"You keep what you kill."
On a level with the beautiful opening to Woody Allen's Manhattan set to Gershwin, the opening sequence of The Chronicles of Riddick must be talked about at length, and like Manhattan, the visuals in "Riddick" explode like fireworks. Twohy's entire above-the-line intro. stays with me:
"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 are called, and if they cannot convert you, they will kill you. Leading them, the Lord Marshall. He alone has made a pilgrimage to the gates of the Underverse, and returned a different being—stronger, stranger—half alive, and half . . . something else. If we are to survive, a new balance must be found. In normal times evil would be fought by good, but in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil."
The opening sequence up to this 'instant' is fireworks, fireworks, then, like the delivery of a slow-motion punch, POW!
The total devastation of the planet's surface intriguingly begs the idea: Why doesn't every planet have its own life forms? Why are some lifeless? What happened to them? Something like this? Now we know what is at stake. The Necromongers are death worshippers and planet killers. This opening sequence is so creative, so detailed, so different, and delivers such impact, it's incredible to me it wasn't even nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Art Decoration/Set Decoration, or Best Effects/Visual Effects.
ENTER OUR HERO
For Pitch Black fans, the first shot of Riddick is awesome because you think, of course, he must escaping from somewhere . . . you imagine probably jail. (As it turns out, he was hiding out on a remote planet.) Across a seemingly impossible terrain to traverse, Riddick is sprinting. Chased by a small spacecraft, Riddick leaps over a landscape of fingerprint-like ridge tops of deep crevasses, leading to a cave in a ridge of jagged rock hills in the distance. An enormous sun is half up on the horizon (beauty shot). Everything is cast in shades of purple because this is a planet in the "UV System" (how cool is that!). He manages to outrun the ship of "Mercs" (mercenaries) chasing him to reach the mouth of the cave/cavern, but he gets shot in the leg with a spear. He grunts in pain as he falls. As he yanks out the spear and turns back to face the hovering ship, the first real sound he makes in the movie is a growl ("the animal side"). This growl was added in the director's cut, and without it the scene is anti-climactic that he makes it to safety. He should growl. He's wounded, and he's pissed! Now that he has stopped, he should also be sweating and panting heavily after a run like that. (I always feel it's not as convincing when someplace is supposed to be really cold but you don't see the breath of the person talking/breathing.)
Riddick takes out his double blades, and motions for the Mercs to pursue him inside the cavern (beauty shot). So we're pretty sure he's going to get away, what remains is how. . . and how is very cool.
"Tombs" the greedy head Merc pursues Riddick into the cavern even though the spacecraft barely fits through in places. In no time at all Riddick manages to cut loose the two gunmen dangling from the craft's wings. How he scoped out and climbed so quickly up to the perfect place to do this so far into the cavern has to fall under suspension of disbelief. (Who knows, maybe they were in there for hours, and maybe he just picked a spot and waited for them to fly by searching for him. The problem is, it seems like seconds. However, to draw it out would lose the momentum.) When the two remaining crew inside realize both gunmen are gone, Tombs directs his remaining underling out next. Riddick, now standing/hiding on top of the spacecraft (another beauty shot), reaches over the open doorway and tosses the last crewman out. When Tombs hears the crewman scream as he falls, he looks back to find a now-empty cargo area. In the split second that Toombs turns back around, rushing to put the craft in hover mode, and then turns back around again to unlock his seatbelt, Riddick, now sitting inside the craft near the open doorway, speaks, for the first time—the second that Toombs' hand hits the seatbelt buckle.
I had to explain so much to set up that dialog. This is the kind of dialogue action movie freaks love. Beat them, then rub their faces in it.
Toombs is the sleazy, greedy mercenary: reckless, overconfident, and not too bright. Toombs should be afraid, but isn't. The moment Toombs runs out of crewmen to sacrifice, the silence is frightening, add to that the fact that Riddick noiselessly appeared, in a calm, still, seated position. Maybe this was the only choice, but . . . "I might have gone a different way." I would have liked to see Riddick standing, bleeding from his leg, and breathing hard. When Riddick charges Toombs to get information out of him, I wished the ice in Riddick's hair was dripping, and that his breath came out like steam from an angry bull. If it showed more that Riddick was wounded and that he had really had to exert himself physically to get to that spot, it would have made the fact that he's angry so much more intense, more 'animal', more scary. I love it that when Riddick asks Toombs how much the bounty on his head is, Toombs is so stupid and greedy that he lies, as if he is already setting up the possibility of some future opportunity for him to keep some of it for himself. Nick Chinlund is awesome as Toombs. His gravelly voice is perfect too! Toombs is all about the money.
