The Chronicles of Riddick: An Embarrassment to the Motion Picture Industry
Rob Levy
6/13/2004 2:36:15 PM

Every generation has a great actor that carries the needs, wants and desires of his generation on his back while translating that angst to the big screen. Vin Diesel is not that actor. At least he isnít 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 lamb and wanting to be left alone. As the film opens, he eludes capture from bounty hunters only to find him 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 PB and then ends up leading his own army against the forces of evil.

I wonít bother to use superlatives or laud false praises here. This is an absolutely terrible film. For starters, the plot is bad. Really bad. The opening events happen 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. 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. 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 they detract from the action in the foreground.

Then, there is the acting. Vin Diesel is an actor that can play the tough, smart- aleck guy, strong enough to build a franchise around. During Chronicles of Riddick, he mixes some great action and fight scenes with some comedic moments of smugness. His trouble lies in the parts where he has to actually act.

But, no matter how bad Diesel is, he cannot be held solely accountable; he has compatriots. 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. But there arenít many. Vin Dieselís action scenes are pretty good. Denchís moments on screen are watchable.

Finally, Chronicles of Riddick is an attempt to take the PB Ďfranchiseí 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 audienceís intelligence.


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