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#332238 - 06/13/04 12:53 AM RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Heidi MacDonald Offline
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Registered: 04/18/99
Posts: 1465
Loc: New York, New York
BY HEIDI MACDONALD

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK is well under 2 hours long, but it seems to be about five hours long. But in a good way.

Writer-director David Twohy seems determined to squeeze in everything: religion, morality, multi-culturalism, loyalty, greed and, yes, love. It's has elements of Star Wars space opera, Tolkienish fantasy, Matrix-type cries for individuality, and in the middle, a prison break film suddenly erupts. It encapsulates the two best scenes from VAN HELSING and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and they're just part of the show. In short, this is everything plus Vin Diesel playing the kitchen sink.

It's proof that you can have a chaotic, action filled CGI science fiction film that doesn't stink, and is in fact, highly entertaining and even touches fleetingly on the intangible sense of wonder that infuses the very best fantasy.

RIDDICK stars Diesel, the great ambi-racial hope for action movies in the title role, an amoral criminal we first saw in the Aliens-esque PITCH BLACK. Riddick has a few things going for him: he's the last of the Furions, which enables him to have tremendous endurance and strength; he has glowing gunmetal eyes which enable him to see in the dark; and he has gigantic biceps, which enable him to look good in a black wife beater.

When first we meet Riddick, he's being pursued across a planet of ice by Toombs (Nick Chinlund), a scurvy bounty hunter visually obviously modeled on the comic book version of Wolverine. Riddick manages to dispatch the entire team of four bounty hunters, proving what an unstoppable force he is.

We previously learned in a voice over by Judi Dench (playing Aereon, an elemental spirit whose the Gandalf of the movie), that evildoers known as the Necromongers are going around the universe destroying planets. They're led by a chap known as Lord Marshall (Colm Feore) who has been to an afterworld called the Underverse, leaving him half-dead and half-living and ready for his new role prophet of a new religion. Planets the Necromongers conquer are asked to either convert or be destroyed.

Riddick returns to planet Helion seeking to put an end to the bounty on his head, where he meets up with Imam (Keith David) from PITCH BLACK, now living happily with an adorable wife and daughter – if you guess that they will soon be endangered, you've been to the movies before. Aereon arrives just in time to reveal that the only thing that the Lord Marshall fears is a Furion, as it has been prophesized that one will defeat him. So will the amoral criminal Riddick turn good to save Imam's doe-eyed little girl and the whole planet? Or will he stay a bad guy?

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK completely passed my 10 minute test. That is, 10 minutes in I had no idea what was going to happen next. Oh sure, I knew Riddick would conquer the Necromongers in the end, but how he would get there wasn't clear at all.

But I was wrong about everything.

To continue with the plot would take as long as watching the movie – there's wayyyy too much of it. Riddick ends up on Crematoria, a prison planet where the surface temperature shoots up to 700 degrees during the day and 200 below at night. In the bowels of the planet, he discovers a character from PITCH BLACK who will serve to become his moral focus – or perhaps amoral focus would be more accurate. There's also a race across the surface of the planet to avoid being fried that's the polar (heh heh) opposite of the cold-running scene in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 100 times better done.

I'm sure that a lot of people are going to think RIDDICK is dumb, but in its own fevered way, it isn't. There are set ups and pay offs. A tossed off bit of philosophy in an early scene is the lynchpin of the ambiguous ending; characters disappear and then reappear later on with an almost novelistic flow. Twohy rarely makes the expected decision – when is the last time you saw MacBeth break out in a sci-fi action film, as with the subplot of Mr. and Mrs. Vaako (Karl Urban and Thandie Newton.) Urban is a brutal lieutenant to the Lord Marshall sent after Riddick. Newton is his brutally ambitious wife who keeps busy scheming behind the scenes. If this entire plot isn't really played out completely satisfactorily (in a movie this jammed, a lot of things just don't work smoothly) it's still a fresh twist.

RIDDICK has something that's been lacking from almost every other movie I've seen this summer: imagination. And it never runs out. The special effects and set designs, while paying homage to the great futurist Syd Mead, are outstanding. Unimagined vistas almost clog the screen – giant stone heads rising above a planet; alien trackers who wear scuba masks to hide their hideously disfigured faces; a map made of tiny planets floating in a sea of clouds; a lethal dawn that explodes in a deceptively beautiful spiral of clouds. The worlds are full of detail – brooding statues, soaring arches. Twohy shoots things in unexpected ways – an extreme low angle of Diesel with space ships whizzing above him, or instance – that oddly, give the world of the movie a sense of spatial reality that makes the more outlandish goings on believable. In another shot, Diesel is being taken on a sled through a tunnel, and watches pylons whiz past above him, a banal detail that we've all experienced crossing a bridge or driving through the Lincoln Tunnel that serves to both make the world tangible and set up the next bit of action.

