Chronicles of Riddick, The
Starring:
Vin Diesel, Judi Dench, Keith David, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban
Directed By:
David Twohy
Grade
A-

Pitch Black proved to be one of the more underrated sci-fi flicks in recent memory. In it, Vin Diesel portrayed the ultimate anti-hero as Riddick, a murderous convict with a penchant for escape. With his altered eyes, which allowed him to see in the dark, he killed his way to freedom. Five years later, The Chronicles of Riddick finds him being hunted as part of a bounty to bring him back to Helion Prime. The reason - a warmongering cult known as the Necromongers are destroying solar system after solar system, absorbing or destroying all life in their path. The Elemental Ambassador to Helion Prime, Aereon (Dench), with the aid of Keith David's returning character, Imam, hope that Riddick will aid them in their time of need.

Of course, being the anti-hero he is, he tells them no and takes off just as the Necromongers arrive. Of course, he has a run-in with them and manages to "find a way" off the planet. This same planned exodus takes him where he wants to go, a prison planet named Crematoria, where the young girl, Jack, from the first film is a prisoner. Without going too deep into the story, Riddick liberates himself and Jack, who now goes by the name of Kyra (Alexa Davalos) only to have to return to Helion Prime to deal with the leader of the Necromongers (Colm Feore). While the main story arc does suffer some sci-fi standards (the "hero" with a gifted lineage, etc.), the action and the way Riddick is given to the viewer sets a certain level of fun and tension to the action. There's a ton of kick-ass moments in battle and enough humor to keep the film moving along at a great pace.

The character of Riddick seems tailored for Vin Diesel as he excels at the role so well. The rest of the cast is pretty sharp as well and perform their specific parts well enough to keep the heart of the story moving along with little flaw. Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) plays a fine nemesis in Vaako, an underling hoping to move up in the Necromonger ranks by killing Riddick. Nick Chinlund as the merc Toombs proves to be a funny addiction and a nice foil, albeit incompetent, against Riddick. Judi Dench's role as Aereon seems a little understated for the high-quality actress.

When it comes to direction, the film is done well. There's a healthy pace and the action and effects feel well done. Except for a 2-minute sequence with some obvious CG-created monsters that could have been cut out, the effects and costuming proves to be excellent at setting the tone of the story's universe. The soundtrack by Graham Revell is suitably strong and delivers and individual arrangement that helps keep the movie from falling into a copycat mentality.

While I will say that this film fed my need for high-octane sci-fi action, there are still some elements to it that I would have to say need addressing. I have to wonder why they took a more subdued sci-fi flick in Pitch Black and tried to make it into an epic series. The story-writers tried to give a Riddick a "chosen one" feel, which takes away from the dark charm that the character has. Also, there are some heavy-handed sci-fi conventions that chip at the otherwise solid story - the evil Necromongers go on about their faith but never give any good specifics on it. A little more depth in that part would have done wonders to give the enemy a deeper sense of being. Also, Dench as the Elemental seems like nothing more than an excuse to show off special effects as she's not in the film enough to be anything more than a Obi-Wan Kenobi knockoff.

If you want a high-action sci-fi adventure, The Chronicles of Riddick is a good investment of the price of a ticket. While it's a definite break from the smaller feel of the original, it does good on it's own.

- - Vane

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