Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Chronicles of Riddick, just 'cos I got nothin' else.

I was just looking over the list of a dozen unfinished entries on the Dish to see if any of 'em were close enough to snuff to merit posting (the answer, as you might imagine from this entry, is no).

As I undertook this ritual The Chronicles of Riddick, director David Twohy's prequel to his enjoyable B flick Pitch Black, played on basic cable. It's pretty telling that almost all of Riddick unspooled before I took much notice.

Contrary to its unceremonious descent into the waters of financial failure upon its initial release, it's really not terrible. Despite making more lousy career choices in the last five years than any twelve actors make in their lives, I still appreciate Vin Diesel's minimalist charisma, and flashes of blunt wit occasionally flicker through the grandeur, action, and special effects. But it's a pretty glaring misfire nonetheless, because its two principal architects completely disregard their strengths.

Twohy (who frequently writes as well as directs his films) is at his best taking the simple, compact pleasures of classic old-school Hollywood genre formulas and goosing them with sharp, self-aware (but not self-conscious) writing. With Riddick, he tries to craft an honest-to-God sprawling epic, and it's just not his bag. Twohy's unpretentious-but-direct screenwriting style gets lost here amidst a lot of opulence and special effects slam-bang.

One of the best things about Pitch Black was Vin Diesel, whose little-seen but magnetic thug Riddick had me so tranfixed on first view several years ago that I was uttering his name in the same breath as Lee Marvin's. Here, there's too much of him: making him the center of this large and pretty routine space opera utterly demystifies the character. Twohy should have hewn closer to Pitch Black's rabbit-punch simplicity. I'd have loved seeing Riddick inhabiting a seedy future-noir world a la Blade Runner, not bounding around in endless overstuffed sci-fi action scenes surrounded by armored warriors who look like they wandered out of David Lynch's Dune. Sometimes, less really is more.


Michael B said...

I have one quibble Tony. The Chronicles of Riddick is a sequel and not a prequel. The action in the movie follows the action in the (IMHO far superior) anime The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, which follows directly after Pitch Black .

As too its quality as a movie, I have seen better movies made by the SciFi Channel.

(BTW, it is great to see that you are still as intensly in love with cinema and music as you were 20 years ago.)

Tony Kay said...

I've heard great things about Dark Fury, Mike, and am looking forward to catching it. Maybe I'd a followed Riddick's chronology better if the movie were more memorable. Then again, maybe it was the crack I was smoking.

(By the way, it's great to see that you're still the sci-fi conoisseur that you were 20 years ago! If you'd like to re-connect, shoot me an email: tk7and7is@yahoo.com.)

Thanks for reading!