Vin Diesel. You remember him, right? The big bald guy with the deep voice from that "I live my life 10 seconds at a time" movie, and the one where he's the X-Games-type dude who gets recruited to save the world. Yeah, you remember him, don't you? And you probably remember him turning down the "10 seconds at a time" movie's sequel because he wanted $20 million for it, and turning down the X-Games/save the world sequel as well, which gave him somewhat of a bad reputation. But what you might not remember is this guy can actually act pretty damn good, when he wants to and when the material is right, as in his great role in Boiler Room as well and in the barely-seen A Man Apart. Mr. Diesel (real name Mark Vincent) is out to prove his star-power once again, reprising the role that started his path to stardom, and one of the best movie characters in recent cinema history: Richard B. Riddick from the indie hit Pitch Black. This great anti-hero is back in The Chronicles of Riddick, and while this movie has its flaws, it is rather entertaining, and more than proves that Vin Diesel is here to stay.
The movie starts out by showing us something we've never seen from Diesel: hair. He looks like a 3rd-string member of the Jamaican bobsled team, with crazy-long dreadlocks. But the goggles give it away. Of course, he's on the lam again, running from the mercenaries that are chasing him for the $1.5 million bounty on his head. He realizes that the one person that could've given him away was one of the people he saved from the first movie: Imam (Keith David). So he tracks Imam down and finds out that he's wanted for a different purpose: to help stop this evil breeding/cult things called Necromongers from converting the whole universe, led by their leader Lord Marshall (Colm Feore). Seeking his help is an Elemental (half-human, half-ghost, like the Necromongers) called Aereon (Dench) who seeks peace, and believes that Riddick's unknown past i.e. his true "race" will help them defeat the Necromongers.
One of the few weaknesses of Pitch Black was that they really didn't give us a whole lot of development on Riddick's character. We get a little bit more development here, but still, there could be more. It's quite obvious that this omission is a sign that they want to develop this into a major franchise, sucking us in and making us beg for more. It's good, because Riddick's character is so wonderful that we do want more, but if this movie fails...what then? But Diesel is back at the top of his game as Riddick. He has an enormous screen presence and his physique just fits the character to a T. He has his best performance since Pitch Black, and, although he really can't get a character any better than this for him, it proves that he really does still have the chops to be a big-time actor again. Judi Dench gives a nice performance, but she doesn't have a very big role. Thandie Newton is pretty good too, as the Lord Marshal's wife, but she's basically there for eye-candy...which is very nice, by the way. Colm Feore, who is barely recognizable behind this weird 3-faced mask, is pretty good as a bad guy. But the rest of the main performances fall short.
Nick Chinlund, the over-actor best known as Billy Bedlam in Con Air, is at his over-acting self here as the bounty hunter Tombs, and it just doesn't work, as does most of his work. Karl Urban isn't that good either as the underling to Lord Marshal, Vaako, clad in a Brian Bosworth-type mullet. But the performance that really irked me was Alexa Davalos, as the grown-up "Jack" who was really a girl from Pitch Black, now named Kyra. Her performance wasn't incredibly bad (not that good though) but just her casting bugged me. Apparently, in Pitch Black, her Jack character was supposedly 12. Now it's 5 years later, which would mean she's 17. Davalos is gorgeous, but, unless it was Lindsey Lohan, she just didn't look like she was 17. It just didn't seem right, and while the character seemed to fit in the movie, her playing it just didn't. But all these characters who don't perform so well are all fairly minor, relinquishing the spotlight to Diesel, who definitely deserves it.
The script by David Twhoy, who wrote and directed Pitch Black, crafts a pretty good script here, with some little surprises thrown in here and there. But there still should've been more development with Riddick and everyone else, and there are a few corny lines here and there. He leaves the ending open for another sequel, which there very well may be, but still, there needed to be more of a concrete ending here. Still, the script is fairly solid and it sets it up nicely for a third installment, should there be one. You have to admire Twhoy, though, for creating such a wonderful anti-hero, which we rarely see at the movies these days, in Riddick, and I really look forward to a third movie in this series.
Twhoy directs here as well, and he does a very nice job, especially with Diesel, giving him enough screen time to establish his prominence, but not as much that it seems he's hogging the screen. He creates a very interesting, visually at least, world, although it all seems done over a blue-screen, somewhat similar to Lucas' Star Wars sets. But he is very capable behind the camera, with some wonderful work with the fairly ambitious action scenes and he duely earns his pay as director.
The Chronicles of Riddick is a movie about escaping your past by trying to make a difference in the future, no matter how reluctant you are to do so. While this movie isn't quite as dark...in more ways than one, than the first one, this is a very good movie for fans of Pitch Black, and for those who think that Vin Diesel just can't act, because they will be proven wrong.