Directed by: David Twohy
Written by: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Colm Feore, Linus Roache, Keith David
Ambition, no matter the size, deserves recognition, especially in the form of filmmaking. I appreciate this the most in science-fiction and fantasy because of what can be achieved when these worlds expand. The Chronicles of Riddick stands as one of the most hilarious examples of taking something that worked and stretching it out far longer than it had any right, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it.
Mercilessly chased by bounty hunters, Riddick (Vin Diesel) finds out who put out the latest hit on him. This takes him to Helion Prime, where he meets with Imam again (Keith David). As Riddick learns of the remnants of his people, a group of religious zealots called Necromancers invade Helion Prime to complete their mission to convert or kill every living thing in the galaxy.
The jump this franchise makes from Pitch Black to this film boggles my mind to no end to the point where I respect the ambition involved with the decision. With the first film being a simple survival movie of a fugitive and his captors on an alien planet turns into an expansion of an entire galaxy, religious zealots, and prophecies. If not for Riddick and a few other characters reprising their roles, there’s no way you could connect these two films. Even with its flaws, I appreciate it not trying to be a carbon copy of its predecessor and truly going for something different and engaging.
This film falls into the beloved “Films I had a DVD of when young and watched many times” category of my reviews. Sure, flaws exist in this feature but I still enjoy the cheesy moments and the expansion of this world. In Pitch Black, Riddick was a captive for being a killer and he had the cool ability of being able to see in the dark. With the expansion, we learn he may be the last of an ancient race believed to be extinct at this point. Quite the jump, certainly, along with the villain of the story being responsible for the genocide of Riddick’s people because of a prophecy that a young man from this race would kill the Necromancer leader. The religious allegory becomes quite obvious there with King Herod.
As the trailer says, this does not attempt to make this story simply about good vs. evil. Without counting people like Imam, everyone in this feature is pretty rotten with their intentions and what they seek to achieve in this world. They can all be seen as a form of evil and the film posits that perhaps the best way to take down the ultimate evil would be to utilize a more minor version. The good old’ classic “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Even as being touted as the hero of this story, Riddick still practices his selfish tendencies while also showing a glimmer of compassion. In the end, it becomes about which terrible person survives to the end.
Within this ever-expanding galaxy, I enjoyed the character each of the planets had and what made them stand out. You have Helion Prime, which serves a bustling world but then there’s Crematoria as a planet composed of half earth and half sun. You seriously do not want to get caught when the sun comes up, as no amount of sunscreen will take care of you there. Each planet outside of Helion Prime appears to be on a mission to kill its human inhabitants, or maybe they were never made for humans and we have no purpose being there.
While this film would never fully dive into the idea fully, it does set up a bit of a standoff of what may be considered the struggle of American colonialism and imperialism in the Middle East. The Necromongers arrive and have the mission to convert or kill every person there. Looking back at the time of the American occupation of Iraq, it came with the guise of trying to form a democracy, which in a way serves as its own form of conversion. Those who dissented did not last long as America decided what would be best for this nation. The demographics of the Necromongers and the people of Helion Prime make the comparison even more apparent.
Vin Diesel certainly enjoys this franchise because it’s the one where he remains the sole star. The Fast & Furious films have seen others rise to the top with him, but he’s the complete focal point in the Riddick films. Back in 2004, he utilized this role to show off his incredible shape, which really worked. He also delivers lines I can quote to this day because of the sheer amount of times I have ingested this movie. The character of Riddick sure knows how to kill people and the death by teacup scene manages a level of ridiculousness with the awesomeness of displaying the power this man possesses. He stands out as the only person in the film with no larger motive in the grand scheme. The Necromongers want to take over, those opposing them want to save their world, and the mercenaries care about money. Then you have Riddick who just happens to be passing through. The lack of motive makes him more dangerous in a sense.
I fully acknowledge the bevy of flaws others have thrown at this film and it’s deserved, but I appreciate the sheer ambition of expanding this series of movies. Sure, some of the plot seems choppy but overall it displays a world where everyone acts in their own self-interest no matter the allegiances they have built with others. No one here will receive an acting award but I enjoy the characters and the self-seriousness they bring to this truly kooky story. I am not here to defend The Chronicles of Riddick or even recommend it, but I will always have a soft spot for it.