Pin It
Favorite

Take Two 

by Marty Demarest


My favorite moment in The Chronicles of Riddick is when Judi Dench first appears. Up until then, the film has almost everything a decent, epic-sized science fiction movie requires. There's a heroic central character: Riddick, played by Vin Diesel in milky contact lenses. There's an evil foe: the Necromongers, a race of brainwashed space-goths. There are space ships, including a fleet of monoliths that ram mercilessly into the surface of planets. The movie even has hordes of enemy foot soldiers who can be eliminated simply by being flipped to the ground. But until Dench shows up, there is no respected British actor to lend the film any quirky panache the way that Alec Guinness did in Star Wars and Ian McKellen did in X-Men.


Dench gives the film its opening voice-over, but she's invisible for quite a while after that. Suddenly, in the midst of a suitably ridiculous scene, Diesel swings a knife into what appears to be empty space, and Dench's pixieish face emerges from a miasma of special effects. She has no character to speak of, and most of her performance consists of appearing in various places around the screen while intoning grave threats in her flawless voice. Clearly, as a recurring veteran of James Bond films, Dench knows how to behave in a blockbuster: She stays out of the way.


With this movie, that's a smart idea. The Chronicles of Riddick is a much bigger film than its prequel Pitch Black. That film was a strong -- if trivial -- science fiction movie, full of wonderful nonsense like alien monsters and interstellar junkies. But instead of bringing Riddick back to fight the monsters of the first film, writer/director David Twohy digs into Pitch Black's backstory. He opens up Riddick to encompass a universe in which threatening races populate under-explored planets and star systems. The struggle in Riddick is epic, involving armies and civilizations instead of individuals. It's a big leap, both in terms of production and scope, and Twohy takes the work seriously.


Unfortunately, it's hard to do that as an audience member. For each scene that works well (if you like sci-fi), there is at least one other that fails. Cliffs on a volcanic planet are made from something resembling foam insulation. Elite warriors in suits of armor bump absurdly into one another while walking. During one scene, a figure who looks like part of the film crew crouches next to a pillar. These moments don't ruin the film, but they do undermine its efforts to take itself seriously.


Diesel, though, has the right idea. His Riddick is laughably invincible, and the character's blank eyes give him little room for what emotion the actor musters. He resembles nothing so much as a computer-generated character, and acts accordingly with his voice. Always growling and deep, Diesel's voice speaks volumes about his character even when the movie is distracted with something else. It's a smart choice in a movie in which almost nothing is real or believable. As Judi Dench knows, the one thing a special effect can't do yet is talk.





Publication date: 06/17/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Age of Zaycon
  • Age of Zaycon

    Spokane Valley's Zaycon Fresh found a way to make millions selling meat — and now it's trying to make a lot more
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Hazy Days of Summer
  • Hazy Days of Summer

    Smoke blankets the region; plus, Patty Murray on the proposed Iran deal
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Brick by Brick
  • Brick by Brick

    Development continues in downtown Spokane; here are some construction projects that could change the city's urban core
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event

Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event @ Hillyard Library

Tue., Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • 'Flip of a Coin'

    A Spokane Valley deputy trained to spot stoned and drunk drivers is wrong nearly as often as he is right, blood tests from drivers show
    • Aug 19, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


marijuana


Comment


Publisher's Note


BUSINESS


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation