Friday, 24 April 2009

Movie Review - The Chronicles of Riddick

Pitch Black was a fine film, in fact I considered worthy of being placed at number in my Top Ten Science Fiction Films list.

Sadly, The Chronicles of Riddick is nothing whatsoever like its prequel.

What we basically have here is a plot that had some potential (crazy aliens conquering every world they come across while trying to reach the “underverse” or something – when one of the characters gave a little speech about it I nearly fell on the floor trying not to laugh), and Riddick trying to stop them though not because he’s a nice guy you understand.

A couple of other characters from the first film show up – Jack (the girl pretending to be a boy), who’s led a terrible life, got in with the wrong crowd, loves to kill and is hard as nails but (bet you can’t guess the next bit?!?) is rather nice looking (did you guess right?) and the religious guy, who’s family are introduced to us and then abandoned just when vague signs of meaningful characterisation were threatening to appear. (Can you tell yet that I wasn’t impressed?)
There’s also a side plot about the leader of the evil aliens (Colm Feore [John Wolfe in Paycheck]), his scheming wife (Thandie Newton [Nyah in Mission Impossible 2]), and his ambitious second-in-command (Karl Urban [Eomer from the Lord of the Rings films]). One of the few things about this movie that saved it from the dreaded one star rating was an ending that combined these plot elements and actually managed to give us one or two surprises. Alexa Davalos (who hasn’t been in a lot so far but no doubt will be a big star) unconvincingly plays Kyra (what Jack insists on being called now – something about her new life etc etc), who, considering what a hard-nosed fighter she’s supposed to be, spends a lot of her time looking terrified and wailing “WIDDIIIICK!!!!”. In fact without the scenes of people shouting Riddick’s name, the film could have been a good few minutes shorter. Judi Dench is completely miscast as an elemental (a race that in this film make no sense whatsoever anyway – they can materialize and dematerialise at will, yet cannot escape from being in chains… er…?) and you can almost hear her asking if she can go home yet. Feore looks bored in his role, Newton is annoying in hers, and frankly Karl Urban looks as if his mind’s still in New Zealand. Vin Diesel is marginally less monosyllabic than some action heroes I could mention, but he gets dealt some appalling lines.

On the positive side, the action scenes are pretty good on the whole (if a bit stupid – saved from the heat of a 700 degree planet surface by hiding behind a rock? Hmmm….), and the special effects are superb. They’ve tried to do something genuinely different with the design and look of the spaceships, and have succeeded with some gusto. Hats off to the SFX crew.

The other thing about the film that was genuinely impressive was the musical score by Graeme Revell, it rates as one of the most stirring compositions I’ve ever heard. (Top of my list is still Last of the Mohicans.) Revell also did the impressive score for the excellent The Negotiator. Of course, he also did the original Pitch Black music, but I don’t particularly remember that being impressive. (Guess I’ll have to watch it again to find out! :-D )

Well, I guess the most important question is, all things considered, is it worth watching despite its many failings? I would have to answer no to that one, I’m afraid. Watch Pitch Black again instead or perhaps something that came out at the same time as this - the excellent I, Robot.

As always, thanks for reading.

See also my Review of 2004 Movies.

No comments: