U.S. Release Date: June 11, 2004
Distributor: Universal
Director: David Twohy
Writer: David Twohy
Producer: Vin Diesel, Ted Field (executive), Scott Kroopf, George Zakk (executive)
Composer: Graeme Revell
Cast: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache
Running Time: 1 hour and 59 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violent action and some language)

Chronically in the Dark
by C.A. Wolski

The Chronicles of Riddick is a second-rate sci-fi epic that is derailed by an unfocused story, uninteresting characters and cheesy production design.

Set five years after the events of the first Riddick movie, Pitch Black, the galaxy is in the grips of an unstoppable war machine helmed by religious zealots, the Necromongers (the name is indicative of the juvenile level of the movie), who give the planets they invade a choice: convert or die. There is only one solution we are told in a voiceover prologue (a sign of a movie that's going to be less than stellar): fight evil with a different kind of evil.

Enter Riddick (Vin Diesel), who has been on the run from various mercenaries hoping to collect the bounty on his head. On the planet Helion, Riddick learns from transient being Aereon (Judi Dench) that he is the last member of a race called the Furions, who are the only people ever to give the Necromongers a run for their money. Unfortunately, Riddick arrives about 10 minutes before the Necromongers show up and efficiently put the sword to the population.

What follows is a bunch of hokum with Riddick killing the top Necromonger warrior in single combat, his escape and his liberation of his one-time charge Kyra from the prison planet Crematoria—which seems to eat up about two-thirds of the movie with a typical POW/prison plot and escape. The end follows the tradition of the typically bad sci-fi adventure movie with our hero going one-on-one with Necromonger leader Lord Marshal (Colm Feore in an utter waste of his talents).

To put it mildly, The Chronicles of Riddick is a mess. There is no depth to the story and even less to the characters. Important questions about the Aereon's race called the Elementals, the motivations of the Lord Marshal and the reason Riddick does anything in this movie are left a mystery.

This is not to say that there isn't a good movie screaming to get out. The religious mission of the Necromongers is an interesting twist on the typical invading army theme, and Feore does do a decent job not chewing the scenery too much. Thandie Newton's treacherous Dame Vaako is the best performance and the only one with a bit of dimension. Her Lady MacBeth-like machinations are one of the few interesting parts of the movie.

The special effects, editing and even the music are haphazard and poorly executed. There are one or two action sequences that are somewhat well staged, including a race against the sun on the hell planet Crematoria, but they have no dramatic bite. We're never in doubt that Riddick will win the fight and escape with his life.

The movie's biggest problem is the Riddick as anti-hero concept. Anti-heroes can be used to great effect and can be appealing, particularly when, as in the case of one like Mel Gibson's Mad Max, they are forced into a situation to be heroic. That is not the case with Riddick. He could have simply left the badder guys to do their worst.

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