A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Chronicles of Riddick

August 20, 2011

The Chronicles of Riddick

Now with this movie, at least, I know how much is David Twohy and how much is Ken and Jim Wheat. I can state with a fair degree of certainty that virtually all of this movie is David’s. My uncles only get a credit at the start saying this is based on characters created by them. What David has done here, to varying degrees of success, is build a grand epic adventure around Riddick. It has a huge marauding invading army that swarms like locusts over planets. Riddick is given a back-story that involves an entire civilization wiped out because of a prophesy. There’s a big daring escape from a deadly prison planet. And of course there’s an awful lot of badassery.

This is a completely different movie from the first Riddick film. It’’s not at all a horror or survival movie. Sure, it still has Riddick, and Vin Deisel continues to do a fantastic job of playing him as this righteous force of nature that lives by his own rules and cannot be stopped even by a vast army, but the entire mood of the film is a radical departure.

The movie starts out with a bounty hunter tracking Riddick down where he’s been hiding out on some remote ice world. This bounty hunter, Tooms, completely underestimates Riddick of course, and ends up getting his ass kicked. Riddick steals Tooms’ ship and flies off to New Mecca to politely ask his old friend the Imam from the first movie just how it is that bounty hunters have discovered his location. Here’s where it gets a little complicated. Imam has been working with an air elemental named Aereon to try and defend his adopted homeworld from a massive invading army. Aereon believes that Riddick is the key to defeating these Necromongers, who are led by a half-dead prophet who claims to have come back from a place called the Underverse as something more than human. So it was Imam who told the bounty hunters where to find Riddick in the hopes that he would come and stop the invasion.

Riddick wants none of it. He decides instead to rescue the only other survivor from the first movie, Jack, from the supermax prison she’s gotten herself locked up in. It’s a ball of hell where the sun melts the day side of the planet into lava and the night side is ice cold. Deep underground in a system of caves the prison is a chaotic place where the inmates fight constantly amongst themselves. Riddick conspires to allow Tooms to capture him so he can go to this prison planet (thus escaping from the Necromongers, who are intrigued by Riddick’s strength and are hunting him.)

The prison planet scenes are the best part of the movie. Jack has grown up into a badass in her own right calling herself Kyra now, and together she and Riddick get to play their favorite game “who’s the better killer.” There’s very much a sense in the prison that, as with Rorschach before him, he is not locked up with them – they are locked up with him. It becomes clear that Riddick has a plan for everything and is several steps ahead of everybody else all the time. In addition to being a guy capable of killing a man with a teacup.

Meanwhile there’s intrigue amongst the Necromongers. Vaako, the second in command and staunchly loyal supporter of the half-dead Lord Marshal is being manipulated by his mistress to attempt to take the throne for himself. They think that they can somehow use Riddick to achieve this end.

This is a beautiful movie, as is the first one. David Twohy has a great visual flare and works well with all the digital effects at his command here. I particularly like the design of the many Necromonger troops like their half-psychic bloodhounds with their green lit face masks. Another great plus for this movie is the astonishing cast. Vin Diesel is of course perfect as Riddick, the character he was born to play. Then there are big stars like Judi Dench and Thandie Newton as the air elemental and the conniving Necormonger mistress. Karl Urban, with his furrowed brow and pinched lips, is absolutely perfect for the role of Vaako. Everywhere you look it’s a familiar face in a cool role.

I have to say that the pacing of this movie is a little odd. It’s as though there are two movies here trying to occupy the same space. There’s the daring prison break and rescue of Kyra, which is by far my favorite part of the film. Then there’s the epic tale of Riddick defeating the vast army of the Necromongers, which is cool enough, but feels as if it’s slightly too large and epic to be contained in a single movie.

This movie borrows liberally from other genres. The entire defeat of the Necromongers and the last shot of Riddick on the throne is taken directly from Conan. The slaughtering of an entire race to stop a prophesy is one of the oldest legends in the human storybook (right up there with the man doing battle with a son raised by his enemies.) The backstabbing (litterally) and intrigue amongst the Necromongers feels familiar from a hundred tales of corruption within regimented societies. I love this film though. It combines everything into something stylish and cool, even if it isn’t new.

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August 20, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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