The Chronicles of Riddick

chronicles of ridiculous

Riddick was clearly meant to be the ultimate hero. He's so tough that wild animals on the hunt take one look at him and cower. He's strong enough that he can toss grown men around like rag dolls, but he's still limber enough that he can do acrobatic stunts when he has to escape his bonds. He's an outlaw who has been in every prison in the universe, but secretly he would risk his life to save an innocent woman. He's also a Furian, which means he's the only person with enough cojones to stop the Necromongers, the death worshipping weirdos who want to destroy all life in the universe.

If you noticed that most of that sounded generic, well, you're right. Chronicles of Riddick badly miscalcuates how compelling the Riddick character is, worshiping at his feet when they should be trying to shore up his limitations. 

I'll give you an example: at one point the action moves to a prison planet where the side of the planet that faces the sun is seven hundred degrees and the side that's away from the sun is negative two hundred. Now let's leave aside the background concerns that such a place would present - like how would construction workers manage to build any structure on a world where there would be nowhere for them to sleep, eat or store tools while they were building it, or how could anyone breathe on the surface of the planet when there are no plants around to produce an atmosphere - and focus on how absurd what's happening in the foreground is.

Apparently, everything the sun's light is so harsh that whatever it touches explodes into a fireball, so Riddick and his compatriots have to run one step ahead of the encroaching sunrise if they are going to make it back to their spaceship safely. These fireballs are so intense that if a human is directly exposed to them they will be instantly melted down to their skeleton, but if they are hiding behind a rock it's cool. (I know enough about science to know that this story checks out 100%.) When Riddick needs to swing into the sunlight to rescue a woman who is trapped on top of a mountain, he douses himself with a little canteen water first, and suddenly he's invulnerable to being melted. It's a moment that doesn't convey bad-assery so much as idiocy, and if he had landed safely on the other side of his swing and dropped a one liner like "Hot enough out there for you?" (or something similarly dumb) I wouldn't have felt as condescended to. But Riddick's character is too intently focused on being bad-ass to let the audience know that, yes, the filmmakers do know how silly all of this is.

Apparently Vin Diesel is trying to start a two person human centipede

Apparently Vin Diesel is trying to start a two person human centipede

As underwhelming as Riddick is, his enemies are even worse. The Necromongers have a terrible name - seriously, they probably should have focus grouped that before permanently adopting it; I can't imagine it would have tested well. They also completely lack the snarling swagger you would want from people who worship death. It truly is a pity that none of them were capable of the sort of scenery chewing that Lee Pace did as another death worshiping alien in Guardians of the Galaxy, because a comically oversize villain have been a much better foil for the all-grimacing-all-the-time Riddick.

I could go on, but enumerating all the tiny flaws would be redundant when I could just cut to the chase and say that the basic underlying fault of the movie is a lack of imagination. Riddick is a hero who has the maximum number of masculine traits and nothing else. He's fighting aliens who all look exactly like humans with no alterations whatsoever - this might be the only sci-fi movie I can think of that's even lazier than the original Star Trek. where the non-human species at least had funny noses. (Well, in fairness, some of the aliens in Chronicles of Riddick do wear kooky hats.) The fights all take place on worlds that aren't well thought out and which feel generic. When you combine all of those run of the mill ingredients, you don't get the bad ass result they were clearly hoping for - you get something that's rather boring. And that's ultimately why Riddick doesn't come across as the ultimate man like he's supposed to - because a real man's man could probably entertain an audience for two hours.

Winner: The Cat

Chronicles of Riddick on IMDB