The movie is full of little touches like that. Which isn't to say that everything works or makes total sense. Riddick's own moral ambiguity seems to have been left in another cut of the movie. Sure he's a killing machine, but he just happens to be killing on the side of the "good" guys in the whole film. Some characters have "doomed" written on their forehead the minute they appear on screen. Just WHO had that bounty on Riddick, now and why? Why are people swearing by the name of "Jesus" in this corner of the Universe? And Twohy has the annoying habit of lapsing into those unintelligible high speed fight scenes.

Let me be perfectly clear: RIDDICK is just the kind of SF movie that I happen to adore: a bunch of no-name extras are cast as grungy yet somehow intriguing characters and proceed to blow each other up between moments of black humor and noble struggle. Twohy's cast is a ragtag bunch, from an Oscar winner (Dench) to people who just have great cheekbones. Somehow he gives them all a tiny bit of humanity or character that makes their fates so much more interesting. There's no great acting here, but there's a ton of great screen presences.

Diesel has already crafted a formidable movie persona, and with his gravel voice and terrific physical presence and agility, he's convincing as the almost (almost) undefeatable Riddick. While no one who wasn't trained at the Royal Shakespeare Academy could make the switch between sarcastic tough guy dialog and mystical savior dialog entirely smooth, Diesel doesn't make it unduly painful. Nonetheless, he's best when he just running – which is does for most of the movie – or looking unearthly with his gowing, opaque eyes. Newton is sinuous and deadly, and far more dangerous than any of the guys on screen. Karl Urban has the world's worst hairdo, but acquits himself well as a lethal fellow who had break a man's spine with his bare hands but can't keep his wife under control; I predict a great future career for Urban as the next Jason Isaacs. Feore resists scenery chewing as the chief villain, another sign of the way the movie plays against expectations, and former model Alexa Davalos is feisty and lovely as Kyra, a girl from Riddick's past.

Twohy puts himself on the short list of directors who understand both wonder and corny SF clichιs here. Now that Robert Rodriguez can't direct A PRINCESS OF MARS, Twohy could do the job -- but he'll be busy with two planned RIDDICK sequels if this does well.

RIDDICK is everything VAN HELSING wanted to be: non stop action that actually entertains. There's only one swinging on a rope trick in RIDDICK, but it's the perfect swinging on a rope trick: a hero who is insanely brave risking everything for the one thing in life he cares about. The result matters. You can ask no more from an action movie.

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#332239 - 06/13/04 01:10 AM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
THE Anti-Hunter Offline
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Registered: 01/24/02
Posts: 10266
Loc: oceanside,Ca
Okay, your VanHelsing bashing aside, You've totally hit the mark with Riddick. I loved this movie, if not for deadlines, I would've seen it again last night. There's one comparison you forgot to mention though: R.E.Howard's Conan of Cimmeria. I wont ruin the movie, but those who've seen it, most likely know what I'm talking about.
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#332240 - 06/13/04 06:10 AM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Indignant Offline
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Registered: 08/23/01
Posts: 56
OK, my review doesn't hit the newstands until Tuesday, but as far as I'm concerned, the first segment was wonderful. The prison planet segment had me nearly falling asleep - mastrabatory showing off with little to no plot value, other than to further degrade the anti-hero/sympathetic sociopath status of Riddick. Then when returning to the plot, we receive neither explanation nor a real ending. The last shot had me snickering about the end shots of Conan.

No, this was an exercise in franchise building, and while there was wonderful potential in the first 1/2 hour or so, it was not fullfilled. I am appalled at a scifi.com interview with Ye Olde Director, where he admits to cutting the scene that explains the background on the main plot points because he thought it would make the film too mystical. Yeah, the lead villain is shown snatching the soul out of his victim and you're afraid of making the film too mystical. Go soak your head in the toilet, Dave.

With proper script supervision and editing the sequel could be really good, on the other hand.

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#332241 - 06/13/04 06:16 AM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Indignant Offline
Member

Registered: 08/23/01
Posts: 56
BTW, the official media kit has Riddick's race as "Furyan."

I figure the board is geeky enough to care. ;-)

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#332242 - 06/13/04 09:18 AM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Simon Williams Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/13/01
Posts: 9
Loved this film, some critics are giving it a C but look around and you will see plenty of people giving it an A. Thumbs up.
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#332243 - 06/13/04 03:52 PM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
milkmandave Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/13/04
Posts: 2
I actually have to disagree with all the comments above. I loved pitch black and had high hopes for Riddick, but was immensely disappointed. Within the first five minutes I was groaning from the unbelievable dialogue, which while occasionally funny("been a long time since i smelled beautiful..."), came off most often as bad one-liners ("follow this").

