“I hope you’re not afraid of the dark…”
This movie, by far, is one of the most fun times I’ve had at the theatre in a long time. I can’t recall the last time I had that much fun at a movie. Sure I loved Around the World and the Terminal (see yesterday’s review), but this movie was really enjoyable. I didn’t look at my watch the whole time I was so immersed. It was a good thing I watched Pitch Black before seeing it because it is a very effective and fun introduction to Riddick and the dark future he inhabits.*
The movie begins approximately five years after the events of Pitch Black with a voice-over by Dame Judi Dench explaining the Necromongers quest for the underverse and their leader Lord Marshall (portrayed by baddie and great actor Colm Feore) as they annihilate another planet. We then move to a remote ice planet where Riddick is running from a merc ship led by Toombs (Nick Chinlund from Minority Report creates a pretty decent scoundrel, but no Han Solo). Riddick outsmarts Toombs, abandons him and his crew on the ice planet and heads for New Mecca, the destination of the other two survivors of Pitch Black and where the latest bounty has come from (according to Toombs). Arriving in New Mecca, Riddick seeks out Imam (played by Gargoyle leader Keith David!), who put out the bounty to get in contact with Riddick. Suddenly, New Meccan security forces perform an impromptu search of Imam’s house (apparently, Riddick forgot to walk through the metal detector after landing). So Riddick turns out the lights and kicks their asses. As he exits the room, he finds one lone soldier threatening Imam. Naturally, the soldier drops his gun and runs away. Free to resume their conversation, Riddick learns of the fate of Jack, the tomboyish girl and other survivor. She was captured and thrown into a slam on the planet Crematoria, where surface temps reach in excess of 700 degrees. Enter Aereon (Dame Judi Dench), an air elemental. Elementals watch over the galaxy without influencing the outcome, merely calculating the odds. Kind of like galactic spectators with abacus’. You know, those little counting bead things? Forget it. Anyways, Aereon explains to Riddick about the Necromongers and how his Furian ancestry makes him the only one who can defeat them. Suddenly, the Necros attack New Mecca, making quick work of the paltry security forces. Imam is killed in the struggle to protect his wife and daughter, and Riddick hunts out the killer. Meanwhile, we meet Lord Vaako (Karl Urban, Eomer of Rohhirm from Lord of the Rings) and his wife Dame Vaako (the ever beautiful Thandie Newton from M:I 2). While Lord Vaako is a loyal-to-the-death soldier, Dame Vaako is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth and Sherry Palmer from the hit TV-series 24, as she is a scheming, conniving bitch who thirsts for absolute power. A short sequence occurs where the two clash over who will replace Lord Marshall. Later at a public forum, the Purifier (a Necromonger priest) compels the New Meccan’s to convert. One outspoken man tries to take a stand and Lord Marshall removes HIS SOUL. The crowd precedes to kneel before Lord Marshall…except for Riddick. He confronts Irgon (Imam’s killer) and kills him. Lord Marshall is impressed and invites him back to Necropolis for mind regression. Guards surround him, led by Vaako, but before they can attack him, Dame Vaako leads him onto the ship. He is led to a magnetic chamber where psychic being reveal to Lord Marshall that he is a Furian. He escapes Necropolis, only to be captured by Toombs, who decides to take him to the slam with the largest bounty…Crematoria (was there ever any doubt?). Riddick arrives, but Toombs doesn’t get the bounty he wants, so he stays the night. Riddick befriends one of the vicious rock dogs that torture the prisoners, but that’s just for fun (no escape plan based on the tamed creature). What’s more important is Riddick’s re-introduction to Jack, now under the name Kyra. She is pissed off at him for abandoning him on New Mecca, and he’s pissed at her for getting captured. The next day, the prison guards and Toombs’ crew shoot it out when they discover that Necros are tracking Riddick. Of course, Riddick planned this and escapes afterwards with a handful of prisoners and Kyra by running away from the rising sun (which is preceded by an incredibly intense lava flow). Awesome moment where Kyra is trapped on a cliff side and Riddick swings down to save her. After they land, he stands up and he is literally smoking which was just one of those awesome moments. They rush down into the valley below, but can’t get to the only ship in the hangar because the Necros have landed. Suddenly the hangar doors open and the prison guards shoot it out with the Necros, reducing the number of people the rebels need to kill by half (“Remember that game you like, who’s the better killer?”). Interesting note about the battle was that they removed all sound effects until the end of the battle…it was just orchestral music. I’d have to see it again to ascertain if the decision made sense, but it’s one of those little noteworthy things. Unfortunately, Kyra is captured and Riddick is left for dead in the approaching sun. But (of course) Riddick is saved unexpectedly by the Purifier, who kills himself after telling Riddick to go save Kyra. Riddick heads (back?) to Helion Prime where the Necros have delayed ultimate destruction for some reason. Riddick sneaks onboard as they prepare to leave, but Dame Vaako sees him. She immediately rushes to Lord Vaako and encourages him to wait until the opportune moment before letting Lord Marshall know. Now for the big show down. Riddick confronts Lord Marshall in the main chamber room, where he discovers that Kyra converted and will not help him. Riddick gets his ass handed to him for about 15 minutes (which looked really cool cause Lord Marshall has this awesome warp move where he can move really, really fast) when suddenly, Kyra stabs Lord Marshall in the back. He throws her across the room into a spiked column, mortally wounding her. Vaako appears carrying the sweetest looking axe I’ve ever seen and raises it to kill Lord Marshall. He warps out of the way, but chose a bad place to run too, cause Riddick stabs him in the head (breaking of the handle afterwards) as soon as he warps. Riddick rushes over to Kyra to hear her last words, then collapses on Lord Marshall’s throne. With the Necromonger creed being keep what you kill, Riddick now controls the dark army. What happens now? A sequel!
The ending is a definite setup for a sequel, which made me happy because returning characters were infinitely more complex the second time around and with new characters introduced, a third film gives them room to develop. Because that’s the biggest argument of the critics, that nobody had any depth except for maybe Dame Vaako. But I liked all the characters and can’t wait to see more. So go see it already!
* The only problem was, everybody in Southern California felt the same way and denied me access to a rental from anywhere that I already had a membership in any format (being ready to watch VHS tells you how desperate someone really is) so I had to buy the Special Edition. Which got me a free movie ticket, so I really didn’t care (in the first place either). The free movie ticket is available in the Special Edition purchase, but it’s only valid until June 27th (get the lead out, pudgy!).