The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

url19The ultimate question one has to ask with this film is, was Riddick popular enough to base a franchise around? A cool character from an obscure forgettable science fiction film? The only memorable character whom many people refer to as “That cool guy from Pitch Black”? Did they do testing to see if people would respond to Riddick? Not likely, but my more realistic idea is that Diesel needed a hit so he went with his career making character as Stallone and Schwarzenneger are doing to re-claim their popularity.

Now, despite many people’s reservations with the original film, I liked “Pitch Black” a lot. It was a very stupid but very cool science fiction film that was properly shun away in to obscurity like it should have rightly been as per all film natural selection, but, ah ha, the studios played it slick. They took the only mildly popular character from “Pitch Black” and based a movie around him thus setting “Pitch Black” as a prequel for the real movies. Very crafty of the little gray rabbit, and pretty smart. Riddick is a bad-ass character, that’s all there is too it and he’s really the only reason to watch “Pitch Black” except for that equal bad-ass Cole Hauser…and maybe for Rhada Mitchell, but she’s just pretty. Diesel needs a hit badly as shown when “Pitch Black” was changed to “Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black”, and “Chronicles of Riddick” is ultimately a botched concept in my idea of what could have been done with Riddick.

Riddick was a well done character from that film who managed to lift off the lifeless mood and spark it with his charismatic personality, and as I expected, we got a really dumb but pretty fun action film that will set off a franchise. If anything this should be watched for the eye candy from the utterly delicious Alexa Davalos, to the incredible landscapes featured from–that one world with the blades, to the other world which resembled India, and with the incredible explosions and intergalactic battles which I had a lot of fun checking out. This is pure popcorn escapism with some great action, well done fight scenes, and good excitement that works on many levels. This movie has a knack for very appealing characters from Riddick, to his nemeses, right down to Jack who returns and changes her name to Kyra and is very delicious looking, did I mention that?

The creators of the film look like they don’t really know what to do with Riddick so they basically mix up a lot of ideas and concepts to see which one fits. Is he a Mad Max anti-hero? A spiritual prophet? A Conan the Barbarian warrior? A hobbit on a journey? Or a Han Solo figure fighting space villains? The writers never seem to know and can never really decide on one, so it’s all just a basically bland hybrid of post-apocalyptic landscapes, and epic space battles, both of which are really boring and boggled with confusion. This is the product of too many cooks in the kitchen, and none of them can ever decide which Riddick concept they like, so they do it all here. I assume at one point there was a disagreement during the script writing and someone just said, “Aw, let’s just throw all our ideas here”, which I assume would account for the twenty minute too long film which has a two hour mark. From Mad Max/Snake Plisken battles with mercenaries, to fighting creatures and mystics ala Conan, and its all so haphazardly done.

Hell it is the same director from the original film, but man is all of it so sub-par. Firstly it’s really hard to pull off an amazing opening shot in a science fiction movie, and not many can pull it off. And director Twohy doesn’t, either. The film is full of contrivances from the perspective of the humongous ship, to the barbaric warriors, and femme fatale, none of whom make any sense. Who was Newton’s character supposed to be? What was her purpose? Was she a witch? A wife to the leader? Why was she so over the top? Her presence here is never explained, or to that matter hardly explained except in broad details, and we get only one really senseless walk on role from original star Keith David who serves no purpose here except to die for no reason. He plays no real role in the movie except to act as a very poor plot device. And as always, Diesel, who is not that bad an actor, is given the really bad lines. Seriously, the monologues from Diesel are terrible especially when he’s attempting to talk down a villain in the beginning with a really dumb speech.

He even mutters, “It’s been a long time since I smelled beautiful” at one point. Who in their right mind thought that crap sounded even remotely cool? Despite the muddled dialogue the real reason to watch is for the utterly nonsensical characters and back stories, all of whom are never explained with any sense of clarity for the audience to follow, and I was just confued the whole way through. What is a necromonger? What type of being is the grossly under-used Judi Dench’s character? What was the actual purpose of the war going on? Was it worldly or inter-galactic? And why in the hell was the necromonger’s lore so utterly boring and confusing? If that doesn’t take the cake the film goes on way too long with a very glorified and utterly senseless half hour devoted to Riddick attempting to escape a jail to get back to the actual plot which is located somewhere around here. The entirety of it is devoted to more one-liners, scowling from villains, and an utterly pointless range of scenes where the inmates are being chased around by these demonic dogs and are torn up.

Again this made me ask questions: what was the point of the sequence with the monsters? And why were they so badly animated? Why did Jack change her name to Kyra? What significance did it hold? Otherwise these scenes are really ridiculous and pointless and at one point the guards are watching and seem to be recording it on a handheld digital camcorder. How utterly amazing and completely distracting. After the mind-numbing sub-plot with the jail (which was an intro to the video game. How obvious can you be Universal?), we go back to the original reason why we’re watching all which is settled with a really bad climactic battle between Riddick and the British villain with a scowl and funny headwear, and I was left stupefied at its utterly incomprehensible story that was too esoteric for a mindless science fiction film such as this. While the eye candy is plentiful with amazing special effects, great action, and the delicious Alexa Davalos, the film is ridiculous, and not in a good way. There are many plot holes, an inappropriately overly complicated plot, and a lot of pointless aspects that never even bother to make the least bit of sense. It’s ultimately a guilty pleasure.