THE FURYAN SIDE
Once Riddick commandeers Toombs' ship and sets a course to "Helion Prime" find out who put the bounty on his head,
he puts himself into cryosleep. When Toombs told him which
planet the bounty was from it appeared as if Riddick
knew who was responsible, but what he didn't know was why. I loved the tie-in to Pitch Black:
BACK TO ALL THE BRIGHTNESS
When Riddick awakes from cryosleep, the approach to the Helion Prime over greeny-turquoise water and a honey-colored sandscape is more of the stuff that we love sci-fi pictures for—the beauty of strange landscapes. Helion Prime is abuzz with the news about an approaching comet and stories about the Necromongers. They don't yet know the comet is actually a cluster of death statues and Necromonger ships fast approaching (beauty shot). The idea that Helion Prime is so benign it 'shares' its sunlight with all worlds nearby makes it all the more sinister that the Necromongers want to destroy it. Riddick finds the home of "Imam," the holy man from Pitch Black. We learn that Helion Prime is where Riddick left Imam and and a young girl named "Jack" after Pitch Black 6 years ago. With the rumors of an impending Necromonger attack, Imam tried to force Riddick to come help Helion by putting the bounty on his head, but, when Imam explains, it goes like this:
Vin Diesel detractors can say what they will. Just before Imam came home to find Riddick in his house, Riddick was shaving off his long hair and beard. As he finishes and moves toward Imam, out of the shadow and into the light, Vin's 'cleavage' is something to see! . . . You have to be built to be this 'bad ass', and whether or not you think Vin Diesel is a good actor, he is Riddick. He has the build and the attitude for it. To his credit, the fact that he doesn't have whatever his detractors feel he is missing, is all the more reason he is Riddick. A simple man, a man of few words, and of great strength and purpose. Vin Diesel's physical grace and skills are not given enough credit in his movement, performance, and presence. Just standing there, he is more man than most. This enormous (underrated) silent strength is the greatest part of what Diesel brings to Riddick. And when Riddick unleashes his control, he has no match. Here's the cleavage shot. Yes, guys have cleavage. (Maybe not you.) If your girlfriend tells you Vin is not hot, you can bet that's not what she's telling her girlfriends. She just doesn't want to make you feel bad.
Re-REJOINING THE HUMAN RACE
A trio of the planet's officials arrive at Imam's house (including a member of the Elemental race) and plead with Riddick to stay, explaining their plight and why they put the bounty out on him to bring him there. The Elemental hopes the Necromongers can be defeated to restore 'balance' to the universe. Here I wondered if the deleted scene that showed them talking about bringing Riddick to help them wouldn't have helped build their sense of desperation and predicament more sympathetically, but the movie's not about them, it's about Riddick, and the intro voiceover is a much cooler way to introduce that dialog and the story line. (The dialog is much crisper and cleaner in the Director's Cut.) Imam makes a connection for Riddick with what happened to him at birth and what happened to his people, and even though it is painfully clear that both were at the hands of the Necromongers, Riddick is bent on leaving anyway.
Imam's remark stops Riddick in his tracks, and,
instead of leaving because soldiers are banging at the doors
looking for a spy, Riddick decides to stay and fight. In that
moment, we are wondering what was Jack's fate? And if you saw
Pitch Black, you can't help but think of the fact that he was
ready to leave the others behind, but "Frye" made the ultimate sacrifice for him, so you
know this remark is hitting a nerve. If you didn't see Pitch
Black you think he must be wondering what happened because he
left Jack behind in what he thought was
safety . . . In Pitch Black, Frye redeemed
herself, and she also redeemed Riddick, whether he wanted her to or
not. He was ready to leave them all behind, so it had to have
hit home here that maybe he did the wrong thing again.
As Riddick walks off in the distance, "Aereon" the Elemental remarks "Furyons: defiant to the end." However, as the un-hero or bad-guy-as-good-guy that you know Riddick is, he is bound to fight the Necromongers (as hinted at in the intro), and you know his purpose in the movie is that he is now focused on finding/saving Jack.
