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"The Chronicles of Riddick"

Directed by David Twohy.
Written by David Twohy ("The Fugitive", "G.I. Jane").
Starring Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Colm Feore and Judi Dench.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  6/10/04


Chuck Longer--erstwhile parent-to-be--came up with two freebies to a screening of the new Vin Diesel flick "The Chronicles of Riddick", so when he called, I answered.  You see, it was fitting mostly because

  1. We're men.

  2. We saw "Pitch Black", the first movie in the Riddick series, together years ago.

  3. Much like our affection for The Rock, Vin Diesel--no matter how good or bad the movie--will always have a special place in our hearts.

Now, bear with me here for just a moment.  Chuck and I both entered the theater with open minds, but Chuck was openly talking about how bad "The Chronicles of Riddick" was going to be.  Worse, there was a banner ad running on Yahoo! all day today, with a plug attached by a purported movie critic named Shawn Edwards:

"One of the best sci-fi films ever!"

and Chuck was certain that sealed the deal that this was going to be total and complete dogshit.  Then, my friends, the movie started.

Here's what I'll say about "The Chronicles of Riddick"--as much as I don't want to admit it, this was an exciting, fun summer movie, by doing the things that all great action sequels have done in the past:  give me a bunch of action, some cool special effects, funny-ass one-liners and an expansion of what made the original so good.  Riddick (Diesel) has spent the last five years on the run from mercenaries out to collect an expensive bounty on his head, but he finally has his fill when he finds out that one of the characters from the original "Pitch Black", a guy named Imam (Keith David), has sold him out.  This gets the ball rolling on an intergalactic adventure that takes him to three planets, a half-dozen spaceships, and to hand-to-hand battles with about a thousand bad guys, many of whom are led by the classic "bent on world domination" type named Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) and his race of Necro-somethings that have otherworldly powers and the strength of the freakin' Empire.  Riddick, not interested so much in saving the universe as he is in trying to find a minor character from his past, bounces from place to place while trying to balance his mission with the fate of the galaxy.

What makes Riddick a great character for Diesel is quite obvious--a sincere lack of dialogue and lots of ass-whoopin' and scowling, all things that Diesel has come to master over his brief career.  Director David Twohy doesn't change much with the Riddick character, and I thought it was especially key that we don't have to deal with much in the way of a love interest even if his former friend Jack/Jackie/Kyra (Alexa Davalos) does seem to be interested in some hangin' out.  The one-liners in "The Chronicles of Riddick" had our preview audience laughing throughout; some are pretty hammy, others are actually funny.  Diesel does his tough-guy schtick without taking himself too seriously, which makes those 'tweener sequences (when stuff ain't gettin' all blow'd up) quite palatable.

The special effects, and in particular the awesome sound effects, make action sequences in "The Chronicles of Riddick" pretty eff'n cool.  I loved the ability of the Marshal character to throw Johnny Cage-style punches and shadow kicks; this is especially cool when lessers disobey the Marshal and he whips out an elbow that is as effective on screen as it is to the audience:  the sound effect of the elbow crashing into another man makes you sit back and say "whoa" just as soon as you remember that this is just a movie.  Little touches--like engine signature on spaceships as they fly from place to place, or an extended fight scene where Twohy removes the sound effects and instead gives us a musical soundtrack as people are getting wrecked by Riddick--work here as he tries to keep things fresh for the whole movie.

The language is foul and the body count is quite high for a PG-13; "Pitch Black" was rated R for its violence, so in the softening of tone to make this more kid-friendly, not much is lost as characters curse it up throughout the film.  Performances in "The Chronicles of Riddick" make it a real keeper; instead of Radha Mitchell or Cole Hauser from the first film, we get former Oscar nominee Judi Dench (as some kind of mystical cleric that's also an angel; whatever), Colm Feore and Karl Urban, so strong in the last two "Lord of the Rings" films as he gives his second-in-command character a decent edge.

Parts of "The Chronicles of Riddick" drag, and a couple of others felt gratuitous.  Twohy does fall in love with the slo-mo on occasion (especially with his obsession of giving us Riddick running slow motion; hey, I get it, already!), but otherwise I really enjoyed the filmmaking of this flick, from the mix of adventure and comedy, to the mix of the individual action scenes--a shootout here, a space battle there, a fistfight here, a prison brawl there.  The budget is so much larger than it was for the first film; every single thing in "Riddick" technology-related blows "Pitch Black" away.  We'll see if we get a capper to the trilogy sooner than later!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09