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CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a loner living in a remote part of the universe, with a bounty on his head but space travelling mercinaries ('merks') who try and collect end up as the hunted. When he gets dragged into the conflict between the aggressive fundamentalist Nacromongers and humans, Riddick's extraordinary skills as a warrior are tested to their limits. In the course of his battles, he is forced to confront his demons.

Review by Louise Keller:
A sci-fi action adventure, The Chronicles of Riddick is all about style. The Vin Diesel style. His language is that of brute force, and with bulging biceps and piercing metallic eyes, Diesel's Riddick is as much larger-than-life as Diesel himself. It has been four years since we met the enigmatic anti-hero of Pitch Black, and this sequel is all about style and action. Visually, there is a dazzling non-stop showcase of special effects, while the storyline is wildly complex; indeed, it is almost impossible to actually understand what the story is about. Some may call David Twohy's film pretentious; the target market for this boys' own adventure may not actually care.

The effects are plentiful; at times it feels as though we are immersed in a computer game. A game that never seems to end. The big frustration is being unable to follow the plot, unless you are content to dip in and out of the various sequences occasionally rooting for Riddick as he achieves the unachievable.... Just don't expect a meaningful storyline or satisfying relationships between the characters. The best we get is an implied sexual connection between Riddick and Alexa Davalos's Kyra, who always has a blade hidden somewhere.

Diesel is at his credible best, flexing his muscles, climbing up ropes and winning where everyone else fails. His Riddick is an interesting non-conformist, intent on doing things his way, and we can all relate to that. All the cast delivers as much as the script allows, and Judi Dench's mystical Elemental who spends her time calculating the odds, adds a touch of class.

The best line of the film is when Riddick slowly sniffs around the curvaceous form of Thandie Newton's Dame Vaako and utters the words: 'It's been a long time since I smelt beautiful.' Understandable, seeing he has just been captured and taken from his self-imposed exile on a far-away planet, having complained 'I just wanted to be left alone.' Newton gets to wear some spectacular skin-hugging costumes, which look as though they have been moulded onto her body.

This is the kind of project that is a dream-come-true for the production designers, costume designers, and composer (I like Graeme Revell's score), in whose hands the mainstay of our emotional journey we are placed.

There's tension, thrills, excitement and the muscle-power of Diesel, and for many that may be enough. But for me, give me a good story any day. I have worked up a good appetite for one.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The title gives us a clue to the filmmakers' aspirations: 'chronicles' are more than just a story. There's grandeur to chronicles, something worth savouring, something written in a larger font. Certainly the production designer has taken this notion to heart, crowding the frames with a combination of old world Earthy elements (from rustic - and rusty - industrial to Middle Eastern) and futurism by way of weapon design. It's a pity the script doesn't; put together with a lack of clarity that negates its cinematic energy, Chronicles of Riddick is a chronically indigestible film occasionally risking ridicule.

It's almost as if it relies on design - both of the visual and production kind. The film is in fact gizmo rich: even the basic attack knives are made like ancient craftsmen may have done, had they money, time and inclination. Sculpture, too, is in the majestic/tribal mould, and the entire film is photographed through what appears to be a nostalgia filter of bronze, with never a spot of white in sight. But plenty of black, or at least dark. The Chronicles of Riddick has taken the Riddick character from Pitch Black (Vin Diesel) and put him into a warring universe of some fine actors mouthing incredibly clumsy lines, and being encouraged to overact.

In this busy universe, Riddick is the classic lone ranger (only nastier), the saviour, the stranger, the man with no name, the anti hero we have to have in post modern cinema. But he has no grace, no wit, no human weaknesses we can relate to. He's been inflated to super size, without the super soul.

With a producer credit, Diesel has no excuse. Indeed, it seems clear that it's a project he has driven, at least as far as the Riddick character is concerned. Laconic, barely willing to put a whole sentence together in one go, Riddick speaks low, in Diesel's wonderfully rich voice. He's so seduced by it, in fact, that all he wants us to hear is his V8-powered grunt of sardonicism before he 'ghosts' another opponent. In the callous language of the film, 'ghosting' enemies is the whole point.

This means lots of action. But director David Towhy miscalculated the outcome of his overriding vision to make every action scene a series of close ups, edited into jump cut frenzy so that we never get any sense of context, physicality of the scene, or even who is doing what to whom. It's all a blur. So much so that when the film isn't its cheesy, regurgitated dialogue-laden soup, it's an eye-glazing gazump which leaves us totally uncaring whether anyone survives the regular massacres. Gawd, it's a long two hours.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, THE (M)
(US)

CAST: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Yorick van Wageningen

PRODUCER: Vin Diesel, Scott Kroopf

DIRECTOR: David Twohy

SCRIPT: David Twohy (characters by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hugh Johnson

EDITOR: Tracy Adams, Martin Hunter, Dennis Virkler

MUSIC: Graeme Revell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Holger Gross

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 29, 2004

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

VIDEO RELEASE: December 8, 2004







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