An evil race of warriors know as The Necromongers (including Thandie Newton,
Colm Feore, and Karl Urban) are traveling across the galaxy destroying entire
planets on their way to the "Underverse," and total glory. Their weakness is a
race of people with night-vision called Furians and the only one left is Riddick
(Vin Diesel), a criminal and thug who lives by his own rules. When the Necromongers come to Riddick's doorstep, the
outlaw must fight the impossible army, employing his only weapon: himself.
"Chronicles of Riddick" (IMDb listing) is a picture crowded with ambition and labyrinthine
plotting. Even more curious, it's a $100 million sequel to a small time
sci-fi cheapie called "Pitch Black," released back in 2000. Sequels to cult
movies have come and gone before, but writer/director Twohy has been granted a
key to unlock his imagination with this risky
sci-fi epic, and the filmmaker doesn't waste a drop of his money.
"Riddick" is a film of mega proportions, yet it is anchored to the ground by being
a sequel to a film not many have seen, or even heard of. Twohy has elaborate
plans for this second go round, yet oddly, the film's first act hinges on
knowledge of "Pitch Black." "Riddick" is so far into the stratosphere in terms
of fantasy exposition that watching it without knowing the events of the first film is like trying to read a
sci-fi book with the first 100 pages torn out. Because the mythology is so
thick, watching it even having seen the original film is like reading the same book, but with the first 50
pages torn out. Either way, audiences are going to be lost to varying degrees.
Necromongers, Furians, and Elementals (which adds an ethereal Judi Dench to the
cast), oh my! Twohy's script for "Riddick" is a jumble of made up science
fiction terms, people, and worlds, clearly modeled on the "Lord of the Rings"
trilogy and "Star Wars," and the conclusion sets itself up for an immediate
sequel (two are planned, but not filmed). Since he must launch three movies'
worth of story in "Riddick," there's a lot to take in; far too much, I think,
for the average moviegoing experience. "Rings" had the benefit of being based on
popular books, but "Riddick" exists in screenplay form only, and nobody really
has a clue, besides Twohy, where this character and tale are headed. The movie
ends on an ambiguous note (with a shot straight from "Evil Dead 2"), and since
this is the only filmed adventure so far, if it fails at the box office, the
audience is left with a big fat question mark. That doesn't seem fair to the
summer crowds now does it?
What Twohy does understand is that breathers must be placed throughout this
complicated film, and that's where Diesel's true power comes to play. Possibly
the worst actor working today, Diesel nonetheless holds the audience's attention when
it comes to physical challenges. It's a shame that Twohy doesn't permit a
clean look at the battle scenes; needlessly buried under strobes and quick cuts.
Twohy, who has such great control over the amazing production and costume design
of this film, evidently cannot direct an action sequence to save his life. Maybe
the budget was too lavish, or fighting guys in rubber suits looks silly when you
really get an eye full of it. Either way, the action sequences in "Riddick" are
cut to shreds, ruining the short opportunities to have any traditional "fun"
with this sci-fi monster.
"Riddick" eventually settles down in adventure mode, featuring a striking
sequence where Riddick and the gang must outrun a rising, blazing sun on a
fire-laden planet called Crematoria. It's a kick to see a completely indulgent
sci-fi film make it to screens, and "Riddick" should provide a nice portion of
decent genre thrills to those who crave that sweet, sweet juice. But if Twohy
gets a second (or third) opportunity to visit this character, a more streamlined
effort would be appreciated.
Filmfodder Grade: B-