Quint's sadly underwhelmed by THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Published at: June 9, 2004, 5:07 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts... Quint here with my opinion on Universal's second big summer flick: THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK.
I love, love, love, love, love PITCH BLACK. I love the character of Riddick and think it's the perfect kind of role for Vin Diesel, a memorable anti-hero... That rare asshole that can actually walk the walk and would just as soon kill you as let you live. I've been a fan of this character since the very first BUTT-NUMB-A-THON when the movie screened to a sleep deprived audience amped up on sugar-based energy and eagerly awaited his return to the big screen.
After seeing THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed. The movie's not bad, most of the stuff with Riddick himself was really sweet... most of the acting was good, the effects were pretty good... But it wasn't everything it promised to be.
Let's start with Riddick. He's thrown into the path of the world dominating Necromongers by Imam (the awesome, but very underused Keith David) from the first film. He's got bounty hunters chasing a bounty on his head and these Necromonger assholes to deal with and that's basically the plot of the film.
I still believe the character of Riddick is the best anti-hero we've had this side of Snake Plisskin. I still think he's got franchise written all over him... BUT they are starting to take the character away from his base, away from what he was in PITCH BLACK and what is promised to us in the trailer. Judi Dench (or as one of my friends called her after the movie Dame Exposition) says "Sometimes the only way to stop evil is not with good. You must confront it with another kind of evil." That totally jives with the Riddick we know. Even though he got a little personally involved with the characters in PITCH BLACK, you always knew where his allegiance really was: with Number One.
Unfortunately, the way the film plays out you find the character somewhat... diluted. He helps strangers. He might talk a little shit to them, but there is no moment where he abandons the innocent due to convenience. There is worry and concern upon his brow for people he cares about. It seems they're moving from the shadow into the light, taking the anti away from the hero and to me that's less interesting and a little bit of the easy way out with his character. That's not to take anything away from Diesel's performance. His voice, his demeanor, his attitude still match perfectly with the role. It's just his actions that I have a problem with.
It also could very well be a genre difference that rubbed me the wrong way. I'm a huge fan of the horror/action genre (ie ALIENS and PITCH BLACK)... Not so much the talky, cartoony Sci-Fi genre... Words like Necromongers and Underverse just kind of make me roll my eyes when spoken in all seriousness. I don't mean to put myself above this genre, I really don't. I just can't take it seriously if it doesn't take itself seriously, you know?
The acting on the whole is pretty good, with one very notable exception. I've made no secret of my out and out hatred of every single performance from Thandie Newton and her work in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK is no different. To me, she is a plague upon the screen. She is very beautiful, no question, but every single time that woman opens her mouth in this movie I wanted to laugh out loud. She is so damn over-dramatic... It's like she turns every single scene she's ever in into a soap opera. There is no subtlety to her performances, no life in her eyes. She's just spouting out dialogue. She never seems to become a character.
It's funny, but I really don't dislike this movie. My overall feeling is "It's alright." The storyline concerning Riddick and the Mercenaries was really fun. The Riddick in prison stuff was damn good, including the awesome sun-baked doggies... That was the only time I felt Riddick was in the spotlight, which is odd since he's in about 95% of the film, but outside the prison and the Merc ship he almost feels like a background character.
All the Necromonger stuff wasn't bad, really... Just not terribly interesting. I like the inner-struggle of Karl Urban's character, the right hand man of the big baddie Lord Marshal (Colm Feore)... He was torn just as the Necromonger religion is contradictory... He's sworn loyalty to Lord Marshal, but by their rules if he wants to advance in the ranks he has to kill him. To remain loyal or to take what he wants? An interesting conflict and he provides to be the most interesting character. Colm Feore is kind of a non-entity in the movie. I don't really feel one way or the other about him.
There is something about how Riddick does these super-awesome stunts that take away any sense of him stepping up to the plate at the right time... For instance, that hand to hand he has with the alien in PITCH BLACK made me want to cheer. You knew he was a badass, but when that scene happened (and he did get hurt, don't forget) it was a great scene. There is no such scene in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK. When he gets his ass beat you just get frustrated as a viewer because of all the crazy superhuman shit you've seen him do in the previous 90 minutes and wonder why he can't do that stuff now.
At the end of the day, this is a fun movie... A little too PG-13, considering the source material, but not a bad movie... It's just not a great movie. It's a disappointment and not where I had imagined the series going. Now, that might be my fault, but I certainly can't take any fault for taking Riddick off of the dark path and onto the light. I hope the series continues and lowers the scope a bit, focusing more on Riddick... From the ending to this movie, I doubt I'll see that film, but I can hope. Until then I guess I have the RIDDICK video game (strangely a hard R type of game for a PG-13 movie) and the original film. Maybe CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK will grow on me a little bit, go from a "It's alright" to a "Pretty damn good" in my mind. As of right now, count me disappointed.