The Chronicles of Riddick
The Necromongers threaten the stability of the entire universe. A death cult that believes this life to be an abomination, merely an unfortunate prelude to one’s true life, the one they begin after death. In other words, they’re space Christians.
Over the centuries, the promised afterlife has been getting both better, and more vague. First was the promise of reincarnation (meh), then living forever in Hades (bad place, but at least it’s forever), then Valhalla (perpetual war, but if you like that sort of thing, it’s kind of nice), and then Heaven (which is indescribably fantastic).
Why is it indescribable? Marketing strategy, of course. Keeping it vague allows the audience to fill in the blanks to their liking. All the cookies you can eat? Check. Orgies with 72 virgins? What the hell! Yes, Heaven is whatever you want it to be, and it’s all yours, as long as you really, truly believe it.
Now back to The Chronicles of Riddick.
I described the first Riddick film, Pitch Black, as having a kind of gritty realism, not unlike Alien. The spaceships were boxy and utilitarian, the alien threat was animal in nature, and Riddick, for all the bluster, was just a slightly above average killer.
Chronicles throws all that out in favour of a space fantasy. Now Riddick is the last surviving member of a race of warriors; and he’s been prophesied to restore balance to the universe. The Necromongers have fantastical technology capable of destroying a planet. And if that’s not enough, we’re introduced to a race of ‘elementals,’ who have what can only be described as magical powers.
My biggest criticism of Pitch Black was that it was all stuff we’ve seen before; and The Chronicles of Riddick has the same issue. Last of his race, prophesies, evil armies; swing a dead cat in the fantasy aisle and you’ll hit a few dozen Blu-rays with the same elements.
But as with Pitch Black, a lack of originality is not a mortal sin. Chronicles is still a fun movie with great action, vastly improved special effects (though they’re sill a little rough around the edges) and an engaging protagonist. As long as you look at this as pulp sci-fi, rather than hard, you should be satisfied.
I still think Riddick’s purported reputation in the movie’s universe isn’t reflected successfully in the character. The opening narration goes so far as to call him ‘evil;’ but even in his pre-redemption Pitch Black days he never did anything approaching that level of bad. A few things are left unresolved at film’s end; likely because this film was intended to open a trilogy (I don’t know if the new Riddick continues the story, or starts fresh)
The Chronicles of Riddick is a fun sci-fi action movie, and it’s certainly worth picking up, especially in this complete set with Pitch Black.