The Underrated: The Chronicles of Riddick
Right, let me just check my inventory for this one: Flak jacket? Check. Tin Hat? Check. Bunker? Check? Magic shite repelling shield? Arse, there’s always something.
Well, that’s as prepared as I’m going to get for this. I’ve long held out that while in no stretch of the imagination is Chronicles of Riddick a good film (and let’s face it, it really isn’t), it is at the very least a hilariously entertaining one with more ambition, balls and downright flair than almost everything else that passes itself off as a summer movie nowadays.
Pitch Black was a small horror/ sci-fi movie starring a then unknown Vin Diesel as enigmatic serial killer and all round douchbag Riddick. He was supported by a then unknown Radha Mitchell, some chick from Farscape and the film basically told the story of a misfit group of survivors trying to survive an incredibly unlikely solar eclipse while hiding from big flying alien bastards that are more photosensitive than a ginger Scotsman. It was small scale, but actually quite superb, and certainly deserved a sequel of some description.
What it did not, by any stretch of the imagination, warrant was the big bloated Conan-in-space saga that David Twohy delivered. Somehow he managed to turn the small, almost intimate, first film into an absolutely insane beast, that flirts with incomprehensibility (seriously, 1 million internets to anyone that can explain the Necromonger religion to me below the line) and features a cast that somehow sports Thandi Newton, Karl Urban, Colm Feore, Vin himself, Keith fucking David, Linus Roache and Dame Judi Dench. Seriously, how did this happen? What absolutely mindblowing drug was everyone on? And more importantly, where can I get some?
The film basically tells the story of some planet that’s of importance for some reason or other. It’s being picked off by the Necromongers (an evil brigade of fetishistic space bastards that either enslave everyone to their lunatic religion or trash the planet), and Ariel (Judi Dench), is doing something or other as an Air Elemental. In the meantime, head Necromonger is a dude that is apparently half dead (Colm Feore) and his prized underlings (Karl Urban and a desperately-Lady-Macbeth-channelling Thandi Newton) are plotting to overthrow him, because, apparently, in their religion you keep what you kill. In the meantime, Riddick has been captured by intergalactic bounty hunter Toomes (Nick Chinlund) and reunited with Kyra (Alexa Davalos) on triple-really-hard-to-break-out-of security prison on the planet Crematoria. Which, incidentally, is so called because it’s really hot on the surface when the sun comes out. Like really fucking hot, so hot, in fact, that only a madman (or a group of desperate convicts) would attempt to cross the surface by outrunning the sun. The Necromongers (for reasons never properly explained- something to do with him being a Furian) decide that they need Riddick from Crematoria so send a retrieval party. Then there’s a big fight, and Riddick ends up on the throne of the Necromongers.
No, I haven’t a fucking clue either.
Really, this is an inordinately stupid film. It is also, however a supremely entertaining one. I get that The Chronicles of Riddick is about as subtle as Murphy when confronted with a Big Mac, I mean, for fuck’s sake the really hot planet is called Crematoria, but honestly, it’s also hugely enjoyable and more importantly hugely likable. That it is comes down to several important factors. The first is that this is a genuinely first rate cast toying with utterly improbable material so all seem to be really enjoying themselves. Check out the scene between Dench and Newton where Thandi tries to off her by pushing her out of a plane/ spaceship with the line “Can Elementals Fly”, to be replied with “No, but we can float”. Incidentally, this is delivered with real relish by Dench- who is simply far too classy for a load of old cock like this. How can you not like a film with that in it? It’s hilarious.
The fight scenes, and don’t all laugh at once, are actually surprisingly well staged. Twohy doesn’t jam the camera up the actors nose or shake it around like it’s palsied. Rather, they are all properly staged and properly choreographed. This makes a massive difference in this day and age, as I’m pig sick of what passes for fighting in modern movies. Unfortunately, the climactic battle is marred by an intensely cretinous special effect that just doesn’t work on screen, but you can’t have everything.
Nevertheless, I’m basically recommending this film for two scenes. The first is in Crematoria where Kyra is rescued by Vin. Vin delivers an intensely stupid line about killing the guy with his tea cup, puts said tea cup of TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION down (seriously, it’s a fucking small tea cup) and then, good as his word, uses it to kill the guy. You’d think Vin is now unarmed, and you’d be right, except he’s Riddick, so puts a toothpick down. Honestly, this is absolute gold and deserves to go in a far more technically accomplished film than this one.
The second one, actually, is going to make my top 10 “Dumbest things in Cinema” list, but it is so much fun that I honestly think the film is worth a watch just for this scene. Just in case you haven’t guessed- I’m going to recommend a film based on the ability of the main characters to outrun the fucking sun. To start with, I don’t care what future it is, but no man or beast can outrun the sun. It’s dumb. The only thing in the dumbness league would be say, to outrun the cold, or perhaps outrun the wind. Nevertheless, this is actually quite an exciting footrace as our convict crew attempt to traverse the surface while the guards attempt to make the same distance in access tunnels in safety. Obviously, the sun starts to rise and we get the sheer pleasure of a group of knuckleheads climbing a cliff face while behind them the very atmosphere ignites in a spectacular explosion. Honestly, I know it’s paste-eatingly dim, but how much entertainment do you want?
Overall, obviously, The Chronicles of Riddick is an immensely flawed film. However, it’s as much fun as being the judge in a taste test competition when the item in question is prize-winning beer. It may be an incomprehensible giant todger of a film, but I do believe that it doesn’t merit the level of abuse that it receives, and as dumb as it is I do applaud the effort made and ambition shown. Silly, but fun.
And that’s why The Chronicles of Riddick is Underrated. Now bring on the abuse, but more importantly, bring on the Sequel.
Until next time,