09 December 2014

The RIDDICK Saga: PITCH BLACK / THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK / RIDDICK

PITCH BLACK

Working Title:
Nightfall

Reissue Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black

German Titles:
Pitch Black - Planet der Finsternis / Riddick - Chroniken eines Kriegers: Pitch Black

USA, 2000
Director: David Twohy

7,5/10


After successfully developing screenplays, story outlines and re-writes for/of many great action, sci-fi and horror films between the late 80s and late 90s ("The Fugitive", "Warlock 1 & 2", "G.I. Jane", "Critters 2"...), L.A.-based filmmaker David Twohy created his very first directorial feature "Pitch Black", based on his very own rejected script for "Alien 3" (written in 1988), as well as on a script co-written by the Wheat brothers Jim & Ken ("The Ewoks: Battle for Endor", "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4", "The Fly 2", "The Birds 2"...).


"Pitch Black" is a highly entertaining and very well made conglomerate of sci-fi classics like "Alien", "Aliens" or "Predator", following the crew and passengers (incl. Riddick, a dangerous convict with surgically enhanced eyes that allow him to see in darkness) of a cargo spaceship who crashland on a desert planet which is not just surrounded by three suns, it's also populated by fleshhungry, photo-sensitive alien creatures. Even worse: the planet is soon to be eclipsed for week, which means the creature will roam the planet, searching for food...

With some extraordinary lighting, shitloads of super-stunning images, fantastic cinematography, and excellent camera work, Twohy created a marvellous-looking treat for the eyes. A movie that isn't exactly original, especially in terms of story and characters, but due to its incredible visuals, top-notch direction and rather superb pacing, it ends up as fabulous sci-fi/action/horror romp in the tradition of James Cameron or Ridley Scott, or - like my buddy Chri said - as one of the better "Alien"-clones in recent years.


Next to David Eggby's ("Mad Max") amazing camera work (massive kudos to what he created here!), we also get a very exciting percussion-driven score by the great Graeme Revell ("Sin City"), spot-on editing (Rick Shaine, "Extreme Measures") and some really solid CGI, especially considering the rather low budget the movie was made on (about 23 million dollars). Also, very solid performances by Vin Diesel as uber-cool anti-hero, hottie Radha Mitchell as badass pilot and Cole Hauser as grumpy bounty hunter. Nothing to complain: "Pitch Black" rocks!




THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

Working Titles:
Pitch Black 2 / Riddick

German Title:
Riddick - Chroniken eines Kriegers

USA, 2004
Director: David Twohy

3,5/10





Due to the fact that "Pitch Black" was way more successful than expected, Universal Pictures greenlit a sequel and gave David Twohy more than $100 million, so that he could realize his very own vision of a "Lord of the Rings"-like Riddick-trilogy. However, "The Chronicles of Riddick", the supposedly first part in that trilogy, bombed like a lead weight which led to the planned sequels being scrapped - and rightly so.


"The Chronicles of Riddick" is basically Twohy's "Matrix: Reloaded" (or maybe his "Sky Captain"? His "Southland Tales"?). He threw the millions down the drain by spending it on shitloads of larger-than-life sets and oh-so-awesome costumes, and eventually delivered an overloaded, exaggerated, way-too-over-the-top piece of excessiveness that suffers from a bloated and shallow storyline (about Riddick dealing with Necromongers and bounty hunters on planets called "Helion Prime" or "Crematoria"), unsympathetic and vapid characters, and a huge amount of 80s sci-fi/fantasy clichés that feel as if Twohy simply pieced movies like
"Krull", "Gor", "Ice Pirates", "Arena" etc. etc. together. Gone are the awesome visuals, the nervewracking tension, the badass action. It's all just too much... too much of nothing.

The movie is also surprisingly tedious, at times downright boring. There's hardly any acting performance that really stands out, and aside from Diesel, Karl Urban and the gorgeous Alexa Davalos, most of the actors deliver forgettable or simply annoying perfomances (I look at you, Thandie Newton!). Even grande dame Judi Dench makes no impression at all. Worst scene in the entire movie: when the soldiers suddenly shouting "Threshold! Take us to the Threshold!" which hilariously sounds like "Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?" (see here).


Love the impressive production design, the scenes on Planet Crematoria (the only thing about this film that remotely reminds of "Pitch Black), several ok action scenes and a few neat one-liners. Everything else... well, "The Chronicles of Boredom" would have been a better-fitting title.




RIDDICK

Working Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Dead Man Stalking

Alternate Title:
The Chronicles of Riddick: Rule the Dark

German Title:
Riddick - Überleben ist seine Rache

USA, 2013
Director: David Twohy

5/10


9 years after box office disappointment "The Chronicles of Riddick", David Twohy and Vin Diesel teamed up a third time to create a completely new Riddick flick, called... um, "Riddick" (how imaginative...), a sequel to the last installment, but not a continuation of the Chronicles-storyline, rather a semi-redo of "Pitch Black", not just in terms of style, mood and lower budget ("only" $38,000,000), but also regarding storyline (deserted planet, bounty hunters, fleshhungry creatures), set-up and characters - which is both good and bad.


It's good that they stepped back from the bloated saga-attempt and went back to the origins of Riddick, replacing over-the-top science fiction and fantasy with slightly b-movie-like old school action and horror. At the same time, they played it way, way too safe which resulted in a sequel that is actually unnecessary and superfluous. Even though I enjoyed "Riddick" a lot more than "The Chronicles of Riddick", it's still far, far from being as great "Pitch Black". The fact that it's more of a Diesel & Twohy vanity project obviously doesn't help at all.

The first third is excellent: there's good old badass Riddick fighting against super-dangerous scorpion-like creatures and befriending a cool space dog. It's like an 80s version of "I am Legend". The second third is just terrible. A bunch of unlikable cardboard idiots, tons of ultra-cheesy lines and several predictable supposed-to-be-tense-but-not-that-tense scenes and sequences. The last third shifts between awesome (gore, monsters, darkness) and awful (lame showdown, dumb Chronicles tie-in, frustrating ending).


Like in its predecessor, the CGI ranges from pretty nice to pretty crappy. Soundtrack and camera work are both great, Vin Diesel is solid as always, as well as neat performances by Katee Sackhoff and Matt Nable - but all in all, this was just meh. IMO they should stop here, but... *sigh* it did better at the box office than "Chronicles" and for whatever reason, the DVD was immensely successful. Guess what? Right, Diesel and Universal are already talking about wanting to make a 4th AND 5th Riddick flick... *double sigh*

Wiki ~ Imdb



Note: I've seen the three animated Riddick shorts "Pitch Black: Slam City (2000)", "The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004)" and "Riddick: Blindsided (2013)" too, but none of them struck a chord with me, so I passed on reviewing them.

6 comments:

  1. Pitch Black is one of my favorite sci-fi horror movies. Chronicles was kinda bland. I've yet to see Riddick

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't hurt checking out Riddick. Just don't expect anything as awesome as Pitch Black.

      Delete
  2. Hey Maynard, I don't know if this Link will work for you in Europe, but check it out: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/p4ae62/vin-diesel

    The key point is about 2:30 where Vin talks about doing 'Chronicles of Riddick' in this 2002 Interview.

    If it doesn't work, I'll sum it up for you. Interesting historical footnote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean the Chronicles trilogy? or Hannibal the Conqueror?

      Delete
  3. I saw Pitch Black in the theater and liked it well enough -but stayed away from the bloated-looking Chronicles and wasn't interested enough to see the third one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check out the third one. I think you might like it.

      Delete

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