The Chronicles of Riddick ★★★

The late 90s and noughties were a fairly barren time for action heroes. The era of the muscle-bound 80s behemoths came to an end as returns from Sly and Arnie movies dropped off, and Hollywood turned its attention to different styles and tropes (mainly superheroes).

One of the more noteworthy new characters that DID get created was Riddick. Vin Diesel's performance in Pitch Black was so scene-stealing that it catapulted him to fame and created a real desire to see more.

But who is Riddick in Twohy's original film? Well, he's a tough ex-con who can see in the dark, and is a killing machine. And that was enough to propell him through that particular taught, focussed horror film.

Clearly, though, both Twohy and Diesel had a backstory, a legend in mind for Riddick, and that's admirable. One of the more interesting aspects of the franchise is the attempt to really expand the universe, both in film AND in videogame. As a result, for the 2nd film they decided to "go big" with the story and the character.

In Chronicles... Riddick is a good old-fashioned chosen one, prophesied to bring an end to a great big evil that threatens the universe. The extra material restored to the Director's Cut makes this even more abundantly clear, with dream sequences and origin flashbacks and the like.

The problem with all that is that this doesn't really fit well with the selfish, violent anti-hero that Pitch Black introduced. To tell this big story, they have to ferry Riddick to and from various far-flung locations so he can interact with various evil warlords and the like, and in doing so they undermine any real sense of a larger, working universe. It all feels a bit Flash Gordon.

In an attempt to correct this, they build in a large set-piece that is more classic Riddick territory, i.e he has to escape from somewhere. These are the best moments in the film, but ultimately pointless as no sooner does he escape than he flits back to the homeworld where all the baddies are anyway. He might as well have thumbed a lift with them in the first place.

It makes for a disjointed experience, which is a pity as the style of the worlds created are great, the bad guys are suitably menacing, and Diesel's performance is as chunky and badass as ever.

The film bombed a bit at the box office, but has done well enough on DVD to mean that a 3rd one is currently being filmed. Early signs are that Twohy has gone "small" again, confining the action to a simpler story of Riddick on the run from bounty hunters. This can only be a good thing, as I genuinely like the character and the franchise, and with a few tweaks it could be a long-running series.