection to come up is Convert or Fight, and no explanation of the choices. This confused me at first, so I will mention off the bat that they are simply different menu formats, that each menu has the very same options, simply different background visuals. Select either one and continue with the movie.
Chronicles Of Riddick takes place after Riddick's escape from the planet of monsters on Pitch Black, starting out with his recapture after being in hiding for many years. Now we are going to get a glimpse of just what is going on in the universe during the futuristic time frame of `Pitch Black'.
A large sect of religious fanatics called Necromongers are moving from planet to planet, converting others to their faith and killing those who will not convert. Necromongers are half-dead beings from many different original planets, kind of like Star Trek's Borgs except they do not loose their individuality when they are converted. Some are made into "Lensors", very cool effect of once-humans with these round blue shields over their faces, under which their faces look a little skeletal and decomposed.
Riddick gets caught up with the Necromongers after he is taken to the prison planet of Crematoria, where daylight, rather than nightfall, is the killer. Here he finds a grown up Jack (the girl from Pitch Black), now using her real name of Kyra. The girl Jack was a strong addition to Pitch Black, the adult Kyra is rather whiney and annoying, and my one complaint would be that they should have done better with Jack's development. He has to escape Crematoria and help Jack off the planet also.
Truthfully, the entire plot is Riddick running from people who want to capture him, but it's still a good movie made interesting with the addition of the half-dead race. The Lady Vaako of the Necromongers is a very `Cleopatra' type of character, with her own Marc Anthony in the form of Vaako, one of the Lord Marshal's fiercest warriors.
In some of the scenes the Necromongers almost come across like Televangelists, wanting converts so badly, and desiring entire populations to kneel before them. Just a funny comparison to mull over while you watch. There is also an Elemental in the movie, a race of beings who can phase in and out of dimensions, whose job it seems to be not to inform the Necromongers but to distract them from Riddick, at least that is the feeling that I got.
The special effects of this movie make up for the slower parts about three quarters of the way through the movie, stunning visuals of cities that are half gothic and half futuristic, great flight scenes (including a cool shot of the underbelly of one of the ships), the sunrise over the planet Crematoria is spectacular (but not quite as good as the nightfall effect in Pitch Black), the power going out all over the city, the half metal-half squishy mind readers, and that is barely skimming the effects.
The costume and set designs are visually stunning, well made without going too far over the top, and the editing is not as choppy as David Twohy warns us about at the beginning of the Director's Cut.
My one other problem is that with a loss of midrange hearing, I had to use the English Subtitles to hear some of the conversations, so if you are slightly hard of hearing you will want to use that feature. The battles are rapid and a bit confusing during the use of strobe lighting, but that is what the slow-mo button is for. ;-)
All in all, this is a pleasing sci-fi adventure movie, not to be confused with a work of art or a lesson in any socially redeeming values. It is good old-fashioned fun and a relief to us sci-fi fans who tire of critics blathering on about how sci-fi and fantasy are not worthy forms of entertainment. These are the same critics who thought The English Patient was a good movie. (gag)
As the Necromongers say, "Humans are an unguided mistake." Enjoy the movie! "
Sometimes Bad Is Really, Really Good
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 06/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My mind hasn't been boggled in a while -> The very first StarWars did me in, and then various parts of The Lord of the Ring years later. Other than that I'm not one who stares at the screen in awe of special effects. In fact, the bore me very quickly. What I likes about the original Riddick film, Pitch Black, was that, outside of the Alien knockoff monsters, there was very little in the way of large scale special effects. In many ways, it was an intimate thriller rather than a vast drama.
So I really wasn't prepared for what appeared on this screen as the film unrolled. It sneaks up on you as it opens with Riddick's attempted capture by Toombs, a bounty hunter. The irritated (and very hairy) Riddick sets out to find out who put the bounty on his head and discovers that he is being recruited to stop the conquest of space by the Necromongers. These latter are truly the knights of total badness. Their goal is entropy - the total destruction of life and rebirth onto another plane, the Underverse. The Necromongers, despite a truly heroic culture, are so bad that Vin Diesel comes up smelling like a rose.
Why hire Riddick? The theory is that sometimes you need to fight evil with a different evil. Riddick is one of the last Furyans, a people who met the Necromongers and lost. An entire male generation was destroyed right down to infants strangled with their birth cords. If anyone would want to destroy the Necromongers Riddick should. Or he would if he cared, and starting out, he doesn't. But as he walks out the Necromongers arrive. Diesel gets caught in the combat, captured by Toombs and dumped on a prison planet where he finds Kyra (who was Jack in the first film).
When the Necromongers show up again hunting for Riddick, the whole thing falls apart. Riddick, who has been pretty even tempered for a stone killer, gets really, really mad. Now it is the hunters who are hunted in a spectacular display of violence, betrayal, and architecture. Yes, I said architecture.
Whoever did the set design and effects for this film (hats off to director David Twohy) simply went insane. The planetary and prison settings were delightful on their own (imagine being chased across a planet by a sunrise that will burn you to a crisp), but the work on the Necromongers is simply amazing. They have been designed from the ground up. Clothes, armor, spaceships, interiors, culture, etc., etc., etc.
