Being a huge fan of the two previous Riddick films, I was overjoyed to hear that Vin Diesel would be raiding his own couch for change to save up in order to make this R rated follow up, still helmed by David Twohy. It’s reassuring that in a franchise with more than a few haters, Diesel has the passion and ambition for his character to go out of his way in bringing this to fans. Not to mention what a kick ass, gnarly little space yarn it turned out to be. Pitch Black was a claustrophobic horror fest set on a single harsh world, and The Chronicles Of Riddick opened up into a vast galactic space opera. This one reigns it in closer again (partly because of budget, I would imagine) and gets back to the roots established in Pitch Black. After defeating the Necromongers and becoming their King, Riddick is betrayed and sent into exile by the treacherous Lord Vaako (Karl Urban in a brief but memorable reprisal). Cast out into the stars with a ship running low on fuel, he finds himself marooned on a small, deadly planet that’s more challenging than any other he has found himself on (and if you remember, he has been to some hellish little nooks in the past). This world is a dry, acrid rock where every form of wildlife seems to be incredibly lethal, and out to get him. The first half of the film is pure genius, and consists of Riddick playing Survivorman with his environment, battling aliens and elements and befriending a small hell-pup type doggo that grows up into a teeth and claw ridden killing machine that is at one point referred to as a ‘dingo dango thing’. This is where it’s at for the film, and as soon as the more generic second half arrives, the air gets a bit stale, but it’s still heaps of fun. After mastering the terrain and ingeniously dispatching a snakelike alien that seems to have wandered right in from Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine (practical effects POWER), he encounters trouble of the human variety, in the form of bounty hunters. Two teams of outlaws have arrived to claim him: the stern Boss Johns (Matt Nable) who has an old bone to pick with Riddick, and the psychotic A-hole Santana (Jordi Molla, who I think of as the Latin Gary Oldman). They bicker a whole bunch on who gets the prize, unknowingly being infiltrated and messed up by the guy before they’ve barely landed. Katee Sackhoff is nutso awesome as Dahl, a lesbo tough chick who legit has the line “I don’t fuck guys, but occasionally I fuck them up.” Soon there’s more charming wildlife, this time in droves of shrieking reptilian predators who intend to see each of them, Riddick included, dead. This forces an amusingly unstable team-up from all forces to battle the uglies and escape this godforsaken place. It’s giddy sci-fi pulp good times, and benefits from its hard R rating, something which the other two films never had on their side. Diesel was born to play Riddick, the growling teddy bear, and I hope he gets to continue wearing the goggles for more of these movies, indefinitely if possible. A hell of a great time.
David Twohy’s Pitch Black was a dank, murky horror sci fi that took place inside a claustrophobic killing jar, all the action unfolding on one planet, and over a short amount of time. With The Chronicles Of Riddick, he lifts the lid off that jar, unveiling more planets, characters, creatures and broadening both the scope of what is seen visually and what takes place in the story. What began as a simple human vs. monster survival tale crystallizes into a full blown operatic space saga, and I loved every minute of it. Now there are a lot of people who hate it, and fine for them if they want to live inside such negativity. I was sold after the intro, in which a snarky, canine – like bounty hunter (Nick Chinlund) chases a haggard looking Riddick a across the bizarre, jagged face of a planet that would make the asteroid from Armageddon sweat. This film takes place sometime after Pitch Black, the few survivors scattered across the galaxy. There’s a price on Riddick’s head, which Toombs (Chinlund) intends to collect. Riddick unwittingly wanders into the path of something far more dangerous in his evasive efforts: a powerful, fascist master race known as the Necromongers are cutting a swath through the known universe, converting or killing anyone they find. They are led by the “” (Colm Feore), and commanded by Lord Vaako (another badass character for Karl Urban to another do to his rogue’s gallery), a nasty piece of work who is futher soured by his insidious wife (Thandie Newton). Riddick has encounter with them, as well as an old friend from former times (an all too brief Keith David) and is taken far and away, to a dangerous prison on a planet called Crematoria, where the wrecking ball of a sun fries everything on the surface every half hour or so. It all happens fast (and furious hehe), in a somewhat rushed frenzy of sci fi action, cool effects and surprisingly vicious antics for a PG-13 flick. Diesel was born to play Riddick, a growling night wolf of an antihero and endlessly watchable. There’s all sorts of half Cooke ideas running around, some fun and others left unexplored. There’s a prophecy involving the Purifier (Linus Roache) who has ties to Riddick’s tragic past and the fate of his race, a strange elemental (Judi Dench looking confused), another person from his past (Alexa Davalos) and other intrigue involving Urban. Best to sit back and let it wash over you like the fun it is. Chinlund is hilarious as Toombs, the only character who seems to have wandered in from inner city L.A., a wide ass prick with a hate streak for Riddick and that old school charisma that carries scenes. The set pieces are exhilarating and make up for the plot which is at times spread too thinly, but never hurts the film. I love it, watch it all the time, let the haters sulk… more for us.
David Twohy’s Below cleverly combines two genres which seem to be made for each other, yet had never met up until this film. The atmospheric ghost thriller goes on an underwater ride with the submarine film for quite the unique and eerie experience. Strange occurances happen aboard a US army submarine during a routine WWII patrol mission, starting with the rescue of several stranded British castaways from a decimated ship, including Olivia Williams and Dexter Fletcher. The Captain (Bruce Greenwood) attempts to keep his crew calm, but apparantly it’s bad luck to have a woman onboard and soon uneasiness creeps in amongst them. There’s a mystery about their quarters as well, involving the supernatural, and pretty soon crewmembers are seeing, hearing and reporting eerie stuff, which adds to the tension. The crew is rounded out by an eclectic bunch of actors including Nick Chinlund, Holt McCallany, Matthew Davis, Christopher Fairbank, and Zach Galifianakis as a guy named Weird Wally who really lives up to the name. There’s some spooky moments, high drama between the cast which they pull off well, and a twist ending that explains the ghostly elements. Underrated stuff.