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With: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Colm Feore, Linus Roache, Keith David, Yorick van Wageningen, Alexa Davalos, Nick Chinlund
Written by: David Twohy, based upon characters created by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Directed by: David Twohy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and some language
Running Time: 135
Date: 06/03/2004

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The sequel The Chronicles of Riddick should have been one of the summer's biggest draws, merely because the Shakespearian-level acting goddess Judi Dench and monosyllabic slab of beef Vin Diesel appear in the same movie, and indeed, perform scenes together. Unfortunately, the film is so bad that even this novelty loses its appeal.

I recently enjoyed the new DVD re-release of the original film Pitch Black (1999). Despite its formula structure, it was a small-scale film with an abundance of imagination and style. Diesel plays a potent supporting role, and the other characters build up his legend and status before he even speaks his first line. In the end, Diesel steals the picture by doing the least amount of work.

In the new sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel occupies the center of every scene and he has lots of dialogue. It's still a formula story, but this time all the creativity and imagination went into the sets and backgrounds.

Five years after the end of Pitch Black, Riddick (Diesel) escapes from prison and tracks down the two other survivors from the end of that movie, one of which was responsible for turning him in. He finds holy man Imam (Keith David) in New Mecca with his wife and child, just before an evil army called the Necromongers attacks and destroys half the city. Riddick later voyages to a sun-baked desert planet to find the other Pitch Black survivor, a young girl who has now grown up into a sexy "Buffy"-like fighting machine called Kyra (Alexa Davalos).

With the help of Dench (who plays a kind of translucent wind-being), Riddick discovers that he's the "chosen one" who can destroy them. The lead bad guys include Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), his right-hand man Vaako (Karl Urban) and Vaako's girlfriend (Thandie Newton). The three of them deserve punishment if for nothing else than for their atrocious performances.

Once again directed by David Twohy, The Chronicles of Riddick constantly astounds with its majestic hugeness. The art directors went overboard on a series of spectacular sets, costumes, spaceships, skylines and special effects. Unfortunately, the script doesn't live up to any of it, and the fight scenes are among the worst I've ever seen. The choreography is there and you can see bits of clarity in among the chaos, but Twohy inexplicably shakes his camera around furiously during every fight, rendering the action completely unwatchable.

Ultimately, The Chronicles of Riddick has a lot in common with The Day After Tomorrow. On the one hand, both films are spectacular in their design and intent, but both fail miserably on the most basic level of character and story. They are both visual assaults with no emotional center. And both are unintentionally funny in their colossal badness.

DVD Details: Universal's DVD of course comes with the "unrated" version, running 135 minutes. Extras include deleted scenes (5 minutes), a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the sets with Vin Diesel, a virtual guide to the film, a featurette that tracks Toombs' search for Riddick just before the film's opening scene, trivia and background facts during the film, an audio commentary track with Twohy, Urban and Davalos, and more. In addition, XBox owners can pop the DVD into their game console and play the first level of the Riddick video game. I suspected all along that this film was nothing more than a multi-million dollar ad for a game...

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