Worth A Look: 22.54%
Pretty Bad: 18.31%
Total Crap: 12.68%
7 reviews, 100 user ratings
|Chronicles of Riddick, The
by David Hollands
Pitch Black, while not exactly being the most original film ever made, still turned out to be a very entertaining, fun and scary ride. The director, David Twohy, kept a sustained tense atmosphere throughout, and some of the sequences in that film were jaw-droppers.What Pitch Black managed to do best, however, was introduce us to a new film anti-hero. Riddick turned out to be one of the best creations to come along in quite a long while, a character who was always, more or less, evil. In Pitch Black, Riddick did change enough to help others in need, but he also heartlessly murdered another in order to allow him and the others to escape. This was not only brave, but also highly refreshing.
"An overblown, hideously bloated and pathetic science fiction film."
One can imagine my excitement when the sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, was announced. Sadly, it would seem that my expectations may have been a bit too high, as Riddick's continuing adventures proved to be a bit under whelming.
When we last left Riddick, he had escaped the dreaded alien-infested planet with two other survivors, Iman and Jack. Imam and Jack have both headed off on their own paths, but Riddick now has a new bounty on his head. Upon discovering that the bounty was placed on him by high officials from Imam’s home world, he is more than a little angry (considering that he saved Imam with the understanding that Imam would say that Riddick had died on the alien planet so that Riddick wouldn't be followed). Arriving on Imam’s home planet, he discovers that the bounty was placed on him in order to lure him into fighting against an army known as Necromongers, who are sweeping the universe, conquering all worlds. Riddick, of course, is against fighting, constantly stating that it "isn't my fight", but will eventually discover some things about the Necromongers as well as his own background that will lead him to fight against the invaders.
I suppose it's pretty obvious that The Chronicles of Riddick isn't exactly the most original science fiction film ever made. However, films don't have to be original to work...the filmmakers simply have to understand that their film is not original. Thankfully, The Chronicles of Riddick understands this, and in this way, it is a little bit fun to experience. That writer and director David Twohy keeps a bouncy enough atmosphere is a definite plus to the movie, as the unoriginality would have been a major distraction otherwise.
David Twohy is also wise to make Riddick a definite film anti-hero, yet not a complete superman. For, as The Matrix Reloaded has taught us, two super-humans endlessly battling to no end gets pretty darn boring. Riddick's enemies are able to hurt him, either through words or through physical violence, which is definitely refreshing, considering that even though the audience knows that Riddick will come out the winner in the end, there is still suspense derived from some sequences where the audience's knowledge of Riddick's survival is brought into question.
Regardless of those positives, there are a whole bunch of distracting negatives. The main detractor is the fact that the film takes itself way too seriously, and some of the proceedings do become quite cheesy. The movie can't exactly be loose enough to be completely fun, and it does have a weight to it that keeps it grounded. It can even seem a bit heavy handed in many spots, appearing as if Star Wars creator George Lucas had a crack at writing a few parts of the script. When David Twohy attempts to emulate Shakespeare, with some joyless and heavy poetic-like moments, it just fails miserably. A scene in which a Necromonger battling his inner demons commits suicide by walking out into a heat wave is silly beyond belief. Many of the speeches of the main villain, one Lord Marshall, are laughable in their attempt to be serious and frightening.
The worst part of the film is actually its structure. We start off with a very interesting storyline, that of Riddick and the Necromongers' attempt to take over Iman's home world. Then, at about the half-way mark, Riddick is suddenly off the planet heading to planet Crematoria as a prisoner. This aspect to the plot is only there so Riddick can meet up with Jack from the first film, who has now changed her name to Kyra. Still, Riddick heading to Crematoria, getting captured, and rescuing Jack lasts for about an hour. It is here where the film just sags like an anvil on wet concrete, becoming so slow as to horribly bore. I wondered why it was even necessary for the film to travel to Crematoria to get Jack, when Jack could have just been with Riddick the whole time. This way, Jack might have actually been developed a bit as something slightly more than a sacrificial lamb. 'Cause really, all Jack does in the film is provide Riddick for reasons to fight, and is one-dimensional at best.
David Twohy has always been a consistently good writer and director. However, it seems that as soon as he got a budget, he threw all of his knowledge of technique and dialogue out the window. Cause really, the dialogue in this film is absolutely atrocious. It constantly sounds like dialogue, and Twohy also decides to over-explain things as well throughout. He never relies completely on his visuals to tell a tale, instead thinking that audiences simply won't get the obvious. Therefore, he has characters describing places or other characters to others or themselves, when the characters in this film would have actually already known about the characters or locations for years. That's pretty d*mn dumb. Plus, the use of voice-over constantly distracts, as it is only heard once or twice here (and in moments where it would typically be better without voice-over), usually to basically describe the obvious.
