THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Judi Dench, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban
Release Date: August 27th 2004
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After escaping Pitch Black’s alien nasties and still on the run from bounty hunters, deadly fugitive Richard B. Riddick is dragged into the battle against the Necromongers, an evil mind-control race terrorising the galaxy in their search for the ‘Underverse’.
‘Mercenaries. Elementals. Necromongers. I’ve never been so popular,’ rumbles Vin Diesel’s beefcake anti-hero at one point. Well, yes and no. True, every other character and race here wants a piece of Riddick, baldest, baddest boy in the galaxy. Yet somewhat misleading, in that the overblown adventures and ill-advised preening that swell his space operatics to saturation point are unlikely to produce the franchise all involved have so patently gambled on.
In retrospect it’s an odd wager. Pitch Black’s B-movie groove came from riffing some neat solos on a well-worn Alien theme, so why follow it with a ponderous game of name that Dune? Writers like Frank Herbert or Asimov developed their worlds across whole series of novels; here Diesel (also co-producing) and writer-director Twohy gobble up various mythologies Conan, Star Trek, Dubya Bush as greedily as the Necromongers sweep up planets and splurge them out into one two-hour movie. It ends up giving you indigestion something chronic.
Riddick himself, the one remaining ‘Furian’ and potential saviour, isn’t the main problem. Diesel would doubtless drink himself if he were a fruit smoothie but fulfils his quota of strong-arm action moves and gruff one-liners, delivered in a voice that makes Tom Waits sound like David Beckham. Around him, though, it’s am-dram night at the intergalactic village hall. Feore’s Lord Marshal is a colourless nemesis; Urban’s mullet is his most expressive feature and the beautiful Thandie Newton’s conniving Dame Vaako belongs in panto-land. As for Dame Judi, her ethereal seer Aereon wafts in sporadically to chivvy the plot along but is probably onscreen less than in Shakespeare in Love. Hope she makes do with a nice summerhouse instead of another Oscar.
Too many dire lines (‘It’s been a long time since I smelled beautiful’ Diesel growls on sniffing Newton), cluttered sets, loose ends so what is the ‘Underverse’? - and confusing up-close-and-impersonal fight scenes only add to the frustration. There’s genuine ambition here and some enjoyably OTT stylings but finally it all cracks under the weight of its own pretensions (Shakespeare is inevitably referenced in a Macbeth-lite subplot) and a deafening soundtrack: a tale of Dolby-Digital Surround sound and a Furian, signifying nothing.
* * (two stars)
'© Highbury Entertainment 2003. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'
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