The Chronicles of Riddick

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and some language.
Starring:Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Judi Dench, Colm Feore
Directed By:David Twohy

Final Grade:
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Summertime is here folks. Kids are out of school, families are getting out for fun in the sun and the big budget blockbuster has hit the box offices. Films that don’t stand a chance for Oscars flood the screens. This is the time of the year where Hollywood action stars and their franchises are born. Mix that in with the success of sequels, stars are itching for their own piece of the pie. So it should come as no surprise that we see movies hitting the theaters such as The Chronicles of Riddick this time of the year.

The Chronicles of Riddick touts the return of Vin Diesel to the big screen. If you don’t know the actor, you must have been living in a cardboard box for a brief portion of your life. Diesel made it big staring in “The Fast and Furious” and “Triple X” before disappearing off the face of the planet. Just about the time everyone was starting to ask, “Where is he?” He makes his way back to the big screen in a big way. Diesel reprises the role of Riddick, a character he played in 2000 sci-fi horror flick, Pitch Black. Set far into the future, this film gives off a Star Trek Like vibe. Riddick is known across the land as an escaped convict and has a reputation as an all around Space “badass.” But when a strange race of people called Necromongers are slowly taking over the solar system planet by planet, an old friend coaxes Riddick out of hiding and convinces him to help him fight back against the evil overlords.

No one said this film was huge on plots or anything of the like. The plot is fairly simply laid out but “could” have some complexity to it, if a sci-fi fanatic wanted to dissect it. In the end, all the average audience needs to know is that another planet is in trouble and Riddick plans to stop the evil force, even if he doesn’t necessarily want to. It’s your standard high action, special effects popcorn flick. It may lack great story and may be a bit cliché but it does what it sets out to do: entertain you.

Vin Diesel was pretty much born to play Riddick. He fits the character perfectly. He has just the look, and of course the perfect voice. I truly believe that I could listen to Diesel read the entire bible and a few phone books and still not become sick of his voice. Simply stated, he sounds cool. Unfortunately for Diesel, who knows how many other projects he has lined up? It was once thought that he would be the biggest Hollywood action star since “Arnold,” Diesel didn’t live up to that expectation. He tries to gain back the popularity with Riddick, but his time may have already passed. Other rising stars like WWF’s The Rock are starting to steal away the roles and the limelight.

Of course every good actor in an “action” film there has to be a horrible one as well. Once again this award goes to Thandie Newton. Who is Thandie Newton you ask? Possibly one of the worst actresses of our time, but she lucks out because plain and simple no one remembers who she is. Thandie is the chick everyone pretty much knows as “the Mission Impossible 2 chick” or maybe if you are into forms of mental torture you saw her while watching “The Truth About Charlie” starring Mark Wahlberg. Newton once again tries hard to act, but in the end someone needs to take one for the team and tell her to just shut up and stand there. Her attempts at acting in an action film like Riddick are a failure, and she is the most unbelievable, uncharismatic being in the entire film. How she manages to get film roles is still beyond me. While I will not deny she isn’t bad to look at, at some point she has to at least deliver lines in a semi-believable way so the whole world doesn’t laugh.

The special effects are what The Chronicles of Riddick is all about. They spent millions on CGI sets to create the landscapes and spacecraft the film uses. Generally they look good, but there are times the CGI becomes a bit over bearing. There are sequences where Diesel looks like he is running in front of a blue screen and photoshopped in. While flaws like this were few and far apart, it was almost distracting from the film. All in all though if you are looking for a Sci-fi film with a lot of stuff blowing up and a lot of “space age” technology, you will be in a visual heaven. Mix that in with some really great fight sequences and you have a film will make Sci-fi action fans drool.

Where Riddick fails though is the writing. They try to give Riddick’s character a ton of “one liners” in hopes to make him the next action star, but they wind up making him sound like nothing more than the director’s one liner puppet. Add that in with some horrible naming schemes (such as Crematorium for a planet that is roughly 700 degrees on the surface) and you have some things to laugh at. The ending of the film seems kind of forced and while the ending works well, I think they could have prepped us for it a bit more. The other thing that may come as a surprise to fans of the original Riddick adventure, Pitch Black, is that this film is a lot different from it’s predecessor. The original tries to be a sci-fi horror flick while this is straight sci-fi action from beginning to end. Where the first film tries to build suspense for a cheap pop or two, this flick jumps right into a higher body count and more one liners

But when it is all said and done, The Chronicles of Riddick does exactly what it sets out to do. It entertains the Sci-fi geeks and gives the special effects nerds something to look at. It gives the girls Vin Diesel to stare at and gives Vin Diesel a paycheck. Who knows if we will see Diesel’s “Riddick” character appear on the big screen, but while the Chronicles of Riddick isn’t a masterpiece it’s decent enough for me to say I almost hope this isn’t the last of Riddick…

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