Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004) Film Review
Arnold Schwarzenegger should watch his step; there's a new Conan on the block, he's played by somebody else, and he's in space! He may be called Riddick and theoretically have a history of adventure all his own, but Vin Diesel's muscular hero makes all the familiar moves in a familiar story. Does this make it boring? Not at all. Stories of this sort are predicated on the audience having a fair idea of what will happen next. Why else would they bother with prophecies and notions of destiny? Nevertheless, The Chronicles of Riddick has a few more twists and turns than the average action movie. It's also refreshingly amoral, doing away with the unpleasant hypocrasy which haunts many movies about doing the right thing by beating up strangers.
Though all he really wants is a quiet life, Pitch Black anti-hero Riddick is continually pursued by bounty hunters. Realising who must be responsible, he travels to the new homeworld of the Islamic cleric he rescued before, only to find that he has been sought after because it is believed he is the only man who might save this world and others from destruction by the evil Necromongers, an army of repressed architects bent on making everyone wear grey. Riddick is a reluctant rescuer, not caught up in his own legend, aware of his poor chances against such an army; but he has concerns of his own, centered on a vague sense of responsibility for the kid he also saved, and naturally events conspire to dictate his dangerous course of action.
In the role of Riddick, Vin Diesel is comfortable and confident; the script was written by his role-playing buddy and it shows, as every line seems utterly natural for the character even if it would be completely unnatural in normal speech. All the film's dialogue is approached with the same brash good humour which enabled the original Star Wars films to get away with all their silliness. The Chronicles of Riddick has no time for conscious irony or self-conscious posturing, but simply forges ahead with its own story, so enthusiastic and energetic that it's very easy to like. Cliches abound. The bad guys probably bought their accessories in Forbidden Planet; the scheming wife of the lord marshall has starred in dozens of pulp fantasy novels; and the fights are largely formulaic, though well choreographed, with style points going to 'death by teacup'. Yet it's all so much fun that one really doesn't need to worry about it.
Unfortunately, in a film with a lead character as aggrandised as this, it's difficult for other characters to develop properly. The bad guys are adequate, yet never come across as quite dangerous enough as individuals. When we re-encounter the kid, it becomes plain that the writers didn't know what to do about her earlier transvestism, yet she is at least spared the indignity of turning into passive love interest; Thandie Newton does a good job of giving her a consistent identity whilst turning her into the sort of heroine whom Conan was always glad to have fighting at his side. This influence allows for the sort of grudging character development which again characterises heroic fantasy tales, and creates space for the plot to take a darker turn.
The Chronicles of Riddick is not great art, nor a polished blockbuster, yet, as a piece of entertainment, it is far ahead of its contemporaries, and it proves that both Diesel and director David Twohy are ones to watch.Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2006