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Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos, Colm Feore, Keith David and Dame Judi Dench
Plot: Riddick (Diesel) comes to the realisation he is a member of a dying race, just as the dreaded Necromongers advance on the nearby systems…

I remember not liking ‘Chronicles of Riddick’ very much when I first watched it. However, in preparation for the third movie, I re-watched it and I actually realised it wasn’t too bad a film.

This time around Vin Diesel is pitted against the terrifying Necromongers, a deadly religious cult that live by one creed: keep what you kill. They believe that they are the natural rulers of the universe and conquer everything in sight, converting several alien species to their ranks. Of course, Riddick isn’t having any of this and stands up to them. In doing so, he discovers that he is actually a Furyan, a race that was thought to be extinct. As he dives into his past, the Necromongers chase after him, their own ranks compromised by two plotting members of the hierarchy, planning on overthrowing the Lord Marshal.

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The reason I liked ‘Pitch Black’ so much is that it didn’t realise how good it actually was. I have said before how I liked the laidback approach to its material, enjoying the story it was telling, rather than looking ahead to a bigger game plan. This does not happen with ‘Chronicles of Riddick’. Everything about this movie screams epic Sci-Fi. We are given alien empires, several planets and the old dying alien race narrative Riddick pinches from Doctor Who (Doctor Who stole the plot for Pitch Black for its Easter episode a few years back, so maybe it was a fair trade). This is the main problem with ‘Chronicles of Riddick’. It is a pretty arrogant film from that perspective, trying to force a great franchise onto us, rather than focusing on the smaller things, like ‘Pitch Black’ did. It is such a distractingly different film from the original that the only thing that the sequel shares with the first is the iconic main character.

Is it a bad film? Well, as I said before, watching it back, it is actually quite enjoyable. We get this mighty Empire, a pretty bleak invasion storyline and some interesting villains. The only bad thing about it is that Twohy has used the character of Riddick to tell this story, compromising his personality in the process. It is as if Twohy realised he was onto a great Sci-Fi anti-hero with a cult following, but the only word he really paid attention to was ‘Sci-Fi.’ Therefore, we get Twohy’s take on Stargate. Again, I cannot stress this enough, he doesn’t do a bad job with the material, but he really shouldn’t have used Riddick’s character to tell this story.

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Thankfully, we kind of get a Pitch Black-esque sequence as the midway point of the movie. Riddick is thrown into a dangerous prison on a remote planet. We get some deadly monsters, some amusing bounty hunters and weather that is more dangerous than any of the villains. This entire midpoint is fantastic and everything I could have wanted from a Riddick sequel (although I am not sure how much I liked the return, or evolution, of Jack – it felt forced and a little out of place). This part of the movie is thankfully quite prolonged, Twohy sensing that the fans might have come for this kind of movie, rather than the Sci-Fi epic he has given us. Afterwards, the movie is wrapped up quite quickly with a titanic final showdown. Again enjoyable, but at this point in the movie we are a little too distanced from the material to truly embrace it.

There are a few cool characters. Karl Urban and Thandie Newton are great as the villains. It had the potential to be Thandie’s best role yet. However, they, along with Judi Dench, are so obviously being saved for bigger things in a sequel that they don’t really make much of an impression. They are merely here to look nasty or deal with exposition. Colm Feore is terrific as the villain, the only time I can really recall the actor getting a Shakespearian nemesis part. Performances like this are the saving grace of ‘Chronicles of Riddick’. And there is Vin Diesel, who is, as ever, spectacular.

Final Verdict: Not necessarily bad, but not what we wanted either. Brace yourself for the change in style and you will appreciate it much more.

Three stars

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