The Chronicles of
11 June 2004
In The Chronicles of Riddick,
Vin Diesel, hell-bent on mythologizing himself, stands in the middle
of it all, trying very hard to look terribly important. He's
reprising his character from the 2000 film Pitch Black, and
he was much better in more quieter, less over-inflated surroundings.
Riddick is notorious, everyone is after him, yet he doesn't appear
to have done anything of particular note -- he's famous without
having to have done anything. Riddick can see in the dark, and if
the contact lenses that give his eyes a metallic sheen are anything
like the ones Alec Baldwin had to wear in The Shadow, Diesel
would not have been able to see a thing on the set.
The movie itself starts out in a
highly unappealing way. Invading spacecraft descend from the skies
upon a peaceful, prosperous planet and start blowing everything and
everyone to bits for reasons that are never entirely explained.
Riddick, it turns out, is the one, the only one, who can route these
interlopers, for reasons that are also never entirely explained. The
merciless invaders, who favor grays and blacks, are Fascists and
ride around in attack craft that look like giant office staplers.
The only thing that keeps the movie
from becoming totally loathsome is that, on a narrative level, it's
blitheringly nuts. Characters, wearing elaborate but ridiculous
costumes, strut around on sets that look like they were copied from
David Lynch's film Dune, delivering long, ropey strings of
dialogue that sound idiotic and which we can understand only half of
the time. This certainly undoes some of the performers -- Colm Feore,
who used to appear in good movies, cheaply smirks his way through
the role of an evil overlord, Thandie Newton plays a sub-Lady
Macbeth who burns eyeliner in around her eyes, an unrecognizable
Linus Roache plays a character who...
Anyway, elsewhere the movie can't
decide what it's supposed to be at times -- first it's an
apocalyptic drama, then it goes gallivanting off to more dank,
dismal environs on a penitentiary planet, then there's an
(implausible) escape and a gallop back to where things started and a
conclusion that renders Riddick as a sort of "Conan"-like
scoundrel-turned-king (and a few other things that I will not reveal
here, you'll have to see it for yourself). The action sequences go
off like flashbulbs in your face, and are staged so close to the
camera that you can't follow what's going on.
Which leaves us with Judi Dench,
who flits through the movie -- literally (she's semi-transparent,
and floats) -- as an "Elemental" who's sort of a home team rooter
for Riddick. Dame Judi seems a little surprised and intrigued over
being asked to appear in this enterprise, but she doesn't loaf her
way through the role -- she does a perfectly fine job, giving the
picture its one, and only, aspect of prestige. The only thing is,
you have to sit through the rest of the picture in order to see all
of her performance, and that's not easy.
Yorick van Wageningen
Roger R. Cross
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.