Everyone involved in End of the Spear does indeed in one way or another end up facing a spear of some kind. The film dramatizes the real-life story of the Waodani people--a violent Ecuadorian society living in the Amazon jungle--and the five young missionaries who in the early ‘60s tried to communicate peace with them. Lead by Nate Saint (Chad Allen) the five men make contact with the tribe but are brutally speared by Waodani leader Mincayani (Louie Leonardo) and his fellow warriors. Then in an odd twist some of the slain men’s family members including Nate’s young son Steve (Chase Ellison) go and live with the Waodani in a continued attempt to promote peace. But as Steve grows up he is haunted by his beloved father’s death while Mincayani struggles with his past actions and his ever changing world. Steve (also Chad Allen) returns to the jungle and he and Mincayani finally have a meeting of the spears er minds so to speak. Remember little Chad Allen from the ‘80s TV show Our House? Exactly. But although the former child actor hasn’t done anything of major note since his performance in Spear is a worthy effort. Here the actor adequately distinguishes the roles of the saintly father and the grounded grown-up son. Ellison meanwhile with his angelic yet inquisitive face aptly conveys the pain of losing his father in the role of the young Steve Saint. But while Leonardo is convincing as the virile but conflicted Mincayani trying fit in with the modern world the actor loses much of his punch as the charcter's older older incarnation who has apparently given up his violent ways (something which isn’t explained clearly in the film). Writer/director Jim Hanon already detailed this real-life story in his 2005 documentary Beyond the Gates--but apparently felt that wasn’t enough. Someone should have advised him it was. Hanon a former advertising executive has a nice touch as a documentary filmmaker putting moviegoers right in the middle of the lush tropical surroundings but he lacks the skills to make a cohesive feature film. It’s far more fascinating to watch the real Ecuadorian people struggle to reconcile their violent culture with their peaceful lives than it is to watch a dramatization of the events complete with clichéd dialogue and stiff acting. The feature is simply ineffective and fails to give the actual story any more resonance.
Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.