A Necro-what? Our guide to ''Chronicles of Riddick.'' Here are our answers to your questions about Vin Diesel's complicated sci-fi sequel

By Brian Hiatt
Updated June 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Judi Dench, Vin Diesel, ...

If there were an Oscar for Most Baffling Trailer, ”The Chronicles of Riddick” would be a shoo-in. Despite all those mysterious spaceship armadas and the dense voiceovers about dead planets and Necromongers from costar Judi Dench, there is logic to be found in the sequel to 2000’s cult hit ”Pitch Black.” For those suffering from franchise fatigue, here are painless answers to pressing Riddick questions. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! Some plot elements are revealed.

So, who’s this Riddick again?
Riddick (Vin Diesel, in the type of monosyllabic-badass role at which he excels) is an intergalactic fugitive who’s logged time on various dingy prison planets that make ”Oz” look like ”The O.C.” Along the way, he acquired a superpower of sorts: He can see in the dark. That skill came in handy in ”Pitch Black,” in which he vanquished vicious birdlike aliens on a planet plunged into near-endless night. After ”Pitch Black,” which takes place five years before ”Chronicles,” Riddick went back to the fugitive life — hence the unusual sight, early in the film, of Diesel with long hair and a beard.

What’s he have to do with the Necro-whatsis?
Riddick enlists in the human race’s war against the Necromongers, an all-consuming army in the vein of ”Star Trek”’s Borg (of ”you shall be assimilated” fame). Like all good sci-fi villains, the Necromongers aspire to nothing less than control of the entire universe. Humans everywhere must join their army or die. The ultimate goal? If they kill or convert everybody, they believe they’ll reach a heaven-like place known as the Underverse (where everyone wears Underoos, perhaps?). Riddick must face their leader, Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), without giggling in his face. You see, the dude wears masks like an ”Eyes Wide Shut” orgiast and talks like he’s in ”Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

Does Jack, the little girl masquerading as a boy in ”Pitch Black,” come back?
Yeah, but Jack, who spent the first movie worshipping Riddick, isn’t little anymore. She’s a full-grown woman who now calls herself Kyra (newcomer Alexa Davalos). But it turns out Riddick was a bad influence. Kyra’s locked up for murder on a prison planet called Crematoria, which is about as pleasant as it sounds.

Great, but what the heck is Judi Dench doing in this movie?
Slumming? Despite Dench’s penchant for royal roles, she does NOT play Queen of the Universe in ”Chronicles” — though that was our first guess too. She’s actually Aereon, a member of a friendly alien race called the Elementals, who watch over humans and offer them advice. Dench’s character is an Air Elemental, which means she floats through the air like a ghost at Hogwarts. Her character helps recruit Riddick for the anti-Necromonger cause, and, well, doesn’t do much else — besides narrate.

The Chronicles of Riddick

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 115 minutes
  • David Twohy