Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way: I really liked Pitch Black. It was the sort of B-grade, sci-fi sleeper hit that even the critics seemed to like because, I like to think, it took itself seriously. Decent creature effects, a couple of good scare moments, and a twist ending was all it took to launch Vin Diesel’s career.
Watching Riddick in the sequel, though, makes you wonder how Vin made it this far. When an action hero character starts spouting of witty one-liners, I begin to wonder who should be blamed. Was it the script? Does the actor’s ego play a part? Does the director or studio think that a movie won’t last in the public’s consciousness without a sound bite that can be repeated endlessly on a middle school playground? I don’t get it. Maybe the answer is in XXX – I missed that movie.
The Chronicles of Riddick borrows only a bit from the original Pitch Black. Three characters make a comeback and, I think, a certain prison that was mentioned in the first movie is now the setting for a full act in Riddick. The rest of the movie is an attempt to create a literal universe of setting with only a smattering of backstory dialog combined with a plethora of special effects. In my opinion, The Chronicles of Riddick could only have been a success if it had been broken up into more movies.
Whenever I see a mess like this, I inevitably think back (fondly) to The Fifth Element. The biggest accomplishment of that movie was its ability, it just over two hours, to create a robust universe that seemed fully fleshed out and internally consistent. I wish that Riddick had spent more time working on that and less time working on fight scenes. I didn’t care about the characters – I wanted to know what the hell the “Underverse” was all about! What were those cool panther beasts and how did Riddick get their eyes? How does black, smoky, heat ripples propel a ship and what were the motivations of the mutinous “Necromongers?”
I’m sorry. I really wanted to like The Chronicles of Riddick – I do so enjoy my sci-fi. But when the most interesting characters were either downplayed or killed off and so much of the crucial backstory was simply glossed over, there doesn’t leave a lot left to savor. I do hope for another movie in the series, if only to flesh out the universe more. The ending they wrote obviously had a sequel in mind, but unfortunately I can’t imagine that it’ll ever be made. Vin Diesel will probably ask for more money than his rapidly sinking career will command and unless The Chronicles of Riddick does much better at the box office than I think it will, it will have a hard time recovering the money spent on his salary and the (admittedly good) special effects.
You know what would be cool, though? Continuing the story with Return-of-the-King Guy and his power-hungry girlfriend.
Trivial Thought: I’m sorry, 700 degrees is just not that hot.
What did I find worthwhile about the movie? The special effects, again. (Must be summer.) I also liked what little of the backstory I could gleam. Seems like it could be pretty interesting.
Would I recommend the movie? Only if you’re a diehard science fiction fan.
Will I buy it on DVD? Tough one. If so, only because I already own Pitch Black.
Overall Summer Movie Ranking
The Day After Tomorrow
The Chronicles of Riddick