The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Rating: B+

Dir: David Twohy
Star: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos

I think it was when they landed on the planet Crematoria, chased by the Necromongers, that I realised this is the finest bad movie I’ve seen in a long time. Imagine a 600-page pulp SF paperback, with a shirtless Vin Diesel on the cover, standing on a pile of dead bodies, wielding a really big weapon. This is the movie made of that book, and is everything you would expect as a result: a slobbering celluloid St. Bernard, big, dumb and over-friendly, with the same “humanity’s last, best hope” story we’ve seen a million times before. Luckily, we have Vinnie’s broad shoulders – it’s hard to imagine anyone else who’d be up to the task. Certainly, with hardly a mis-step to be found, it’s the best looking film of 2004 so far by a long way; in the absence of a Rings entry this year, it may remain the best come December. It’s impeccable eye-candy, the landscapes and ships particularly worthy of praise.

Maybe partly because of the CGI, I was frequently reminded of Lexx, which also had a prophecy about how the last of his warrior race would bring down the evil overlords, etc. – although this substitutes the knocking of heads together for sly wit. Nice to see Keith David return, while the other Pitch Black survivor has taken Riddick as a role-model, to impressive effect. We also liked Judi Dench’s air elemental, who drifts through proceedings with no great purpose, but lots of style. If you’re looking for intelligent, thought-provoking SF, run, don’t walk to the exit. On the other hand, if you want spectacular (albeit PG-13 rated) action, one-liners and wall-to-wall CGI, your appetite will be well-sated. And any film where the sight of a sardine-can key makes Riddick’s opponents flee – and with good cause – is adequate cause for attention here.