The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
(Release Date: June 3, 2004)

The sequel to Pitch Black is to Dune
what Kingdom Come is to Led Zeppelin!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

A few years ago a small Sci-Fi Film called Pitch Black became a big Sci-Fi hit. At it's essence it was a very similar movie to Aliens, but with enough twists and new elements to make it pretty enjoyable. It also was the first film to make star Vin Diesel an actual box office draw.

Now, in 2004, old Vin rejoins director David Twohy in a sequel to Pitch Black, essentially because A Man Apart and xXx did pretty poorly and 2 Fast 2 Furious did pretty well. Proven ground was needed. This time, though, in the few years that have passed since Pitch Black, Twohy and Diesel have gotten a little bit too big for their britches, and what we're given in the egotistically titled The Chronicles of Riddick is a big, big, big Sci-Fi film that takes itself way too seriously and doesn't do much, diametrically opposed to Pitch Black's little movie that does a lot!

What's more, from the set design to the story elements to the costuming, to the very special effects, The Chronicles of Riddick owes a major debt to David Lynch's Dune. I'll give Twohy credit for his taste! Ripping off both Aliens and Dune shows where his Sci-Fi heart is, but doesn't show him to be the most original writer-director on this, or any other, planet! That said, aside from the obvious "homages" herein, The Chronicles of Riddick is a flashy and mostly beautiful science fiction movie with a lot more style than substance and a lot more fun than intelligence! I kind of like it in a "guilty-pleasure" sort of way!

After saving the lives of Jack and Imam from the pitch black planet, the renegade killer with the silvery eyes named Riddick (Deisel) is on the run and living on an ice-covered planet. Looking more like Gandalf than the Banjo Player from Deliverance now, Riddick aces a group of Merc Bounty Hunters and traces their origins back to their only source, the only man who knew approximately where the somehow toned-down Riddick might be: Imam himself (Keith David).

Have some REAL Sci Fi!
It turns out that a group of religious fanatics (like in Dune) called the Necromongers are traveling planet by planet converting or killing anyone they can find on their way to The UnderVerse! Led by Colm Feore's Ghostly Lord Marshal the Necromongers have assimilated every race out there! Every race except for the one frightening race that Lord Marshal is on a vendetta to exterminate: The Furians (think the super-soldiers of Dune)! Guess which race Riddick turns out to belong to! No, really... guess!

At the behest of the elemental Aereon (Judi Dench... really), Riddick becomes a one-man swath-cutter through the Necromonger ranks. But first, to pad out the film, Riddick must again be confined to the fiery prison world of Crematoria (say, when do we get to start laughing at these names?)! There he experiences a major escape that is equal parts lifted from Star Trek 6 and Pitch Black itself (only this time the only safe places on an all-light planet are in the dark). And, there he finds Jack (Alexa Davalos), now all grown up, incredibly hot and going by the name Kyra! That takes up a good amount of time, naturally, so by the time our boy (and girl) make it back to Helion Prime (there they go again) we're ready for some booty-kicking. Surprise: Booty gets kicked! The finale is pretty 2004-DNC-Convention-Predictable.

In case every paragraph didn't spell this out enough for you, this movie has Dune written all over it. The ships look like the 'Thopters as seen in Lynch's Dune, the armored costumes look like Dune's, even those guys with the Aquariums on their faces make an appearance. At the same time, though, regardless of where the inspiration came from, the design and look of this film is pretty flawless. Looks like producer Vin Diesel made sure that enough moolah was thrown in the Special Effects and Production Design direction to make this look cool.

Look cool it does, and that pretty well sums up The Chronicles of Riddick: It's cool! It's so concerned with being so cool that it forgets to make logical sense. There are no related five seconds that don't have something shiny to see, and by that respect it is really a treat for the eyes, as is the eye-burningly hot Thandie Newton as Dame Vaako! She and her really quite, quite cool hubby Vaako (Karl Urban) provide yet another of the many brief, yet cool, sub-plots. All this put together makes one cool, yet big and dumb, melodramatic, action film. You may owe your brain an apology, but, Fonzie will envy the coolness herein!

Another compliment: The acting here isn't terribly bad. Naturally Dench is always good, and Riddick doesn't require much of a range, but Nick Chinlund, and Linus Roache manage to do well with what they're given, as do Newton, Urban, and Davalos. Clearly Colm Feore is having way too much fun being an actor lately. After his bad-dude role in Paycheck, I thought I knew what to expect, but he is so incredibly over-the-top here that he's actually funny! The thing is, though, he's such a good actor that I never once found myself wanting to goof on him. It seems pretty clear that this is the fun he wanted to have with Lord Marshal, and some silly fun he does indeed have.

But it's all pretty top-heavy and it never feels like quite the triumph it ought to be. If only it didn't take itself quite this seriously it might have been more of a ride, but as it stands it almost feels like a video game ad!

Three Stars out of Five for The Chronicles of Riddick, the big Sci-Fi movie that doesn't do a lot, but takes itself really, really seriously while it does it! To be fair, this is a beautifully shot, effected and designed picture that manages to be quite a lot of fun almost in spite of itself. You might have a good time with it, and... you might think it's sort of... dumb! Speaking of, old Vin just signed on for the third The Fast and the Furious, so plan on even more. As long as he's got those arms, he'll be in films! See you in the next reel!

Maybe we'll get lucky and we'll get a Black Hole Remake in the next Riddick film!
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The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his views and his curiosity over what Vin Diesel will come up with Next?
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The end even features a floor-shattering knife-fight between good and evil champions! It couldn't be more of a Dune Rip-Off if Richard B. Riddick had made it RAIN! It's predictable, man!
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