Folks, it’s been a long and busy summer for me so it’s been kinda hard to keep this semi-regular feature going. It’s been a half a year since I wrote the last chapter in The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race, but I’m making a vow to not let so much time to pass between the next one. I am confident that I will be able to give you more in-depth reviews of some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces that have ever graced the light of a projector in the coming months.
So now let’s focus our attention on the next film worthy of ever-lasting immortality. We’re talking about soul-snatching intergalactic religious zealots. We’re talking about mystical floating Judi Denches. We’re talking about planets that will give you sunburn so severe it’ll turn you into a pile of ash. And we’re talking about the baddest badass of all movie badasses: Richard B. Riddick played by Vin “I have the coolest name ever” Diesel. We’re talking about The Chronicles of muthafuckin’ Riddick.
If you’ve seen Pitch Black, you’ll know that Riddick is a cold-blooded killer that helped a bunch of namby-pambies fight off some stupid looking monsters. Pitch Black wasn’t great or anything but Riddick was awesome in it. Luckily the director, David Twohy (who also wrote another Greatest Movie in the History of the Human Race, Terminal Velocity) thought so too and he gave Riddick his own movie.
To me, Pitch Black is nothing more than a prologue to get you up to speed with Riddick’s back story. You don’t necessarily need to see Pitch Black in order to enjoy The Chronicles of Riddick, but it doesn’t hurt either. Think of Pitch Black as The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Riddick as The Lord of the Rings trilogy all rolled up into one movie and that’ll give you some idea of what to expect. The Chronicles of Riddick raises the stakes in the same way Wrath of Khan did in terms of enriching the characters. Like The Road Warrior, Chronicles expands the universe the hero inhabits and gives him a bigger almost mythic adventure. And like Drunken Master 2, it ups the ante in the action department.
What I’m getting at folks, is that this is one of the best sequels ever made.
The plot has these Necromongers, led by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) going around the galaxy converting unwilling humans into devout followers of the Necromonger faith. Keith David knows his planet is the next to be taken over by the Necromongers so he tries to convince convicted killer Riddick to fight against them. Since Riddick is the reluctant hero type, he says no way Jose, but when they kill his buddy he goes out for revenge. Meanwhile Vaako (Karl Urban), Lord Marshal’s second in command has this hot ass wife (Thandie Newton) that keeps nagging at him to kill Lord Marshal and take control of the Necromongers but he’s too much of a pussywhipped wimp to close the deal. Fortunately, Riddick just might be the badass to overthrow and kill Lord Marshal.
Riddick is the perfect blending of actor and character as you’re likely to get in
He also gets so many badass moments you lose count. Like the time he crashes a Necromonger revival meeting just to pick a fight. Or when he domesticates a big ass panther monster. I think my favorite badass moment came when Riddick killed a dude with a tea cup. You read that right. A TEA CUP. Yes folks, he’s that badass.
In fact, Riddick is what I like to call a Third Degree Badass. A First Degree Badass would’ve dispatched the main villain by planting a knife in his head. A Second Degree Badass would dispatch the main villain by planting a knife in his head, then break the blade off at the hilt. A Third Degree Badass would stab him in the head, break the knife off at the hilt, and THEN knee him in the face as he’s dropping to the floor. That’s just Riddick for ya though. Look, I’m pretty sure the guy was dead after the knife pierced his brain. That didn’t stop Riddick from breaking off the blade AND kneeing the dude in the face afterwards. Breaking the blade off is a sign of disrespect, but kneeing the dude in the face on the way down… well, that’s just plain cold. There’s badass and then there’s badass. Then there’s Riddick.
In Pitch Black, Riddick had one of the best opening lines in the history of movies and it perfectly set-up his badassery. When Chronicles came out in theaters, I saw it opening night with a buddy. I told him the flick didn’t have to be as good as Pitch Black. All I wanted from Riddick was for him to have an opening line as great as the one from Pitch Black. Believe it or not, this one is even better. The line comes when Riddick chastises a bounty hunter for being ill-prepared. Riddick tells him, “You made three mistakes. First, you took the job. Second, you came light. A four man crew for me? Fucking insulting. And third, empty gun rack!”
I also liked how Chronicles expanded upon the Pitch Black universe. Easily the coolest thing (other than Riddick that is) is the Necromongers. These guys know how to get shit done. I mean any guys who can conduct a campaign to assimilate an entire planet overnight has their shit together. I also liked those lower class Necromongers that look like a Borg with a fishbowl on their head. These freaky bastards are equipped with cameras on their faces and the higher up Necromongers use them the way the bomb squad uses those little robot dogs. Good shit.
If however you didn’t like the universe expansiveness of this film and enjoyed the quaint claustrophobia of Part One, you can savor the scene where Riddick gets stranded on the prison planet Crematoria. (Damn, that would be a great name for a death metal band.) On this planet, the gimmick is that the sun burns everything to a crisp and when you get a sunburn, it reduces you to itty bitty ashes. Naturally, circumstances arise and it becomes necessary for Riddick to outrun the sun. This sequence is a lot of fun and it plays out like a Mini-Pitch Black smack dab in the middle of the movie.
Even the supporting characters are highly enjoyable. In particular, I like the Lady MacBeth-ish subplot where the Necromonger sex kitten Thandie Newton tried to manipulate her hubby Karl Urban into overthrowing the Lord Marshal. And Lord Marshal himself makes for a respectable villain. What makes him so great is that in his own mind, he thinks he’s doing the right thing by turning the whole galaxy into Necromongers. It’s kinda like when
Of course, like any movie badass, Riddick has some of the greatest lines to have ever come out of a typewriter/word processor/computer. Some of my favorites:
When Riddick sees Thandie Newton for the first time and says, “It’s been a long time since I smelled beautiful!”
Or when Keith David tells him the Necromongers want to destroy the universe and he replies, “It had to end sometime!”
Or when some prisoners join up with him to outrun the sun and he cautions them, “There’s going to be one speed. MINE. If you can’t keep up, don’t step up!”
This is just a small sample of the awesomeness that awaits you when you check out The Chronicles of Riddick. Diesel’s been talking for years about doing another sequel. I don’t know though. It’s going to be tough to top the unforgettable final shot of this movie. I mean where do you go from there? (I wouldn’t spoil that ending for the world. Okay, maybe for lots of money and hookers.)
The Chronicles of Riddick is the Numero Uno movie on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 2004 list.
<Special Note: Whatever you do, don’t watch the Director’s Cut. It puts in a lot of stupid subplots and goofy shit and changes up some of the best lines of dialogue. You can’t mess with perfection, so I don’t even know why Twohy tried.>