THE FIGHT BEGINS
Riddick does end up trying to save Imam and his family, and runs up against the Necromonger troops, including a "Lenser". These strange-looking men with some kind of mask/recording apparatus on their face are scary ugly! How creative the whole Necromonger culture is is a testament to David Twohy's vision. Every detail seems thought about and different than anything we'd seen before. Even the idea that the cluster of Necromonger ships and death towers moving toward the planet resembles a comet (beauty shot), is super creative. Once the Necromongers start to touch down on Helion Prime, all hell breaks loose (one of the ways they touch down is through a kind of energy stream flowing from the underbelly of the ship to the ground ). Riddick is on the run, doing what he does best. Staying alive. He stays either out of the way or ahead of the game. Imam tries to save his family by being a decoy but is killed by a formidably strong looking Necromonger, "Irgun", identifiable by a knife sticking out of his back. Riddick does save Imam's wife and daughter from a Lenser and his follower. (I wonder how Riddick managed to kill the Lenser's follower without the Lenser noticing?)
greatly outnumber and easily defeat the Helion forces and
prepare to convert all survivors. The movie's tagline is "All the power in the universe cannot change destiny."
And we are about to see all the power in the world exerted
by Riddick now that he knows Jack is in prison on Crematoria. He
stayed away from them to keep the danger that follows him from
affecting them. Now he realizes all those years on UV-6 were for
TAKE ME TO THE THRESHOLD
Once the fighting stops, the Necromongers explain to the gathered and defeated Helion citizens that their choice is to bow and accept 'conversion' or be killed. As they explain it, conversion seems like another form of death, and the Helion citizens are understandably reluctant. The Lord Marshall 'convinces' them by taking the soul of their most outspoken man. After that, they all kneel, leaving Riddick as the only non-Necro standing. This draws the attention of Lord Vaako and the Lord Marshall.
It's all about the attitude. Riddick faces down the Lord Marshall but the two of them make some connection related to Riddick's vision. They're not about to let Riddick go but he is 'persuaded' by Dame Vaako, Lord Vaako's wife to visit their headquarters, and enters the Necromonger's main ship, "Necropolis". Here we get a glimpse of what conversion entails. Riddick is forced into having his thoughts read by the "quasi deads", strange, skeletal-looking creatures writhing under thin veils and 'speaking' through a bowl of black liquid. The look of the quasi deads and the Necropolis Basilicaca is incredibly detailed and beautiful. Here we find out why the Lord Marshall thinks he knows Riddick. The quasi deads find out Riddick is a Furyon survivor and that he wants to avenge his people who were killed by the Necromongers. The quasi deads call for the Necromongers to "Kill the Riddick". So the Lord Marshall orders Riddick killed. Riddick, of course, escapes. There is a spectacular crash/chase sequence here that is a close call for Riddick, involving a ship that looks like a sarcophagus, shot down by Toombs and his group of mercs.
JAIL IS HELL / HELL IS JAIL
With Riddick in captivity, the Mercs haul ass off the planet.
Riddick is going to be taken back to jail by Toombs, but, guess where? Crematoria (where Jack is). The movie is a locomotive gathering steam from this point on. The whole look of Crematoria and the jail is as 'cool' as it is dangerous (their 'hell hounds' are released to feed on the prisoners). The planet's surface is 700 degrees on the day side, and 300 below on the night side. The only thing on it is the underground prison. Where it isn't on fire, it's scorched like a briquette.
A NEW ANIMAL
The set-up of the prison, how Riddick enters it, and the interaction
with the prisoners and guards is all very cool (and spawned the
video game). There are several fights scenes. The one in
which Jack appears is a preview of the bigger fight scene to
come when the Necros show up. They have no idea who they
are dealing with. In one moment Riddick reaches back to stop a soldier with just
strong arm to the throat. It's like he has eyes in the back of his head. Jack, now
calling herself "Kyra" saves him from one attacker using a chain
as a whip. Kyra is "a new animal" now. She
tried to find Riddick and got into trouble. Defending herself,
she had to learn to be a killer like Riddick, and she blames him
for leaving her behind. It's not the warm welcome Riddick probably expected,
but circumstances and timing change everything too quickly for
them to interact much. (Riddick seems pretty knocked out by Kyra
when he meets her, but jail gets in the way of 'love'.) He came
to rescue a girl and found a woman.
The Mercs, after lowering Riddick into the jail, begin to
bargain with the Guards for Riddick's bounty fee. Toombs,
predictably dumb and greedy, bites off more than he can chew,
the deal goes bad, and worse, the Guards find out the Necros are
coming after Riddick. A fight breaks out over the amount of the bounty, and, once the guards defeat the Mercs
for their ship to leave the planet before the Necros arrive, the
plot is a runaway train . . .
