Chronicles of Riddick
directed by David Twohy
starring Vin Diesel, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Thandie Newton
Every generation has a great actor, one that carries the needs, wants and desires of his generation on his back while translating that angst onto the big screen. Vin Diesel is not that actor. At least he isn’t if Chronicles of Riddick is any indication of where his career is headed.
Chronicles of Riddick is set five years after Pitch Black. Riddick is still on the lam and wanting to be left alone. As the film opens, he eludes capture from bounty hunters only to find himself in the middle of a cosmic war waged by the evil Necromongers. To make matters worse, the Aereon ambassador (Dame Judi Dench) seems to think that because of some Matrix-like prophecy he is the only one who can deliver balance to the cosmos and end this struggle. Events ensue somewhat unclearly and before it is all said and done Riddick goes to jail, busts himself out, rediscovers the grown up Kyra he rescued in Pitch Black and then ends up leading his own army against the forces of evil.
I won’t bother to use superlatives or laud false praises here. This is an absolutely terrible film. For starters, the plot is bad. It is really bad. The opening events happen here with little explanation. As the movie unfolds the plot becomes riddled with larger gaping holes and little explanation. The explanation of who the Necromongers are is sketchy at best, and poor Judi Dench has her character just sort of show up with little explanation. Did I also mention that the storyline is silly and completely unoriginal?
Second, the darkness, evil and ruthlessness that made Riddick interesting in the first film are completely absent here. He has been watered down substantially, leaving a really uninteresting, de-evolved character behind. He no longer is nasty, cunning or ruthless. Everything that made him a joy to watch in Pitch Black is gone in this film. Now he is just your typical futuristic action hero.
Another big problem here is the complete lack of inspiration. The great effects, camera technique and use of shadows that made Pitch Black eerie and interesting are completely absent from this film. Also gone is the sense of atmosphere and setting. The backgrounds in Chronicles of Riddick are really hokey and digitized. In fact they are so bad that they detract from the action in the foreground.
Then there is the acting. Although Vin Diesel is an actor best suited to play the tough, smart-aleck hero, he is strong enough to build a franchise around. During Chronicles of Riddick he mixes some great action and fight scenes with some great comedic moments of smugness. His flaws lay in the parts where he has to actually act.
But, no matter how bad Diesel is, he cannot be held solely accountable; he has accessories. Poor Judi Dench. Why she ever agreed to be in this mess is beyond me. She should fire her agent. Not even her poise and grace can lift this film. Linus Roche (the Purifier) is usually a great actor; here he simply looks bored in each scene. Then there is poor Karl Urban (Vaako), an actor who was pretty good in the Lord of the Rings films but pretty bad here. Colm Feore is hilarious the villainous Lord Marshal. All of these talented thespians suffer from playing characters that never are quite fleshed out, thought out or even explained.
I guess I should probably say a few good things about the film. However I cannot think of very many. Vin Diesel’s action scenes are pretty good. Dench’s moments on screen are watchable.
Finally, Chronicles of Riddick is an attempt to take the Pitch Black ‘franchise’ in a new direction. This direction would work as a film if it had a plot, acting and some actual special effects. I cannot stomach the thought of watching two more films projected for this series. Universal should be scolded for greenlighting this trash. Chronicles of Riddick is an embarrassment to the motion picture industry and an insult to the movie going audience’s intelligence.