CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, THE
You'll need a calculator to tally up the film and other cultural touchstones in The Chronicles of Riddick, which is not really a good thing. Star Trek, Star Wars, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, even Macbeth and The Adventures of Robin Hood. They're all referenced in this unwieldy porridge of effects and idiocy.
Riddick is set five years after the end of writer-director David Twohy's Pitch Black, the 2000 cult success which introduced buffed-up ex-con Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) to the filmgoing audience. That picture, a stripped-down sci-fi horror opus of tremendous visceral effectiveness, looks like Tolstoy next to this bloated effort.
Riddick opens with the eponymous anti-hero on the run from bounty hunters while the cosmos is being imperiled by the Necromongers, a warrior race who offer their conquered subjects a simple choice: Join us or die. But there's a fly in the ointment: It seems the head Borg, er, Necromonger (Colm Feore) has had a dream in which he is vanquished by a Furyan, the surviving member of a race his legions have already destroyed. No need to guess who that muscle-bound savior is; he's already kicking ass all over the known universe.
The major problem with Riddick--and it's one among many--is that once the setup is explained, the rest of the film is pretty much a never-ending series of hairbreadth escapes and violent, extremely loud action sequences. With what seems like a mega-dose of noise and bloodletting every five minutes, viewer numbness soon sets in. Physically, of course, Diesel is up to all of this, but once he's asked to open his mouth, his affectless line deliveries tend to destroy his credibility as a screen hero. Put it this way: Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry sounds positively Shakespearean in comparison.
If there are any pleasures to be had from Riddick, they stem mainly from Holger Gross' truly spectacular production design, which encompasses numerous interiors and several different planets. There's also fun to be had watching Dame Judi Dench gamely giving her all as some amorphously shaped ambassador from a superior race; Colm Feore acting deliciously, imperiously evil (Basil Rathbone couldn't do better) as the head Necromonger; and Thandie Newton, looking luscious in form-fitting futuristic spacewear, doing her best to play a space-age Lady Macbeth.
Ultimately, Riddick's failures seem even more extreme because Twohy has done solid work in the past. He co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Fugitive and, in addition to Pitch Black, directed the hugely entertaining aliens-are-already-here flick The Arrival. But Twohy has obviously succumbed to the Hollywood disease, the belief that bigger is better. The Chronicles of Riddick shows that he's dead wrong.
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