‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ (2004) 900 Word DVD Review

August 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 2 out of 5

It saddens me to say it, but, whatever way you look at it, The Chronicles of Riddick is not a good movie. To say the film is disappointing when compared to Pitch Black is an understatement, as it is nowhere near as interesting or as well produced as that movie. On the other hand, it also fails as an epic, sci-fi fantasy adventure, not living up to the expectations of the genre.

Carrying on several years after the first film, Riddick (Vin Diesel), a convicted killer, murderer and all-round bad-ass, is being hunted once again by a bounty hunter named Toombs (Nick Chinlund) on the ice planet, UV VI. Riddick incapacitates Toombs and steals his ship, while he also discovers who’s behind the assassination attempt: Imam (Keith David), a Muslim cleric, whose life he had previously saved on the desert planet, Hades (the planet that both he and Riddick, along with several others, were stranded on in the first film).

The bounty turns out to be a rouse, set up by the Elemental, Aereon (Judi Dench), to get Riddick to Helion Prime. It all revolves around a prophecy that, one day, the last of the Furyans (i.e. Riddick) will challenge the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore), the leader of a race called the “Necromongers”. They are an army bent on conquering the universe, through either converting its peoples to their religion or through destruction. But, of course, Riddick’s more interested in Kyra (Jack from the first film, now played by Alexa Davalos), the girl he saved from Hades, who’s now become a criminal and landed herself in jail on the planet Crematoria.

From that point onwards a lot of stuff happens but, eventually, all the plot strands intercede into what turns out to be a highly dissatisfying conclusion.

Now, there are two main problems with this film and they are as follows.

The first, and most obvious, issue is with Riddick himself. In Pitch Black, Riddick was a cold-hearted killer, a survivalist who put himself above all others. In that film Riddick is portrayed as being sadistic; a murderer and a monster. You could never really be sure where his motives or intentions lay, and although he was exceptionally strong and cunning, he wasn’t invulnerable. In fact, it was his unpredictability and the mystery surrounding him that made him such an interesting character to watch. In The Chronicles of Riddick, they’ve turned him into an action hero-type character and, in the process, watered down everything that was ever unique about him. The result is a character with too little substance to really carry a film.

The second problem is with the script. Quite simply, everything about the story is generic, dull and uninteresting, while other aspects are so silly as to be ridiculous. The story itself is actually very simple, but it’s told in such a convoluted way, and Riddick seems to meander between worlds until he finally meets his fate – it’s just a bit of a mess, really.

And then you’ve got an uninspiring central villain in the shape of the Lord Marshal; Karl Urban, sporting a fetching rattail haircut as Vaako; Thandie Newton as Dame Vaako, doing her best Lady MacBeth impression; and Judi Dench spouting prophecies while secretly wondering what the hell she’s doing in this film. (Judi, trust me when I say you’re not the only one wondering that.) Also, “Necromongers”? C’mon, really, are you serious with that? Because that’s just about one of the most awful sounding names I have ever heard to denote a race that’s supposed to be on the level of a kind of space-faring Roman Empire. It really is such a stupid name that I can’t believe anybody would honestly consider it.

With all that in mind, though, there is a part of me that wants to like the film. Riddick, even though he’s turned into a clichéd, stereotypical anti-hero (but is, really, clearly, the hero), still has a little of that edge to him and potential of something more complex, which is why it’s unfortunate that it’s never capitalised on. Kyra, the grown-up Jack of the first film, is also not too bad, and Vin Diesel and Alexa Davalos do share some amusing repartee together. I also thought that Crematoria, the planet so hot that the surface is uninhabitable, was a nice little twist on Hades from the first film – where it’s not the dark you’re running away from, but the light, instead. Oh, and despite me joking about Thandie Newton’s over-the-top acting, her scenes are made all the more entertaining for it; her chemistry with Karl Urban is entertainingly melodramatic and, well, she looks very hot in that outfit she wears.  So, she’s got a passing mark here.

Given a few cool moments, The Chronicles of Riddick is still a poor man’s science-fiction epic with some not-so-great action scenes and a whole race of baddies who look like they’ve been knocked-off from an episode of Stargate. As much as I wish that Riddick had the enigmatic charm of before to keep the film interesting, he doesn’t. When they jettisoned the old Riddick out the airlock, took out the grittier, meaner, darker portrayal of the galaxy and its inhabitants, and sold out for a PG-13 rating, they pretty much did away with everything that could have made this film worth watching.

(890 words.)



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