Ebert: Entertainment Weekly: TV Guide:
minor plot points revealed!
It took me a while to get to this review because I saw the film while I was up in Michigan a couple weeks ago and I've been kind of busy since I got back. But I'm back now and I loved The Chronicles of Riddick just as much as I thought I would. It's a super-sweet movie that was packed with cool special effects and endless huge scale action. It is the very definition of a perfect summer movie.
I'll quickly mention a few faults of the film in case you've seen or read about it and formulated your own opinion. The Chronicles of Riddick is a sequel to the 2000 film Pitch Black. I loved Pitch Black (and I still do), as did most people who first saw it, but then over time opinion has changed and it is now regarded by many as a low budget Alien rip-off. For some reason, I thought The Chronicles of Riddick was supposed to be a prequel to Pitch Black. I didn't realize until I was actually watching the movie that it was a sequel. This doesn't really matter, especially if you knew it was a sequel or never saw the first film, but it threw off my mindset so that affected the way I saw the film. I'll probably enjoy it more the next time I see it.
Another small problem I had with the film was that it was too epic. I know this sounds weird coming from me but I just felt the story was too big to introduce, play out and resolve in one single movie. This is not to say that there can't be another sequel, there most likely will be one, but the huge scale story felt rushed. The only way I can explain this is to say imagine if The Empire Strikes Back was the first film of the Star Wars series and the film ended with Luke killing Darth Vader. It's too much for one film! There would be no explanation of The Empire - what their motivation and history was without the first Star Wars movie. Plus we wouldn't be familiar with the characters. Finally, after quickly introducing everybody and establishing a huge multi-planet intergalactic story, the film can't just end.
Lastly, Vin Diesel. Vin seems to be one of those actors who people either love or hate and opinions of any movie that he's in seem to be heavily influenced by people's personal opinions of him. I don't know him personally. From what I've read, I can assume that he's a self absorbed jerk and we probably wouldn't be friends. But who cares? I like pretty much all of his movies and I think he's a great action star. And lets not forget that he got his start working with Tom Hanks and Lord Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan where he was excellent and he was also the voice of The Iron Giant.
OK, now the story of this film is as follows: The Necromongers are a death obsessed cult who are moving through the universe conquering one civilization after another like The Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. They assimilate the people and whatever else they need from the conquered civilizations, kill anyone who doesn't willfully join them, and then quickly move on to the next. Their ultimate goal appears to be the inclusion of all people and planets in existence. Because they are a vast and skilled force, with a very established looking methodology you have to assume that they have been doing this for centuries. Unfortunately their entire history is glossed over in a few sentences of the opening narrative. At some point in the past they incorporated a race called the Furions. Riddick, the tough convict with the night vision eyes that we met in Pitch Black, is the last of the unincorporated Furions. He is also apparently the most fierce. The Necromongers are now successfully absorbing the solar system that Riddick has chosen to hide in and that also contains a couple of his "friends" from the last movie. He is eventually enlisted to single handedly take down the Necromonger threat and that is exactly what he does.
I won't go into more details because this is a thick Science Fiction story that most people will never have any interest in. If you like this kind of film then you will not be disappointed but if what I've described is already uninteresting then you had best avoid this film.
Except for the few little story problems I mentioned at the start, I loved The Chronicles of Riddick and I can't wait to see it again. I also hope that The Chronicles continue.
The special effects of the film are awesome. There is a cool new space ship flying effect on the Necromongers vessels that make for interesting viewing. The Goth Metal Nazi Hellraiser Dominatrix look of the Necromonger costumes and H.R. Giger influenced ships and architectural design are a neat visual coalescence. There is a scene, that you may have seen in the commercials, with some second rate dog-monster effects but these are only in one brief scene and are quickly forgotten. It probably would have been scarier if they had used real dogs or zombie dogs like the ones in Resident Evil.
The fight scenes are great, especially the ones featuring Riddick's friend Kyra, all grown up now from the first movie. She's one of the new breed of fighting heroines that is as dangerous as she is sexy.
Vin Diesel is great as Riddick. It is, in my opinion, the role that best defines him. Few words, lots of action. Alexa Davalos plays the girl Kyra and as I said she's beautiful and deadly. Keith David plays, Muslim cleric Abu "Imam" al-Walid, the only other survivor of Pitch Black who just happens to live with his family on the planet the Necromongers are currently assimilating. Colm Feore does a fine job as the Darth Vader type villain Lord Marshal. Thandie Newton is the wife of one of the Necromonger generals and it appears her job is to plan to overthrow the Lord Marshal and wear super sexy outfits. And finally, Judi Dench is in the movie too. I'm not sure how or why she's here but she plays a character that is a kind of spirit creature called an Elemental who seems to be either against or with the Necromongers from one scene to the next.
Overall I really liked The Chronicles of Riddick and if Sci-Fi is your thing then you will like it too. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting but I'm sure that I will like it better next time I see it. Plus I got to go see it for free thanks to my Sci-Fi Super-Nerd pal Jeff Rowland who always takes me out to the show when I come up to visit Michigan!