But I can forgive a movie for such action-flick staples. What I CANNOT forgive is a bad story. Ok, so Riddick is a Furyan, and it has been fortold that the grandmarshall (or whatever he's called) is meant to die at the hands of a furyan. Ok, so its the Moses story, I get it. Except that Riddick doesn't give a shit about this. Or if he does, he doesnt let us know (maybe this is because he's too busy trying to decide if he wants to wear his shades or not). And while I'm on that topic, there is no consistency concerning his eyes. In pitch black, he had them altered in prison so he could see. But apparently that was a lie. So is it because he is, in fact, furyan? Is that why he can befriend the similarly-reflective-eyed dinosaur dogs(are they meant to be furyan as well? If not, then why the eyes? It certainly isnt perennially dark in the Crematoria - the name makes me groan - prison). But if it is because of his furyan ancestry, then why does the necromonger purifier not have the eyes as well?

There are other problems as well: The necromonger religion is never adequately explained. I get the role it plays in the film, and in that respect I suppose it works, but it seems to lack any substance, and is instead an excuse for incorporating plot devices, such as Riddick's "achievement" at the end of the film. Also, the relationship between Thandie Newton and Karl Urban is never fully explained. Ok, they are lovers, she's ambitious and he's devious although pious. Thats fine. But what position does she hold. Perhaps this is defined in the credits which I certainly didnt bother waiting around for, but in the film she is never mentioned by name. How is it that She seems to have so much power, when her interactions are limited only to between Urban and Vin Diesel?

I fail to see why I've spent this much time discussing the film. What a disappointment.

Dave

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#332244 - 06/13/04 04:28 PM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Erik Sternberger Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/01
Posts: 112
Loc: Fort Wayne, In, USA
Yet again I completly agree with Heidi on a review.
Someone needs to get her in everyone's living room for genre movie reviews!

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#332245 - 06/13/04 04:47 PM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
-OM- Offline
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Registered: 06/05/02
Posts: 2013
Loc: A Northern Suburb of Armagetto...
...Damn, if I didn't know better, I'd swear Heidi was getting rather...excited...during that review :-) :-)
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#332246 - 06/13/04 04:49 PM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
Archangelboy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/24/04
Posts: 24
Quote:
Originally posted by milkmandave:
I actually have to disagree with all the comments above. I loved pitch black and had high hopes for Riddick, but was immensely disappointed. Within the first five minutes I was groaning from the unbelievable dialogue, which while occasionally funny("been a long time since i smelled beautiful..."), came off most often as bad one-liners ("follow this").

But I can forgive a movie for such action-flick staples. What I CANNOT forgive is a bad story. Ok, so Riddick is a Furyan, and it has been fortold that the grandmarshall (or whatever he's called) is meant to die at the hands of a furyan. Ok, so its the Moses story, I get it. Except that Riddick doesn't give a shit about this. Or if he does, he doesnt let us know (maybe this is because he's too busy trying to decide if he wants to wear his shades or not). And while I'm on that topic, there is no consistency concerning his eyes. In pitch black, he had them altered in prison so he could see. But apparently that was a lie. So is it because he is, in fact, furyan? Is that why he can befriend the similarly-reflective-eyed dinosaur dogs(are they meant to be furyan as well? If not, then why the eyes? It certainly isnt perennially dark in the Crematoria - the name makes me groan - prison). But if it is because of his furyan ancestry, then why does the necromonger purifier not have the eyes as well?

There are other problems as well: The necromonger religion is never adequately explained. I get the role it plays in the film, and in that respect I suppose it works, but it seems to lack any substance, and is instead an excuse for incorporating plot devices, such as Riddick's "achievement" at the end of the film. Also, the relationship between Thandie Newton and Karl Urban is never fully explained. Ok, they are lovers, she's ambitious and he's devious although pious. Thats fine. But what position does she hold. Perhaps this is defined in the credits which I certainly didnt bother waiting around for, but in the film she is never mentioned by name. How is it that She seems to have so much power, when her interactions are limited only to between Urban and Vin Diesel?

I fail to see why I've spent this much time discussing the film. What a disappointment.

Dave


What he said. I couldn't even put this in the no-brainer action flick for guys segment. I hate when the commercials are more interesting than the flick.

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#332247 - 06/13/04 05:02 PM Re: RIDDICK: EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN DIESEL
THE Anti-Hunter Offline
Member

Registered: 01/24/02
Posts: 10266
Loc: oceanside,Ca
I don't recall anywhere in the movie where it was implied that Riddick's being a Furyion was connected with the shine eyes. Maybe, just his look in his eyes, you know the windows to the soul kinda deal, but not the silver tint. I'm not sure how you got that from the movie.

Again, inmo good flick.
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