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Chronicles of Riddick, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Riddick, the violent anti-hero first introduced in “Pitch Black,” returns in an all-new blistering movie, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” by creator/writer/director David Twohy. This time, Riddick is the key to the fates of several worlds and has a mysterious past revealed that viewers of the first movie could never have guessed at.

At first blush, “Pitch Black” comes across as an SF film. But by the end of that film, Riddick confronts some of the bloodthirstiest monsters ever revealed in cinema and “Pitch Black” becomes, for all intents and purposes, a horror movie with SF overtones. “The Chronicles of Riddick” remains SF all the way through. In fact, this sequel proves to be a galaxy-spanning romp that is pure adrenaline-charged fun.
Twohy offers a caveat at the beginning of the movie, warning viewers that the additional material spooned into this version may cause some noticeable video changes. Whatever changes there may be are slight.

Chapter 1 introduces the Necromongers, the vast army on the move across the galaxy on their way to some mysterious place called the Underverse. As they pass, they convert or kill all who cross their path. The stunning visual effects are accompanied by sensational audio effects. When the planet blows up in the first chapter, the appropriate “whoosh” of noise follows each detonation. The CGI work in the movie is absolutely spot-on and wakes the viewer up to a sensory feast in the offing.

Chapter 2 kicks into high gear, showing the action-adventure elements that go into so much of the movie. Riddick leaps across a maze-like terrain on a frozen world with a ship of mercenaries hot on his tail. As the ship swoops, from left to right across the screen, the sound peals through the surround sound system, ripping through the left front speaker, the center speaker(s), and the right speaker, thumping the subwoofer solidly.

The camera viewpoint shifts are amazing, drawing the viewer into the action. Riddick nearly gets nailed by the metal nets fired from the ship, suffers a wound, and leads the mercenaries after him into a chasm filled with treacherous natural stone bridges. The action comes fast and furious, but every viewer in the audience who loves action flicks is going to be cheering Riddick on.

Riddick defeats the mercenaries and finds out that the person who put the price on his head was from New Mecca. Shifting storylines, the tale picks up with a violent young woman (Alexa Davalos), seemingly more animal than human, who has been captured by other mercs. The howls and snarls of the creatures trapped in the cargo bay with her fill the surround sound system. But another piece of the overall puzzle has been introduced with a bang. Later in this chapter, Riddick has the first of several flashbacks that talk about his home planet, Furia. The viewers learn about the tragic fate of the planet and the prophecy that has been made regarding the destroyer of that world. The ship’s re-entry into New Mecca’s atmosphere roars through the surround sound system. As the spaceport patrol’s ship careens through the air, the sound whips through the right speaker to the center to the left, mimicking the motion. Likewise, the landing reverses that and makes us feel as though we are standing on the sidelines watching.

New Mecca comes across as a fully-developed Moslem planet, complete with African heat and sand dunes, in Chapter 4. The CGI is awesome, elevating the movie into blockbuster quality. Riddick knows that Imam (Keith David), the holy man he saved in the last movie, is the only person who could have located him for the mercenaries. Riddick has killed several people and has a large outstanding bounty on his head. Imam tells Riddick about the Necromongers and the comet that precedes them. He gave Riddick’s location to the mercenaries in the hopes that Riddick would come to him and help him against the enemy.

In Chapter 5, the Elemental, Aereon (Judi Dench), who has news of the Necromongers, puts in a series of appearances. Imam and Aereon talk about the prophecy of the Furian survivor who will bring down the Lord Marshal and the Necromongers. Riddick doesn’t intend to fight, but Imam reminds him of how he left the young girl Jack to her fate as well and it halts him in his tracks. Riddick’s question, “You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?” leads up to a lightning-quick display of the frenzied battle and death-dealing that will make up much of the movie. The sounds of flesh slamming into flesh, of weapon striking weapon, pours through the surround sound system.

The battle for the planet in Chapter 6 hammers the surround sound system with thumping beats. Just as quickly, the music score throbs to life, providing a heavy downbeat to enhance the action. The destruction of the city is awesome. Roaring winds pummel the speakers. The tense music as Riddick gazes up at the immense starship is only a prelude to the sounds of blasting fighter engines and explosions. The viewer gets deluged by the onslaught of noise pummeling him or her from every quarter.

As the movie progresses, Riddick ultimately has no choice but to go head-to-head with the Necromongers and the Lord Marshal (Linus Roache). Battle sequences and derring-do mount, upping the stakes constantly, and Riddick’s cool warrior-guy status explodes as he and Davalos’ Kyra (who used to be the girl named Jack) first fight each other and then team up to fight together.

Ultimately, “The Chronicles of Riddick” proves to be a B-movie gone high-tech and high-treatment. The architecture of the back story, the characters and the worlds, along with the look of the movie, are definitely light years ahead of most. The plot has a number of holes (in fact, the whole Underverse is never once explained as being more than something other than life), but the headlong pacing and action sequences make every SF and action movie fan willing to suspend belief and sit back to enjoy the ride.

The special features on the DVD offer a lot in the way of added value. The commentary offered by the director and the actors are well worth the price of the disc. Slipping the disc into the XBox allows the buyer to play the first level of the video game based on the movie franchise. As always, the special effects features enable the viewer to get a better grasp of the movie-making process.

SF and action movie fans will delight in this movie. It’s pure popcorn entertainment with a ton of special effects thrown in. Also, Riddick is the perfect anti-hero with a victimized past and a kick-ass attitude that those viewers love to cheer on. Pick it up and guarantee over two hours of rollicking action for a Friday or Saturday night. Recommended for teens and up based on the violent content.

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