The Chronicles of Riddick

The first true "disaster" film of the summer

The recent 50's sci-fi spoof "Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" is not funny because it tries too hard to be a spoof. "The Chronicles of Riddick" is funny because it isn't a spoof; it's a serious but ultimately ludicrous account of convict Riddick's life 5 years after "Pitch Black." Vin Diesel plays Riddick with his patented grunts and garbled elocution, in a galactic war 500 years from now that only he can win for the good guys, who are NOT the Necromongers, an alien race not half as interesting as its graveyard name.

Judi Dench as a ghost-like representative of the doomed "Elementals" helping Riddick is like putting high-octane gas in your lawnmower--What the heck is she doing here? And what was I doing there other than laughing at laughable lines and hoping for hopeful words for our sci-fi audience?

The special effects are impressive, but what expensive release these days doesn't have state-of-the-art FX? The music swells too often and too prominently. Thandie Newton's Halle-Berry imitation as Dame Vaaco (as a Lady Macbeth) has knockout hairdos and form-fitting costumes yet ends up as cheap imitation of both ladies. Alexandra Davakos as Kyra tries to be Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in "Alien" but, believe it or not, lacks any heft in her lines, similar to Diesel's dilemma.

Besides "Necromongers," other names intriguing in their connotations are planets "Helion" and "Crematoria," for instance, the latter with a surface heat of 700 degrees. Writer/director D.T. Twohy could have capitalized on the provocative suggestiveness of death and hell themes inherent in those names. Mostly, though, everything in the film is just deadly: people, plot, and planets. Perhaps Twohy was thinking of Conrad's Marlow, in "Heart of Darkness," who became anesthetized by death: "I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine." "Unexciting" is the word I was looking for to characterize "The Chronicles of Riddick."

Only if you want to laugh and cry at the same time should you waste your time at this first true "disaster" film of the summer.