The Chronicles of Riddick review by The Grim Ringler

Me, I can’t say I have ever been an avid Vin Diesel fan, but then, I can’t say I am someone who hates him either. To me, he’s another actor, I liked some of his stuff (Pitch Black, and Iron Giant) but I don’t really get into most of his stuff. But I have to admit that I like him in the character of Riddick. Riddick is, for all intents and purposes, a modern day Snake Plissken, and while there is nothing wrong with the original Snake, there isn’t anyone making Snake movies anymore, is there? There is something about the lone tough guy, someone who is not as bad as he seems but who is a long stretch from being a ‘good guy’. And the character of Riddick fills this bill rather well. He is sort of a modern day ‘Man With No Name’ from the Leone Westerns, and Diesel does a good job of being the steel faced tough, now if only he had better material to work with.

The story here finds outlaw Riddick still on the run from mercenaries who are desperate to collect the large bounty on his head. To Riddick these are just more Mercs out for a quick paycheck, what he doesn’t know though is who has placed the rather large bounty on his head. As it turns out, the man who has placed the bounty on him is one of the two people Riddick saved from a planet the three of them and some others had crashed upon years earlier. A planet with some very hungry inhabitants who are more than happy to munch on the stranded crash survivors. Riddick tracks down the man who he had trusted years before, who he had saved, and demands to know why he has been betrayed. What he finds though is that he has been pegged as a savior, he being the last of a race of warriors who had stood against a spreading religious army bent on either converting or killing all worlds that stand in their path. Refusing to play the part of hero though, Riddick refuses the job offer and sets off on his own. Before he can escape the world though it is invaded by the Necromongers, the religious army that he had been begged to stand against. Waging a blitzkrieg attack that cripples then obliterates the defenses of the world, the Necromongers have notched another easy victory and set about converting another planet. The Necromongers, lead by a zealot that is as much spirit as he is man, want nothing more than to make all races one, all people one, and to take their great army of fearless warriors to a new world called the Underverse, a place where all people are one race. Watching his once friend and now betrayer and his family being chased by a of the Necromonger warriors, Riddick steps in to save them and is again cast as the unwilling hero. But before Riddick can decide whether he shall stand against the Necromongers, waging a war for a universe he has no interest in, he must find the other person he had saved from that world of monsters so long ago, a young girl who had posed as a boy and who is now every bit as savage and cruel as Riddick, the man she had looked up to and idolized. And it shall be upon finding her, locked deep within a prison planet on a world of fire, where he will begin his war, only taking up arms in the end when the Necromongers come between he and someone he cares about.

Far from a great film, this is a pretty damn solid sci-fi movie. The special effects here are amazing and really create some very unique worlds. The set design as well is gorgeous, the inner world of the Necromongers as engaging as any we have seen in science fiction films, their icons being of a sort of metallic Greek motif. The acting is decent, though it hurts Diesel when he has to deliver some pretty cheesy lines. He does a decent job though and plays the part of action hero well. Director Twohy also does a very good job here but I was more distracted than anything else during the actions scenes. The camera is too active during the fight scenes and it made it hard to really get a feel for the scene and felt more like they were covering up bad action – which I don’t think was the intention – instead of just creating a new way to shoot the action. And I really like the story here. As I said earlier, Riddick is a very interesting character and they have managed to create a foggy back-story for him that gets more engaging the more we learn. There is a lot here to absorb though, and I fear we shall never get a chance to learn more about what is going on in this world. I know that this was to be but the first part in a proposed trilogy of films but it doesn’t seem that the public is hungering for any more Riddick than they have gotten. Pity.

The writing can be pretty bad though, let me tell you. Time and again a very good sci-fi movie is done in with cheesy dialogue and Chronicles is no different. For some reason writers can’t get it that sometimes it’s just better if the tough guy just says nothing and lets the actions speak for them. And there is a plot point – Riddick and some escaped inmates from the prison planet trying to outrun the sunrise on a world where the sun makes it 700 + degrees – which are very questionable. Such as, how the hell can they survive even the BRIEFEST moments of life on a world where the sun makes things so hot? Wouldn’t the very pre-rays of dawn make the world, hell, over a hundred and fifty? I dunno, but it’s awfully suspect. And being that this was meant to be an ‘R’ rated anti-Star Wars, the fact that they MUST have cut the action down to create a PG-13 really hamstrings the story. This is meant to be a very dark, very violent film and the studio caved and put out a PG-13. Now, I will admit that odds are the film would have tanked outright without the PG-13, but still, damn, you can feel that it was cut and it hurts the film. And finally, it feels like they are trying to cram too much into this one film. I suppose they have no choice as the odds of getting all three made was a bit of a pipe dream (hell Pitch Black did well but not THAT well), but they cram SO much into the last forty minutes of this thing that it’s hard to keep up with everything going on.

This is certainly no sci-fi classic and is but another summer film that is good at its best, but I really think that there is an intriguing story here that I wish we could see play out to its conclusion. Given some tighter writing and either a straight up ‘R’ or a film that was shot and meant to be a lesser rating, you could have a very good second installment in this saga. I would wager that the DVD release of this will be a bit more interesting as the stronger elements will probably be re-inserted but as it stands, Chronicles of Riddick is a decent movie that will come and go and be forgotten before August is even here. I liked it, and will buy it if it comes out on DVD uncut, but it had the potential to be a lot more than it was. Which is a shame.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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