Although I have a high tolerance for bad science-fiction, I still have trouble understanding why Pitch Black is seen as something of a cult classic. It is hard to forget the mid-numbingly feeble script, the painfully poor acting and the whole utter silliness of the film. Its one redeeming feature is its central character’s interesting flaw – his only weakness is light. As the title suggests, The Chronicles Of Riddick is a loose sequel to that overrated low-budget sci-fi film.
Despite owning a strangely ordinary name for a futuristic sc-fi savior, Richard B Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a man with many hassles – he is hunted by bounty hunters and mercenaries for a very large sum when all he wants is peace. Not only that, but a dastardly race, known as the Necromongers led by Lord Marshall (Colm Feore) are scouring the universe possessing every soul to expand their evil species – therefore to argue with them is obviously suicidal.
Throughout the film there is a tense and eerie atmosphere that surrounds Riddick. There is very little emotion and even fewer likeable traits about him, so consequently the macho persona is played to its zenith. Diesel merely seems to play Riddick as a one dimensional, ostracised and aggressive cowboy and gives a typically sterile and very dry performance. For the majority of his screen time he whispers in monotone, making it a struggle in parts to hear his words. Perhaps it’s camouflage to hide his lack of talent as a leading thespian?
The central problem is Riddick – he has simply not evolved since the first film, and director David Twohy has largely avoided expanding the character. A potentially absorbing anti-hero, such as The Terminator in his second outing, would have been far more intriguing here. As it stands, he is merely an anti-social action hero for the 21st century.
As with Riddick, the rest of the script hasn’t progressed much, it is littered with hammy one liners (“It’s been a long time since I smelled beautiful” and “I hate not being the bad guys”) and over the top sc-fi verbiage.
Judi Dench plays an underdeveloped, yet interesting, otherworldly being, Aereon. Watching the revered actress, who has graced the big screen in various historical features and play adaptations, playing a ghost is a bizarre experience but she adds a tad of integrity to a fundamentally hollow film.
The overdose of special effects is like a weird mind expanding drug that is more bleak than psychedelic, but it is an exciting trip for almost two hours. The actions scenes are brutal and stereotypically over the top but at times rather exhilarating, although the editing during particular fight scenes is so fast as to become confusing and nauseating – if you want to avoid a headache you should divert your eyes away from the screen.
Twohy has produced a film that bridges a gap between big and brainless Hollywood action films and the Frank Herbert-style immense sci-fi epics. However, it is devoid of deep scientific thought, being more of a bleak and distant fantasy film. Perhaps only sci-fi junkies will care, but it is more entertaining and visually imaginative than its lacklustre predecessor.