Chronicles of Riddick, The

July 29th, 2004 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Starring: Vin Diesel, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Keith David.

Writer/Director: David Twohy

David Twohy’s Pitch Black was one of the underground success stories of 2000, and deservedly so. It took a simple yet unshakable science fiction premise — a small, disparate band lost in a universe not their own with horror stalking them at every angle — and executed it perfectly.

It threw in just enough characterisation to stop it being another Alien rip off, and its intentions were just in the right place. Two stars emerged from Pitch Black, the menacing creatures swooping through the dark, and the small part of a convict being transported who escapes during the crash landing and becomes an unlikely hero.

That star was former New York bouncer Mark Vincent, better known as Vin Diesel, and after single-handedly claiming the crown of action hero for the Millennium Generation, he’s finally revisiting the character that made him a star.

We meet Riddick several years after we left him at the end of his escape from the Pitch Black world. Being pursued across a frozen world by an attack ship full of overzealous bounty hunters, Riddick does what he does best. He overpowers the entire crew from outside and takes over the craft to go in search of the man who betrayed his hiding place to bounty hunters, Abu from the original.

Abu, it seems, knows the truth about Riddick that he doesn’t know himself, and has brought him forcibly out of hiding in order to meet his destiny. A savage race called the Necromongers are sweeping the universe, converting entire planets to their belief system and army or wiping them out, and they’re on their way to Abu’s home planet.

And as the only surviving member of the Furian race, Riddick alone has the power to stop them. Wanting none of it, the glow-eyed hero makes to turn his back on Abu and his people like he did once before when the Necromongers arrive and Riddick has no choice but to fight.

Along the way he’ll battle the awesome forces of the necromonger armies and their planet-sized arsenal of ships, soldiers and guns, run into the unfortunate bounty hunters he’s already taken care of once, and even meet an old friend who couldn’t be less thrilled to see him. The plot even has room to look at the power plays going on within the uppermost ranks of the necromongers.

Everything about Pitch Black was right, but the danger in bigger sequels is that with more of the studio’s money being spent, the studio exerts more interference — and it usually shows.

Universal were either extremely hands off in this case or David Twohy bought them such a polished script they couldn’t argue, but this is one of the best films of 2004 and certainly the best science fiction film.

Every detail, from the settings down to the production design of every costume and every weapon is brilliantly created. Riddick is an ultimately cool character, and while the signature glare, cool quips and he’ll-never-get-out-of-this-one moments are many, they’re never overdone.

Despite the vast majority of the effects being done with computers during postproduction, there are none of the rough, rush job graphics we’ve seen in most movies so far. Every huge craft, explosion and vast alien plant city look as real as if they’d been done in real life.

It’s not essential that you’ve seen Pitch Black, but it helps if you want to understand the characters and their relationship to each other. The story references the events of Pitch Black more than once and you’ll be wondering what you missed.

But Chronicles of Riddick is very much it’s own movie. It’s Vin Diesel at his best — a scaled down, no nonsense hero instead of the wisecracking comic he played in xXx.

It’s also an action film at its best, with everything from spaceship chases to giant killer armadillo/dog creatures, effects that cover whole planets and adventure as big as the universe.

Twohy’s vision is testament to film as the canvas upon which we can imagine and create new worlds in astonishing detail, the reason science fiction was invented.


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