Riddick schtick needs high-octane fix

“The Chronicles of Riddick”

Directed by David Twohy

Starring Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton


115 Min.

1 out of 5 stars

In conjunction with Father’s Day, “The Chronicles of Riddick” compelled me to draw upon something my own father once told me: that men who drive Corvettes are, within a manner of speaking, underendowed.

The Corvette is a sports car, and while I presumed beforehand that all sports cars are the same, I was instructed otherwise. Sure, the Corvette is kind of fast, glamorous, draws looks and is rather popular. Anybody who drives one will look good in it. Other than that, though, it’s cheap, routine and outdated moments after it’s taken off the showroom floor. And as the punchline goes, it’s used to compensate for, well, size-real men don’t need the car to speak great, um, lengths about who they are.

“Riddick” star Vin Diesel could be of value, but so long as he’s fueling Corvettes like this film with unleaded standards across the board, his career won’t have any longevity, let alone enough gas to power a Go-Kart.

“The Chronicles of Riddick” picks up right where Diesel’s debut “Pitch Black” left off -more than a decade later. There’s this mysterious guy, Riddick, who’s a mercenary of some mysterious kind that everybody wants dead. He’s big and strong and has an ambiguous ethnicity, as well as enigmatic superhuman strength and reflexes. Times change, and a few years later, some people want a piece of Riddick because he’s the only one who can save the universe from being converted to the wannabe M.C. Escheresque dark religion of the Necromongers, whose brand of evil is about as bad as their name.

“Pitch Black’s” understatements and unanswered questions about Riddick’s past, alongside bleak, dark, suspense-heavy direction, worked for both Diesel and the film. Here, there’s no suspense or surprises-everyone knows that Riddick is going to hurt someone, and the film is going to try to look cool. Riddick jumps via rope, girl in arm, from one side of a canyon to another as a planet’s nuclear sun rays blast behind him. Riddick single-handedly beats up a room full of the universe’s (supposed) baddest bad guys. So on and so forth. Sometimes it really does look impressive, too-imagine the best video game cut scenes on anabolic steroids and you’ve pretty much got the picture.

Unfortunately, steroids are known to often carry severe side effects. Among them are the habitual deliverance of pregame locker room growls, such as “I bow to no man!” and, after calming an angry killer triceratops-canine monster, “It’s an animal thing.” Every line is delivered with the same over-the-top intensity it’s written with, and the lines lose their effect after, let’s say, five minutes, when they stop being couth and start sounding campy. Even the most evil words in the film sound like self-parody. If there was ever a mystery about Riddick, the obvious roles and plot turns assigned to him uncover the Great Secret: He’s one boring, dull guy, and kind of a softie, too.

Other side effects of steroid use include impotence, which is way too clear in the case of Riddick and his “Chronicles”-they fall flat whenever they don’t rely on the muscle of not-so-special effects (nearly all CGI). Sci-fi junkies and Riddick fans might be able to get off on a flimsy universe created to cater to the namesake character’s heroics, but no matter how hard they try, most moviegoers won’t be able to fake one for Diesel. No matter how big his muscles are. Or how cool his ‘Vette is.

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