A saga of galactic something or other“The Chronicles of Riddick” is a guilty pleasure. There are but a few merits to this sci-fi action movie, which, oddly enough, pairs muscleman Vin Diesel with that grande dame of acting, Judi Dench. The dialogue is cheesy. The editing is uneven. The confusing plot has gaping holes, and takes a smack at religion in a way that induces eyeball-rolling.
But this movie isn’t about logic. It’s about Vin Diesel, today’s bad-boy antihero, who plays the title character, one of the last of a race of something called the Furons. If a young Marlon Brando could somehow star in a modern-day action movie, Vin Diesel would be the result: brute force, knowing savvy, surprising charm. Few can growl one-liners the way he can, all while saving humanity from some form of evil. Despite the flaws in “Riddick,” not to mention the flaws in most of the movies in which he has appeared, Diesel is enjoyable to watch.
Which only enhances the movie’s other (partially) redeeming quality: its visuals. In its grittiness, it has the anti-glamour appeal of a B-movie, and is almost reminiscent of a stark, deliberate Luc Besson film. The fight scenes and the special effects, particularly the way some of the characters move, are fun to watch. But sometimes the visuals only emphasize the confusion.
“Riddick” is part “Matrix,” part “Star Wars” and part biblical. An apparent attempt to launch a “Riddick” series, this movie is a sequel to “Pitch Black” (2001), a science fiction film that earned less than $40 million at the box office, but which picked up a cult following on home video.
“Riddick” opens with the hero on the run, as he was in “Pitch Black”; there is, for some reason I still don’t understand, a price on his head. Hiding out on an ice planet, he eludes bounty hunters, then, for unfathomable reasons, decides to go to another planet (it could be that the reasons were unfathomable because of the muffled sound at the theater where I saw the film).
There, he meets his old friend Inam (Keith David), Aereon the Elemental (Dench) and some other characters, who ask for his help against the Necromongers, a religious group led by the warrior priest Lord Marshal (Colm Feore). The Necromongers are taking over the universe by proselytizing to humans. In this crusade, captives are given the option of joining or being killed. But even upon deciding to convert, they are tortured before they can become warrior slaves of the Underverse.
Riddick escapes the Necromongers only because bounty hunters snatch him first. As luck, brilliant manuevering or another plot hole would have it, the bounty hunters take him to the worst penal planet in the universe. It turns out he’s really there to help Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a character from “Pitch Black,” escape.
Meanwhile, there’s intrigue in the Necromonger world, with second-in-command Vaako (Karl Urban) and his wife (Thandie Newton) plotting how to rise in power. The Elemental is captured, without any explanation of how. Did I mention there’s also a recent prophecy concerning Riddick? Why the movie empasizes that it’s “recent” is yet another unanswered question. But forget the lack of logic, and enjoy the vision of a universe in the midst of a great battle. It might make way for yet another addition to the Riddick saga, whatever that is.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Sci-Fi, Ac tion / English
by Joe Yong-hee