Such an assured hand at everything he directed before this film, David Twohy sure seems to have gone off the deep end here. He has composed this film in the full 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and some of the visuals look incredible. Sadly, one can't say this about every visual. Twohy makes a major miscalculation in constantly filming things with a tilted camera angle. Nearly all of this movie is shot in a tilted view, just as Battlefield Earth was, and the visual results are basically the same: annoying. Sometimes tilting the camera can work well, but when an audience member is constantly staring at the screen as if they're sitting diagonally, it gets more than a little distracting. Also, Twohy seems to have indulged in way too many visual clichés here. Whenever a villain gives a speech, the camera is usually low to make the villain look menacing. Of course, being that the villains are never really scary as much as completely silly and bloated, the low angles just add a new degree of silliness to the proceedings.
Twohy also completely fails when handling the many action sequences throughout the film. Constantly, mistakes are made: a fight scene with quick edits and strobe-lighting, a fight scene with quick edits and large, frame obscuring hail, a fight scene where there are at least three-thousand cuts in a single minute. The fight scenes basically continue all the way through in this manner. There's simply no tension when this style is employed, since not seeing what the Hell is happening ruins any kind of suspense. The action is always in close-up, with editors Tracy Adams, Martin Hunter and Dennis Virkler making absolutely nothing of the footage shot. When an audience can't see what's happening, they wouldn't be able to tell which character is in danger, or where the danger was at a given moment. That practically every action sequence is filmed this way is perhaps the biggest detriment of all, since staring at a mass of blurry motion can get quite boring.
The cinematography by Hugh Johnson is pretty good, for the most part. However, the problem here is that it is either too dark or too light. For example, in the sequence in which Riddick battles about twenty guards, strobe lighting is used to represent the gun fire lighting up the surroundings. The lighting eventually hurts the eyes, as the darkness punctuated by flashes of light is very annoying. Other times, things are often too light, making a few passages of this film appear as if they are from a made-for-television movie. Sometimes, the cinematography does have a tendency to be rather typical as well. It goes too grainy in scenes when an edgy atmosphere is trying to be created; other times, it gets quite difficult to see who's in the shot. Finally, it never truly knows how to use shadows effectively in order to create atmosphere, and Johnson often lights scenes too brightly.
The special effects in the piece are all rather under-whelming as well. Too often, David Twohy relies on computer-generated images to carry the show. Sometimes, even the title character becomes a complete computer creation in the most obvious way possible. In fact, during the conclusion, it's all simply a computer-generated light show, when Twohy would have definitely done better to simply have a final fight without the aid of a PC; because really, what is more exciting: a computer blob and someone who can never seem to stare at it properly fighting, or someone actually there fighting someone else? One is always aware of the computer effects as computer effects here, as they are so obvious, thus any kind of tension when Riddick or another character is in danger at the hands of a computer creation is immediately taken away.
Vin Diesel reprises his roles as Riddick here, and he does just as good a job here as he did in Pitch Black. Really, the role mostly requires him to grunt and look tough, which he does rather well.
Alexa Davalos as the grown-up Jack does a pretty terrible job here. She tries to act tough, yet she just comes off as laughable. Sure, she can pretend to cry and be emotional all she wants, but the fact is, there's simply nothing going on in terms of Davalos' performance. It's ho-hum, and is simply too bland and impersonal to function.
Colm Feore, as Lord Marshall, does an extremely bloated job playing the main villain. It's a campy performance of the highest scenery-chewing, and it is laughable.
The supporting players all handle their roles quite poorly. They're either too bland or too over the top to create a proper balance. Judi Dench is the only good one of the lot, and she's hardly even in the film. So, in terms of the performances, besides Vin Diesel really, they're all pretty bad. Disappointing, considering that good performances are especially necessary in a film of this nature. Because really, when an actor constantly stares at a special effect as if it isn't there, it becomes pretty hard to believe the effect, or the situation in which that effect has been placed. Consider that about ninety percent of this film has special effects, and a major problem is easily evident.All in all, The Chronicles of Riddick stands as a rather disappointing science fiction film. It definitely had potential, but the ball was simply dropped too often for this film to work properly. It's poorly directed, poorly paced, poorly edited, and mostly poorly acted...a definite recipe for disaster.
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originally posted: 07/10/04 03:06:40