The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

*. I praised Pitch Black (retitled The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black when it came out on DVD) for its simple story and how it made do with a relatively small budget. The Chronicles of Riddick quintupled that budget in telling a story so complicated I was lost halfway through the introductory voiceover. I did not like it at all.
*. I often wonder, when I don’t have anything else to wonder about, how movies with so much action can be so boring. When the Necromongers attack the planet Helion Prime it just seems to drag on forever, with the bright flashing lights only there to induce seizures. And none of this has any point. We know what’s going to happen at this point in the story and I just wanted them to get on with it.
*. The plot here is both bog simple and bewildering. The Blue Meanies (or Necromongers) are taking over the universe. These guys are the usual medieval warriors who have somehow found themselves aboard starships. They wield giant battle axes and dress in armour. As it turns out, there has been a prophecy that our man Richard (Don’t call him Dick) Riddick is the chosen one, meaning the only guy who will be able to stop them.
*. So much, so familiar. But layered on to this is a game of power politics being played among the Necromonger elite and Riddick’s journey to a prison planet to save the now grown-up girl he rescued in the previous movie.
*. I should say that the version of this film I saw was the director’s cut, which included some 15 minutes of material that hadn’t been part of the theatrical release. I don’t see where this could have helped. If ever there were a case of too much and not enough, this film is it.

*. Dame Judi Dench as Aereon, which sounds like a piece of exercise equipment. Actually she’s an air elemental. I was kind of surprised to see her showing up on Helion Prime, but I guess Sir Alec Guinness lived for a while on Tatooine. These distinguished names fit well with the whole Masterpiece Theatre brand of SF, where fantasy elements play such a big role (Dench is basically a fairy queen here, and in Star Wars Guinness was a knight). There’s a long history of this in SF, going back to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels and Frank Herbert’s Dune books.
*. For a “triple-max” prison, the penal pits on the planet Crematoria are rather slackly guarded aren’t they? They have what? Five guards keeping watch over a giant hole in the ground?
*. No point saying anything more. This is generic, confusing, overproduced, and overwritten. The fight scenes are so fiercely edited it’s hard to make out what is happening. The design elements are kitsch fantasy and seem reliant on plastic forms. Colm Feore is a talented actor but hopeless in a role that demands something less.
*. I could barely finish watching it, especially at the inflated running time. Vin Diesel again seems intent on underplaying the role of Riddick to the point of near invisibility, aside from flexing his giant arms. When you think about it, the Riddick movies are a bit of an oddity as a franchise. They didn’t do great box office (making most of their money on DVD sales) and weren’t well received critically. And yet the series continued. Some things are hard to explain.

9 thoughts on “The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I’ll have a go. First film is a tight B movie. Second is completely overblown and incomprehensible fantasy. Third one is a pared down reboot that captures a little of the first film. Oddly the Riddick video game is probably the best in the franchise beyond Pitch Black. But there’s nothing amusing about these Chronicles, beyond the Dench/Diesel match up.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I haven’t played the video game, but I can believe it would be better than this. I actually thought the third movie was the best of the bunch. Or at least the one I liked best. I’ll be posting my notes on it next. Then that’s it . . . until they make another. Even though they’re not big money-makers I can’t believe they’re done with this series yet.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Argh! I wonder if I should cut my losses. On the other hand, I’ve wasted my time on worse things.

        There actually aren’t that many franchises I’ve given up on. The Underworld movies. I think I only watched a couple of those. I only saw the first Maze Runner and bailed.

  2. Tom Moody

    I’ll dissent here and say I like all the Riddick movies and find them fairly imaginative in their world-building. Each features some kind of unexpected, apocalyptic “weather” event: the total eclipse in Pitch Black, the scorching solar rays in this one, and torrential rain in the third. There are many details I didn’t feel I’d seen in other movies, mostly in the planetscapes and set designs. The Necromongers’ use of an animated corpse in a diving helmet as a kind of bloodhound is never explained and almost Lynchian. My biggest quibble with this one is that Jack, a rather plain child in Pitch Black who could pass for a boy, somehow grew into a babelicious supermodel named Kyra.

    I completely agree about the Underworld “franchise” being a drain on time and energy.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Oh I’ll give you the bloodhound guy. He was a highlight. I wasn’t as impressed with the overall vision of the future and the design elements though. I felt most of that I’d seen before, and the parts that were new weren’t all that well done. I thought the CGI in this series very bad.

      I’m feeling better now about giving up on Underworld. I watch so many bad movies as it is.

  3. Tom Moody

    I saw the original theatrical release so no extra fifteen minutes — it helped. My understanding of why the prison moon was slackly guarded was that the surface was scoured regularly by deadly solar rays! Riddick’s charge across the rocks ahead of the scorching heat was a high point (despite the even greater miracle of the moon having a breathable atmosphere).

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Welllllll, yes, the surface of the prison planet was a sort of shark-filled moat kind of thing. But the guards were easy to take out. And from there they might have figured a way off planet but for other complications.

      Of course I’m just bringing up points that refer to canons of plausibility that are never in play. The reason the prison is run that way is just because makes for a more interesting movie and fits the general design of the series. It’s like asking why space warriors are wearing armour and wielding battle-axes and broadswords.


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