THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Directed by David Twohy
“Damn if it doesn't look cool.”
Chronicles of Riddick is considered a flop purely based on Film Economics 101. If it lost money, then it must suck, right? That's the environment we live in now. Once something bombs and is dismissed by the public, very few things ended up with a second life. Frankly, until HBO brought back Chronicles into their rotation (obviously tying into the new flick) I hadn't thought about once about it since I saw it in theaters. Since then, I've always considered the thing a disappointment and had never revisited it.
Why should I have? Pitch Black was the cult sensation, the little film that could (cut through lots and lots of nocturnal creatures) while Chronicles became a tale of excess. Well, stupid me. Maybe one day I’ll remember that box office success or failure rarely has a damn thing to do with the film quality.
In Pitch Black, we only learned bits and places about Riddick, and just why he’s the universe’s most wanted badass. In Chronicles of Riddick, we get…more, but I have to admit I rarely had a f*cking clue what was going on here. It's all very confusing about planets, mythologies, different species (who all look alike), terraforming (or colonization I’m not sure), and other such fun stuff. But damn if it doesn't look cool. What director David Twohy lacked in scope in Pitch Black he sure made up for it in part two. Everything here is rich in detail from the planets, to the sets, to the effects. When we need to see Riddick stuck in an impossible yet beautiful situation (like he is many, many, many times) we see it rendered on screen. And that's cool with me because what we get is high adrenline sci-fi entertainment. Perfect? No, but what is?
Actually, a few things hold Chronicles of Riddick back from being truly fantastic, namely the bloated script and horridly dated CGI. For a $100 mil production that cash only shows in the costume and set design. When we do get alien creatures or even space ships, they all reek of outdated technology, which sucks because it takes away from moments that don't deserve distraction. Another issue emerges from the movie being something unexpected, which sounds stupid, but when we were once given something violently simple and fun, the complicated excess might have turned off fans of the original. Everything feels swollen and slightly overdone for the sake that they had the cash to do so. The thing probably became bigger than it needed to be. That said…I don't blame ‘em. Beyond the look, they hired real actors this time. Keith David shows up, but so does Judi Dench, Colm Feore, and a young Karl Urban, who even sports a Dredd-kinda mask.
For the most part the money spent is right up there on the screen. The thing looks bold and adventurous. Diesel and Twohy accomplish the feat of keeping Riddick the badass he was and then some. Not only does he still rock the cool eyes and can deliver horrendous dialogue ("I'll kill you with my teacup."), but dude can ghost some ghost-type people. (Elementals or something. You got me, but the spirit-type people are still kinda cool.) He’s not just taking on nighttime aliens. No, no. That’s child’s play. Here, he battles mercenaries, prisoners, and entire armies. That’s pretty tough, even for a tough guy. Hell, he even makes friends with the creatures this time around.
I still haven't had a chance to catch the new movie Riddick, but watching parts 1 and 2 underline the fact that this is a damn good character, one who deserves a franchise. Why not? At least it's an original concept and not another damn retread of something tired. Diesel is so right for this role. It’s his baby. It’s his Rambo or Terminator, though it’ll never have the pop culture status. But that’s ok. It’s a damn good flick the way it is. Maybe the rest of the world will catch up one day.