The sequel “Riddick:” It had to happen sometime
A sequel to “The Chronicles of Riddick,” from 2004, simply titled “Riddick,” is being released in theaters this Sept. 6. That gives me an opportunity to praise the original “Chronicles,” a sci-fi film that I have recommended to anyone who would listen.
“Chronicles” is itself a sequel to the lesser “Pitch Black” (from 2000) that introduced Vin Diesel’s Riddick. Even without the excitingly choreographed action sequences, of which there are many, “Chronicles” is way ahead of most science fiction films in terms of story, sets, characters, performances and memorable snappy dialogue. In “Pitch Black,” Riddick saved shipped-wrecked survivors on a planet from pterodactyl-like monsters that only come out during one of the planet’s long, pitch-black nights. Riddick, a violent fugitive, is able to see in the dark because eyes that were surgically-altered while he was imprisoned.
Picking up years after “Pitch Black,” “Chronicles” begins with the always outstanding Judi Dench, as Aereon, a member of the Elemental race:
“They are an army unlike any other... crusading across the stars toward a place called UnderVerse, their promised land — a constellation of dark, new worlds. Necromongers, they’re called. And if they cannot convert you, they will kill you.”
In an exciting opening sequence, Riddick is running across ridges of an ice planet chased by the Mercenaries, or “mercs,” in a rattling spaceship. He disposes of the mercs one by one (absolutely don’t miss the “You made three mistakes” speech to the merc leader) and takes off in their ship.
Riddick heads to Helion Prime because he has been hired by a holy man, named Imam, who needs Riddick to save Helion Prime from the Necromongers.
Riddick arrives on Helion Prime just before invasion of Necromongers. Told about the end-of-the-universe threat, Riddick says: “Had to end sometime.”
The Necromonger’s Lord Marshal, menacingly played by Colm Feore, along with his ambitious chief lieutenant Vaako (powerfully played by Karl Urban), his even more ambitious wife Dame Vaako (a sexy Thandie Newton), and the religious Purifier, philosophically played by Linus Roache, are shows by themselves. The Lord Marshal literally rips the soul from a Helion Prime survivor in a wonderfully done special effects display and warns others, “Convert now or fall forever.”
Vaako is a terribly efficient warrior that pledges to the Lord Marshal, “Obedience without question. Loyalty until UnderVerse come,” but is prompted to betrayal by Dame Vaako, of whom Riddick says, “It’s been a long time since I smelled beautiful.”
The great characters don’t end with the “Necros,” as Riddick calls them. There is the aptly named merc leader Toombs, roguishly played by Nick Chinlund, who recaptures Riddick from the Necros and transports him to the underground penal colony that’s 700 degrees during the daytime (aptly named Crematoria), about which Toombs says: “If I owned this place and Hell, I’d rent this place out and live in Hell.” There are the ruthlessly tough and sweaty guards and equally ruthless tough and sweaty prisoners, among them Kyra, another survivor of “Pitch Black.” Kyra, sensitively played by Alexa Davalos, was just a girl in the first film and idealized Riddick. But she thinks he abandoned her and, left to make her own way, became an adept killer and despised merc. They get over their differences and join forces, battle prisoners, during which Riddick kills a prisoner with a tea cup (not a typo), and lead an escape from Crematoria involving a wild scramble before the day breaks with its 700-degree temperature.
The Necromonger motto is “You keep what you kill,” so the premise for a sequel was firmly established. However, it did not happen right away. So I had to be satisfied by periodic cable showings. (I never got into other Vin Diesel movies, like the endless “Fast and Furious” crashes — which is up to seven so far.) I liked the “Chronicles of Riddick” so much that I was surprised when others didn’t, and even more surprised when the September sequel was announced. To be sure, the “Chronicles of Riddick” is not perfect, a bit anachronistic and hokey in parts, but it shines as much as Riddick’s eyes.
The “Riddick” sequel is again directed by David Twohy and Vaako is back, but I don’t know anything more than what’s on the web. I hope that Vin Diesel hasn’t aged too much in the nine years.
But, to paraphrase the Necros, “you keep what you watch,” so I am looking forward to it.