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The Chronicles of Riddick

Starring Vin Diesel
Based on Characters created by Jim & Ken Wheat
Written and Directed by David Twohy

IN SHORT: Take two hundred testosterone and call me in the morning. Better yet avoid the testosterone and save the cash you'd otherwise spend on this stinker. [Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violent Action and Some Language. minutes]

Those who care to surf through the Cranky Archives (and those who bother to read the words that precede the dollar rating) know that we enjoyed the predecessor to The Chronicles of Riddick. It was a pleasant surprise of a movie called Pitch Black and it unlocked the fifteen year old hidden inside the ravaged body of ye olde Cranky. David Twohy's sequel is designed to keep those teens happy; his story lifts the best imagery from classic SF and fantasy universes such as Conan and Dune and his characters are just as flat and uninteresting as those in any individual story of those universes, stripped of the florid prose that fleshed them out. The production design that creates the alien worlds in this universe is fantastic. It would have been killer if the story matched the design, but it doesn't.

Thanks to the message boards of the Internet, all the fanboys of the first film have had plenty of opportunity to leak the story of the sequel and embellish and fill out the holes. We, on the other hand, have always worked under the rule of thumb that you shouldn't have to know the Source Material to fall under the spell of any movie project. That includes the necessity of watching an earlier film to know the background and motivation of the characters in the story. You don't need to have seen Pitch Black to plant for this sequel. IF you had stayed the course after the first one, you'd be way ahead of the game and a fistful of bucks wealthier to boot.

The Chronicles of Riddick is a relatively story free killfest. Oh, sure, there are story ideas at work in Twohy's screenplay: a religious dictatorship called Necromongers is stretching their evil hand across the galaxy. Led by the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore), they kill all who will not convert to their religion via a process akin to torture; a small band of mercenaries, led by Toombs (Nick Chinlund), tracks an elusive killer named Riddick (Vin Diesel, click for StarTalk) across the more weather challenged balls of mud in the same universe; but Twohy has put all his effort into the production design of his epic. That effort is visually stupendous but his attempt to write an epic story to match falls flat on its face.

Pretty pictures do not a great SF epic make. We, Site rules and all be damned, were bored silly. While the teens in our audience applauded every knife thrust and twist in the thing they came streaming out of the theater calling The Chronicles of Riddick the dumbest thing they'd ever seen. The attempt to build a story of political intrigue and manipulation features a Necromonger "royalty" Dame Vaako (Thandie Newton) and her husband Vaako (Karl Urban), an elemental godlike being called Aereon (Judi Dench) and revolutionary religious types led by Imam (Keith David) who face off against the convert or die machines run by a being called the Purifier (Linus Roache).

Why Riddick is sucked into this mess involves who put the bounty on his head and why. Riddick, the sole survivor of a planet called Furia is a being with enhanced eyesight that favors the dark and forces him to wear sun-blocking goggles in the daytime. That's more background than thus movie provides -- it goes without saying that all who cross Riddick's blood stained path won't get away unscathed but writer David Twohy doesn't bother to say that either. He doesn't really have to, right? Twohy does let us know that Riddick just wants to be left alone, and that's pretty much it. The forces that run this Universe, and the reveal of the identity of the beings who need Riddick's aid comes relatively early in the movie. The story is so thin that revealing the details of the who and why will strip any surprise from the lucky few that aren't wishing they could get their money back.

Science Fantasy aside, most of The Chronicles of Riddick plays out like any story of the latter days of Conan the Barbarian. Those who have read either the prose or the Roy Thomas/ John Buscema comic adaptations will recognize many familiar bits and pieces, one after another. If not, we'll still stand by our boredom and the reaction of the kidlets two decades younger -- just the folk that should be reading Robert E. Howard's stuff.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Chronicles of Riddick, he would have paid . . .


Rent it if you've got a big screen teevee, so you can sit close to blow out your optical nerves on the scenic design.

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