The Chronicles of Riddick Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/15/2004
In 2000, an original sci-fi/horror movie came to theaters called Pitch Black. It was amongst a glut of bad, non-scary horror movies, and it was actually cool and scary at the same time. It reminded almost everyone, me included, of the scariness of the original Alien and the coolness of its sequel, Aliens. It also introduced the world to Vin Diesel, who had previously been a rising supporting actor/director/screenwriter. It makes sense that he would want to return to the character of Riddick instead of Dominic Toretto of The Fast and the Furious because there is more room to grow creatively. The Chronicles of Riddick certainly expands the character and story of Riddick, but there are a few problems.
Five years ago, Richard B. Riddick (Diesel), a convicted murderer, survived crash landing on a deserted planet and avoided getting killed by the nasty bug-like monsters there. He has been on his own lately, and has grown a lot of facial hair and dreads. He has a $1.5 million bounty on his head, and bounty hunters such as Toombs (Nick Chinlund) are trying to catch him. After easily defeating Toombs and his Mercs, he finds out from the bounty hunter that someone from the planet Helion Prime placed the bounty on his head. Riddick boots Tombs and his crew from their ship and flies it to Helion Prime (he shaves all the facial hair when he gets there.) At first, he thinks that Muslim cleric Abu “Imam” al-Walid (Keith David), one of the two other people who survived Pitch Black, was the one who had put the bounty on him. Imam is now married to Lajjun (Kim Hawthorne) and they have a daughter named Ziza (Alexis Llewellyn.) He has been working with an Elemental ambassador named Aereon (Judi Dench), a woman who is like a ghost-like wisp of air, yet she can be chained up (that confused me.) They placed the bounty on his head because they needed his help to defeat a super race of beings known as the Necromongers, who are taking over the universe and making everyone their slaves. Anyone who refuses to join the Necromongers is killed by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), which he does by taking their soul. His right-hand man Vaako (Karl Urban) and his profit The Purifier (Linus Roache) have succeeded in making everyone bow before Marshal, though Vaako’s wife, Dame Vaako (Thandie Newton), thinks that her husband should kill Marshal and take over the throne. The reason Aereon and Imam specifically had Riddick tracked down was that he was the last of the Furions, and The Purifier had prophesized that a Furion would kill Marshal. Riddick couldn’t care less about helping them, and instead allows Toombs to capture him so that the bounty hunter will take him to the prison planet Crematoria, where he learned is holding the other Pitch Black survivor, Jack (the gender-confused girl Jackie from the first movie.) Once he gets there, he finds Jack, who is now a hot but tough young woman named Kyra (Alexa Davalos.) They want to escape the planet, but it has daytime temperatures that soar up to 700 degrees, burning up everything in its path (yet they seem to be okay if they hide behind a rock…um, okay…) Kyra is captured by Vaako, gets the better of Riddick, and heads back to Helion Prime. Despite his hesitancy, it looks like he has to fulfill his destiny in order to rescue Kyra.
The troubles with this movie are mainly the story and a few logic problems. This movie suffers from what The Matrix Revolutions went through, which is an expanding story that is somewhat confusing within its own mythology. Writer/director David Twohy wrote this one (along with brothers Jim and Ken Wheat) as well as Pitch Black, The Arrival, and The Fugitive (the last one being directed by Andrew Davis.) Since I had no problem with any of those movies, I’m wondering what happened here. It may just be a case of trying too hard to be original, something that not only happened to the latter Matrix movies, but the latter Star Wars movies as well. I realize that many people don’t like to read plot summaries before watching a movie for fear that they will be spoiled, but in the case of this movie, you might want to read mine so it doesn’t confuse you. Even after I saw the movie, I had to look on several other sites to figure out exactly what I had just seen. Also, as you can tell, it has the characters do a couple of things that make no sense, like chaining up a ghost and hiding from blazing temperatures behind a rock.
Despite those problems, it was very cool. The action was sweet, mainly when it had to do with Riddick. I don’t know if Diesel did his own stunts, but whether it was him or a stunt double, it was lickety-split fast and furious (I had to say that.) I can actually forgive the logic problems (I usually do when it comes to sci-fi) because of the action. The one thing that is absent from this one that I will miss is the horror. While this one is a cool action flick, Pitch Black made you jump with the creepy creatures. This one has only one set of creatures, but they are just some demon dogs sent by the warden of Crematoria to “clean up” the populace, and Riddick actually tames one (it would have been cool if he had used the dog later in the movie though.)
Diesel started out as a decent supporting actor in his career. He had memorable roles in Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room. Since then, as his action roles and box office successes have increased, his acting has decreased in quality. He has now reduced his facial expressions to two types: the blank look and the mean look. Fortunately, the latter look works perfectly for the character of Riddick. The other actors do okay in their roles, with Chinlund being especially memorable as the ineffective bounty hunter.
Once again, I recommend reading my plot summary above before seeing The Chronicles of Riddick. If you can forgive the logic problems and lack of horror, you will love this one as a sci-fi fan. I don’t want to give away the end, but it builds up to a potential sequel, and if they can rein in the mythology and make it more comprehensible, I’ll definitely be there.
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