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 The Chronicles of Riddick
 Critic's Rating
   [C]
 Date Posted
   27th July, 2004
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Cast: Vin Diesel, Keith David, Thandie Newton
Director: David Twohy

Bigger is not always better. This is a lesson "Chronicles of Riddick," sequel to the sleeper hit "Pitch Black," learns the hard way breadcrumbs for box office receipts and ridicule from an established fan-base. A visceral ride through a universe dressed in extravagant production design and special effects, this sci-fi actioner is also a study of characters with the poorest credentials. But the #1 reason why this film fails: it is basically flawed in its conception. "Chronicles of Riddick" wants to challenge the "Star Wars" trilogy in both scope and content even though it is an animal of more humble, and wildly divergent, beginnings ("Pitch Black" under-promised but over-delivered with a story less to do with politics and more to do with an uncompromising, compelling anti-hero).

Set five years after the events in "Pitch Black," a race of religious zealots called the Necromangers is slowly taking over the universe. Riddick (Vin Diesel) unwilling agrees to help stop this marauding evil thanks in part to Aereon (Judi Dench's superfluous character played by usual gravitas) and his own sense of responsibility to his old friend (Keith David returns as the Imam).  Necromanger leader Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) who fears Riddick for reasons better left unexplained at this stage sends his best men to hunt him down. The consequences of which you can see coming even with both your eyes shut.

Budgeted at an intimidating $100 million ("Pitch Black" cost a paltry $23 million) "Chronicles of Riddick" suffers from a syndrome most common to writers and directors under pressure to out-do themselves. David Twohy who is smart enough to work with limited resources looks overwhelmed by his own ambitions. He attempts to tell us about Riddick's past but subverts his own judgment by plunging the story into a massive, unnecessary socio-political intrigue. What does work is Vin Diesel's consistent portrayal of Riddick as an unlikely hero even though his character loses much of its intensity as a result of the self-censorship (this sequel was re-edited from a hard R rating to the watered down PG-13 during post-production in order to remove much of language and gore). I also missed Rhiana Griffith as Jack; she has been replaced in the sequel by a tougher, more voluptuous Alexa Davalos. The sexual tension between her young character and Riddick is blatant but their implied romance is not explored for obvious reasons.

"Chronicles of Riddick" is part of a planned trilogy. Given its cold reception by fans of the original (includes yours truly) and a lukewarm welcome by an audience new to franchise, Riddick has little hope for any further adventures. - Adnan Khan

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