Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.
Release Date: June 11th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: David Twohy Actors: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Karl Urban, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Nick Chinlund, Keith David, Yorick van Wageningen
n army unlike any other, crusading across the universe to conquer civilizations, the Necromongers seek the mythical realm of the Underverse to obtain ungodly powers for uncontested invasions. They’re led by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), a powerful being who is half alive and half something otherworldly (and who wears a three-faced mask, which is one of the film’s most impressive pieces of costuming). Normally, an evil of this kind would be fought by good. But in times like these, evil must be fought by another kind of evil. “I hate not being the bad guys.”
On U.V. System Planet 6, Toombs (Nick Chinlund) leads a crew of mercenaries to track down wanted convict Riddick (Vin Diesel), who is too smart and skilled to be apprehended so easily. After overtaking the men and stealing their ship, Riddick journeys to Helion Prime, the origination of a $1.5 million bounty from an anonymous source – which turns out to be one of the two people he previously rescued from a desert planet engulfed in blackness, a holy man (Keith David). Once on the planet, Riddick meets Aereon (Judi Dench) – an elemental who can phase through space – who warns of the advancing Necromongers and the need for Riddick to aid in the coming battle. Of course, he’s reluctant to engage in any selfless cause, until a small child pleads for his help.
“No such word as ‘friend.'” Like a sci-fi film noir, Riddick narrates some of the opening sequences, offering up morbid observations on humanity and survival. As before, there’s a prominent focus on making Riddick seem like an invincible, larger-than-life hero, from his catch phrases to the action scenes in which he never takes a punch (commonly duels with monstrous warriors) to the slow-motion posing that denotes his strength and poise (the frequent wirework moments, which make the stunts look obviously fake, are the most disappointing aspect). Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to be marginally amused by his witty smugness in the face of doom. “I’ll kill you with my teacup.” But the brooding aspects are soon dismissed in favor of explosions and gunfights and galactic warfare, with generic themes of world-subjugators, intergalactic bounty hunters, a one-man-army against the cosmos, and a prophecy of a child who will save everyone from their oppressors.
Unlike “Pitch Black,” this second Riddick adventure (set five years later) isn’t a horror film. Instead, it’s more along the lines of “Star Wars,” what with the numerous planets, the copious amount of spaceships buzzing about, and the various alien species that wage wars across galaxies. Here, audiences learn that Riddick isn’t even a human. It’s so much more complex, with a bigger cast, more intricate costumes, political systems, massive sets, large-scale battles, and considerable computer graphics additives – which date the film and inferiorly compensate for the unfortunate decision not to use practical models and miniatures. The music, however, has become quite stirring.
The scope is grand enough to hope for a full franchise, but the plot just isn’t unique enough to want to see more of Riddick’s missions. He’s never in believable peril; the villains are uninspired (including Karl Urban as a henchman and Thandie Newton as his conspiring wife); and the pacing is slow. Fortunately, the character designs are interesting, the use of religion and faith give the civilizations a hint of depth, and Riddick winding up back in a maximum-security prison (where he must once again outrun environmental hostilities as well as deadly pursuers/competitors) provides modest entertainment (it’s a striking middle chapter that deserves to be in a film unrelated to the rest of the space opera blandness). And the finale isn’t too shabby either.
– Mike Massie