a critiQal film review The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Plot: The Necromongers are a vicious new species. Their goal: to eliminate humankind completely, thus opening their way to the "Underverse" - a type of Heaven for their people. Riddick (Diesel), an escaped criminal with a mysterious past, is now mankind's only hope.

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  • ...a fun, mindless action sequel, even if it does star Vin Diesel.

For those of you familiar with Vin “Duh” Diesel, you may remember a movie he did a few years back by the name of Pitch Black (2000). From what I can remember, it didn’t do that well in theaters. Apparently, it did well enough, because now a sequel has been released: The Chronicles of Riddick (Riddick, if you’ll recall, was Diesel’s character’s name in Pitch Black (2000)).

While Pitch Black (2000) was one of the few films Vin has come out with that didn’t make viewers sick to their stomachs, it wasn’t something really exceptional. So, when I first heard they were making The Chronicles of Riddick, I was a bit surprised. After all, the ending didn’t leave much to go on (most of the cast was dead – yes, it was that kind of flick). But, apparently ol’ blue eyes had quite a following, so Riddick has returned.

The previews made this out to be something totally different than the first film. In the first, Riddick, while playing a major part in the film, wasn’t really fleshed out very well, and this movie seemed almost a background story of him (kind of like The Scorpion King (2002) was for The Rock’s character in The Mummy Returns (2001)). The previews looked decent, but it did star Vin, so I waited until it hit DVD to check it out. Would this be just another flop for king-of-the-flops Diesel, or had he finally made a decent film?

Diesel didn’t have to do much for The Chronicles Of Riddick – not much of a stretch for him, based on his previous flicks (Knockaround Guys (2002), xXx (2002), etc). He plays (surprise, surprise) a thug, but in this film that works to his advantage, because that’s exactly what he’s supposed to be. He does manage to stumble his way through the film decently, mostly because he’s more of a backdrop to some astounding special effects than anything else.

He never really portrays someone who the viewer can really attach themselves to, so the viewer probably won’t care whether he lives or dies. However, the writer does put him through enough stuff that the viewer will want to stick around just to see what else he has to go through, more than anything else. Judi Dench and a few others also put in brief performances, but again, the special effects are the main character of The Chronicles of Riddick.

The Chronicles Of Riddick‘s plot, while tried and true, does add a few extra twists, mostly in the form of different special effects. The plot centers around one man’s destiny to save the world which he tries to shy away from (Titan A.E. (2000) immediately pops to mind). He goes through a whole plethora of challenges along the way, meeting some interesting people – and killing them, for the most part.

Even the bad guys are like a bad cliche by this point – they are an alien race, but retain their human form (“V” (TV) back in the 80’s, anyone?). While the plot is so done it’s a cliche by this point, the writer manages to throw in enough excitement to keep the viewer’s interest anyway – again, mostly due to some astonishing special effects.

The special effects are the main star of The Chronicles Of Riddick – and hold up their end of the bargain. From the massive invasion of the evil Necromongers to the ghost-like qualities of their leader, to a planet whose sun is so hot it sets the ground on fire, the film is strewn with stunning effects.

In fact, the most memorable scene in the film comes from the “anti-hero” Riddick and pals racing against the sunrise mentioned above. It keeps the viewer’s pulse racing throughout the entire scene, then, just when the viewer thinks they’ve made it, they are put into a battle against a group of Necromongers. Pulse-pounding sequences like that abound throughout most of the film, making The Chronicles of Riddick truly live up to the term “action movie”.

The writer of The Chronicles Of Riddick, David Twohy, also has thrown in some creative ideas that don’t involve as many special effects, the most memorable of which is Riddick killing someone with a teacup. It’s inventive, provides humor right when it’s needed (afterwards, he picks up a key and sets it on the rock next to him, causing the other bad guys to flee in terror), and showcases Riddick again as the ultimate killing machine (aka The Terminator (1984)). Scenes like this are few, but they definitely give the movie an edge over most of the action flicks out there.

With it’s stunning array of special effects, pulse-pounding sequences, and truly original ideas mixed with a cliched plot, The Chronicles Of Riddick comes out much better in the end than Pitch Black (2000) did. Pitch Black (2000) was worth only a single viewing, but I could easily sit through another viewing of The Chronicles of Riddick.

If you’re in the mood for a pure action film, something that doesn’t require much thinking to get involved in, then Riddick is perfect for you. Actually, this may be the first Diesel movie I may want to buy. And that’s saying a lot right there. So, does this mean I’m going to rush out see more Diesel flicks? Nope. After all, one decent, if mindless, action flick does not make up for Vin’s long run of bad films.

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