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Evil is as evil does,
And such it is and ever was,
But when an evil worse than most
Endangers all on every coast,
Perhaps what once was evil might
Defend the day against the night.
___________________

MPAA rating:  PG-13

I watched Pitch Black for the first time earlier this year, curious about Richard B. Riddick’s reputation as an anti-hero and the cult classic status of the series, and I liked it for the most part. Vin Diesel radiated cool danger as the shiny-eyed criminal, and it echoed Aliens while being just different enough. The Chronicles of Riddick distances itself from the Aliens comparisons, widening its scope perhaps too far but still preserving the coolness that made Riddick memorable.

Whereas Pitch Black was confined to a single alien-infested planet, The Chronicles of Riddick opens up a wealth of previously unknown sci-fi lore: a fanatical force of Necromongers under the supernaturally powered Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), a prophecy about the Lord Marshal’s downfall, a race of Furians thought to have been wiped out. It sometimes comes off as ridiculous and I couldn’t help but wonder what Karl Urban or Dame Judi Dench thought of their careers as they were delivering certain lines, but it’s just as often camp-tinged fun with enough fast-paced action, imaginative set and costume design, and genuinely awesome set pieces to forgive its faults. The effects sometimes belie their low budget, yet that somehow just adds to their appeal.

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For some reason, writer-director David Twohy chose to target a PG-13 rating for this sequel, and I was grateful for it. I stand by my conviction that extreme gore and profanity are largely unnecessary, and The Chronicles of Riddick still delivers plenty of sometimes brutal badassery without them. (I mean, Riddick kills a guy with a tea cup, for Pete’s sake!) I’ve been shown to be very forgiving with science fiction movies, but once again I think this film’s mere 29% on Rotten Tomatoes is far too low and personally found it more watchable than Pitch Black, though my VC disagrees.

Of course, I recognize its faults as well, from occasional histrionics, a lackluster script, and meh villains. (The main villain’s past motives are basically the same as the peacock in Kung Fu Panda 2.) Yet I think the film’s worst aspect is its insistence on Riddick alone being the one character worth keeping around. I was disappointed with how Pitch Black ended by killing off the main character worth rooting for, but at least it had thematic significance at the time. The sequel continues that trend by showing that anyone who’s not Riddick is just there to be either an enemy or a sacrifice, which I think hurts the film as part of a series.

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Despite this drawback and an admittedly dumb final scene, The Chronicles of Riddick was still great fun for this sci-fi fan, an underrated entry that replaced the first film’s horror with a partially successful stab at space epic. Now two films in, there’s just one left to watch in the series, 2013’s Riddick (which incidentally returned to an R rating), and I’m curious to see how the series ends. Unless Twohy and Diesel decide to keep it going, which I wouldn’t mind at all.

Best line: (Aereon, in the intro monologue) “In normal times, evil would be fought by good. But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil.”

 

Rank:  List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
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