Between the effects and the settings I had to watch the film twice to notice that there really was a plot, albeit a skeletal one. And half the actors to reasonable jobs with a script of a maximum of 2,000 words. Purists who demand great art and drama may be dismayed, but this film was downright fun to watch. A sci-fi barnburner with all the stops pulled out. If you like fast, furious, and dirty, Riddick is the hero for you."
Riddick: More than the Sum
M. McMullan | North Carolina, USA | 11/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I know what some of you might be thinking: "Four Stars? Is he crazy? The movie was horrible/good/o.k., not worth Four Stars!"
To you I say: "You are entitled to your opinion."
This is a fun movie for anyone who's ever wanted a modern space opera, even if certain parts of the film certainly do not stand on their own very well. A scene here, a scene there... they seem strange, isolated, or out of place in the large context of the movie at times. I promise, though, that this film really is more than the sum of it's parts.
I understand the uneasy feeling the slightly disjointed nature of the movie's beginning can cause, and I can see why it might turn some people away, but for me the movie really began to come together after the first 45 minutes. I really, at that point, began to feel the level that the director was attempting to work on: this is a universe of adventure, where confidence and strength can give you power, where fear and uncertainty make you weak, and where the laws of physics take second rank behind the laws of dramatic movement.
Make no mistake, it's not Shakespeare and some people just can't get into the right frame of mind to enjoy this film... but if you do get there, you certainly will not be dissapointed.
The characters here fight on frigid planets, hunt soldiers in a bombed-out desert civilization's capital, do battle in draconian prisons, and defy empires... all with style and raw power, depending on what the situation demands.
An entire universe, opened like the doorway into a too-bright afternoon, is revealed and hinted at in the movie... this movie is NOT Pitch Black, but if you look at it from the right angle you can see Pitch Black's setting as the agrophobic cousin of this universe.
Conan in a space opera (paying homage in a way that The Scorpion King didn't quite manage, but with many of the same shared elements; born of a savage people, deadly in battle, one man in a huge world, destined for greatness...) is as good a way as any to describe it, whether you mean the old Conan movie or the original tales.
I give it Four Stars, and I know I'll be buying it."
Wonderful Sci Fi!
WolfMama | Florida | 06/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had no idea what to expect before I actually saw this movie. I had already seen Pitch Black and I still watch it. This is the continuation of the story of Riddick. He was found in a dumpster, as an infant, with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The question of why, is answered in this film if you watch carefully. Riddick is a Furyan, a different breed of human, born and bred for war and killing. He has been in and out of prisons almost his entire life. He has been hiding for the last five years on an uninhabited ice planet in order to protect two of the people he helped save when the Hunter Grazna crashed on a planet, and the ensuing nightmare of darkness and slaughter by the denizens of said planet.
Riddick treated like an animal in a cage for so much of his life and hardly knowing how to relate to the human race anymore, starts a slow painful journey to regain his humanity in Pitch Black and you can see his incremental steps forward with a few slips back, in this film.
That's what most reviewers forget. The entire thing is about Riddick. Everything else is icing. There are fewer words in the script, but if you recall, Riddick didn't speak for almost the first half of Pitch Black. Riddick is a thinker and a doer, not much of a talker, which is what I would expect if he had been tied up with a horse bit in his mouth for quite a long time. You have to figure out what's going on inside him. Riddick takes on the Necros because Kyra gets captured, not out the goodness of his heart. He fights the Lord Marshal to regain Kyra and to survive, not because the universe is in trouble.
He gave up his freedom voluntarily and lived like a hermit on one of the most inhospitable worlds in the known planets to protect Jack/Kyra and Imam from Mercs. The only thing that brought him out was percieved betrayal by Imam.
If you can look under the seemingly superficialness of the movie you will find quite a bit of the good stuff. The special effects are so big in the movie that you can become lost in them if you don't pay attention to the details. The special effects are great! But what I really enjoyed was watching Riddick actually continue to grow through this movie.
In previous prison escapes Riddick always escaped alone, on Crematoria he actually tried to help some of the others. He made a sacrifice of himself to go there and rescue Jack/Kyra. He had never willingly gone into a prison before, he was always escaping them.
I saw quite a bit in this film, and I haven't seen anyone else mention any of this. You can overlook a lot if you just look at the muscles and the action. I highly enjoyed this flick, it's one of the better films to come out of that year. Riddick is real, whatever else he may be, and he isn't so sweet a hero/antihero that he gves you tooth decay.
I liked everything about the film, the bad guys were original and not cookie cutter copies. The character was familiar and the story logically progressed from the last film. If Pitch Black had the kind of money in it's budget that this film had, I'll bet it would have been mind boggling.
The other thing reviewers tend to forget is that this is fiction. It's pure imagination and fantasy, just what great escapist entertainment is all about.
I want to see impossible feats, bigger than life action and all the frills that go with it. If I wanted real life, I'd stay outside the theater. I want to see the grand large sets and the great special effects, but at the same time I want good acting also. I believe everyone in this film did a credible potrayal of the characters they were playing.
After saying all that, I'll end with this.
I love this movie. I own it and Pitch Black and I watch both of them. I guess I must have watched the both of them more than twenty times already, and I'm still not tired of them yet!