Some of the braver convicts step up, but they're understandably afraid. 700 degrees on the day side is nothing to get caught in. Here a convict looks back at the impending sunrise (both incredibly beautiful shots).
Now everyone is on the 'threshold' of death: stay behind and
be killed or 'converted' by the Necros, or run with Riddick and maybe
die in the sun. Crematoria is as inhospitable a terrain as you
could imagine. In a spectacular scene, Riddick has to rescue Kyra who lags behind.
The whole race across the surface is full of tension. The
amazing baked lava look of the set is a big part of the
intensity. Despite their standoffish verbal relationship up to this point, he reaches out to her first, telling her he cares whether she
lives or dies even if she doesn't. Of course not all of the
group on the run make it. There is a really cool scene with the
guards 'surfacing' to see if their sixth sense that Riddick is
chasing them is right. This heats up the race. The second time
they surface, it costs one of them their life. In a shower of
ash, a gun battle begins. The guards retreat and the race
is on again. The Necro ships arrives outside the hangar and
Riddick and Co. hang back behind the rocks waiting to see what
happens. Once the Guards arrive at the hanger, they open the hangar doors to "a whole lot of
Necro firepower." A Lenser freaks out one of the
stunned guards—you can just see it on his face: What the hell is that thing—kill it!
And the battle begins.
(As Vaako was headed to Crematoria to find Riddick, we found out the Lord Marshall has a secret fear: it was predicted that a Furyan would take him down. This is why he decimated the Furyan race. Lord Vaaco's wife intends for him to capitalize on the fact that Riddick might be able to wound the Lord Marshall, then Vaako would be able to finish him off and become the leader.) After Riddick's protective energy power burst levels Necromongers and he passes out, Riddick is left for dead by Vaako on Crematoria. Kyra, also thinking Riddick dead, goes or is taken aboard the departing Necromonger ship. (The movie says nothing about the reason the originally Furyan Necromonger "Purifier" stays behind with Riddick. Obviously he wanted to help him, and then commits suicide after he does so. But how would Lord Vaako know this? Vaako says nothing of it to the Lord Marshall. And why leave them with a functioning spacecraft? Also, if the wind and sun burn the Purifier to a crisp, why aren't the bodies on the ground burning and disintegrating as well? None of those things takes away from the enjoyment of the movie. All we really care about is what Riddick is doing and that distracts us from noticing small holes. The momentum of not wanting him to be dead, and still wanting to see him get revenge drives us through to the point where he shows up back at Necropolis on Helion Prime.)
EXCEEDING ALL EXPECTATIONS
How quickly Riddick returns to Helion and manages to get on board the departing Necropolis ship, as they active the death statue is a little surprising but we are soon lost in the upcoming big fight finale. Unlike the disappointingly ordinary fist fight between the super werewolf and the super vampire in Van Helsing, this movie uses what makes Riddick special and what makes the Necromongers different in the final showdown fight. The speed of the Lord Marshall gives him the advantage although Riddick's instincts get in a few blows. However, Riddick appears to be losing and is saved by Kyra. She inadvertently sacrifices her life for him (like Frye did in Pitch Black) by wounding the Lord Marshall, and giving Lord Vaako an opening to try to finish the Lord Marshall off. This loss of Kyra and the resulting anger gives Riddick the edge in the fight. The Lord Marshall's ability to move ultra quickly to gain the edge (unfairly) is his undoing as Riddick anticipates that the Lord Marshall will reach for a weapon (which one), and Riddick is there with his foot on it and already in downswing motion of the death blow as the Lord Marshall is forced to move away from the falling ax of Lord Vaako who he mistakenly thought would help him, and into the path of Riddick. Riddick anticipated and eliminated the Lord Marshall's choices. Not only an physically impressive fight scene, but also a smart one. Heartbreaking too.
WE END AS SOMETHING ELSE
The ending of the movie as Kyra dies and Riddick leans back on the throne, all the Necromongers bowing to him . . . "You keep what you kill" . . . leaves us wondering, what will Riddick do with this new role? It would be hard to image him becoming Lord Marshall after being an outcast for so long. Will he dismantle their culture? Will he abdicate to Vaako? Where will he go now that Kyra is dead? What is happening outside the ship with the released ball of destructive energy from the towering face statues? Maybe we'll soon find out as I hear another Riddick is in the works. Can't wait!
photo gallery of Riddick screenshots