Making the Grades
Vin Diesel returns to the screen to fill what seems to be his favorite role -- playing the criminal/hero. This sci-fi action story picks up from the conclusion of the R-rated movie Pitch Black from 2000. I didn't see that film, but Chronicles of Riddick is hardly a complex plot. A simple read of the synopsis of its predecessor on the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) will give you all you require to understand why Riddick (Diesel) is in such a foul mood.
Cruising the galaxy for the past five years, Riddick has been evading the hordes of bounty hunters chasing the monstrous price placed on his head. On the planet Helion, he discovers a race of people whose diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds are under attack by the invading Lord Marshall (Colm Feore). The aspiring dictator is looking to subjugate humans into his army known as Necromongers and bring them to accept his "one true faith" philosophy.
Just passing through, Riddick considers himself separate from the dispute. Yet after an effective demonstration of his out-of-this-world fighting abilities, Riddick's refusal to join the ranks buys him a one-way ticket to a desolate prison planet. There he meets Kyra (Alexa Davalos), who appears to be the only survivor from Riddick's prequel journey. Now he and his love interest must find their way off the global penitentiary that swings between arctic temperatures by night and incinerating heat by day.
Eventually their escape pits Riddick against the Lord Marshall in the ultimate battle, with the future for all beings held in the balance.
This dark and dirty labyrinth of special effects and massive mechanical apparatuses lends a heavy feel to a disappointing script. Writers made sure Riddick has a following of secondary characters in virtually every scene, providing the necessary sacrifices in a story that laboriously kills one-by-one. And while I still maintain Diesel has an on-screen charisma, his performance vacillates between a cardboard action hero and an unconvincing sensitive bad guy.
Creative edits were applied to a previous version of this film to bring it into a PG-13 rating, but don't expect Star Wars. On a grand scale, huge populations are seen scurrying for cover as invading ships drop strange looking bombs on cities. For the handful of important people who warrant close-ups, intense hand-to-hand combats with knives are a frequent occurrence. Of the many other weapons, futuristic guns and medieval looking devices come into play. Even a metal teacup becomes a killing tool after Riddick shoves it into an opponent's abdomen.
Unique ways to kill are a favorite topic between Riddick and Kyra, and encapsulate the main theme for this outing. While parents will be grateful for the restraint shown with sexual content (although the dialogue includes one use of a sexual expletive), this movie's confrontation between a flat enemy and cardboard hero provide simplistic justification to slay without asking why.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Chronicles of Riddick.
What techniques are used to persuade us to feel empathy for Riddick, when both he and his enemy are criminals?
In the movie, conflict erupts over a single faith versus a variety of philosophies. How do you feel about religious diversity? Should any truth be imposed by force?