By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Amazing production design and lots of action make up for the huge plot holes in this surprisingly decent movie.
I had just come off of two previous days of bad (Van Helsing) or at the very best, forgettable (The Day After Tomorrow) movies when I decided what-the-heck-let’s-throw-the-dice on this one. I completely expected this thing to stink, even as a “check your brain at the door” movie, but I was pleasantly (and shockingly) surprised.
The movie opens with Riddick in hiding from “Mercs” (you’re just not cool if you don’t abbreviate) due to a $1 million+ price on his head. His “badass quotient” is established immediately in a segment involving a ship flying through a tight canyon, where he takes out a few bad guys single handedly and without a weapon. There was something about the way the exteriors were shot that told me I might be in for something cool.
At least visually, I was right.
This movie had the most amazing production design I’ve seen in a Sci Fi flick since Dune. The alien ships and technology looked truly “alien” and the effects around the ships while in flight really made it look like gravity was being distorted. I have to give huge props to the visual team of this film.
Basic storyline is that Riddick is called by one of the characters in the first film (Pitch Black) to help defend a planet against a race of marauding aliens. These aliens take over a world, and offer the inhabitants an opportunity to convert to their religion (“The Underverse”) and become soldiers, or die. That sounded eerily familiar to me as I sat there….
Of course Riddick is reluctant at first but eventually comes around for personal reasons, and eventually much butt-kicking ensues. One of my favorite scenes takes place while he is chained by both feet and hands in a rail-type car, apparently immobile.
Plenty of action here to keep everyone satisified, and Vin Diesel is worthy of the title of “Next Big Action Star”. He’s got that look that if he were to walk into a room and do absolutely nothing even remotely threatening, you’d still know to keep your distance.
Of course there is plenty of ridiculousness in the film, including trying to outrun the upcoming sunrise by staying in the terminator (No, not Ahnuld. The dividing line between day and night) on a planet where the days reach 700 degrees and the nights 300 below zero. Also funny was the costume change by Thandie Newton’s character right at before a pivotal moment.
One complaint I do have about the film (and other recent action movies) is this new hyper-editing style that’s used during fight sequences. There were times during this film that I literally could not tell what was going on. Between the fast cuts and the strobe lights, I was truly lost. I had to decide to just sit back, not try to hurt myself trying to figure it out, and wait for the next scene.
Oh, and just what was Judi Dench doing in this film?! All I can surmise is that although she’s been in some excellent films, they’ve all been lower level paychecks, and that the studio made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Maybe she wanted to buy a house in Malibu. For cash.
So, although even in Sci Fi/Action films I’m usually a stickler for plot and character development, The Chronicles of Riddick has enough “cool” factor to make it worth checking out.