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The Chronicles of Riddick
by Alan Dean Foster
the book

The Chronicles Of Riddick:
Escape From Butcher Bay
by Prima Temp, David Knight

. "The Chronicles of Riddick"

This supernatural, sci-fi, futuristic thriller suggests that fundamentalist zealotry is taking over the universe. These are dark forces called Necromongers, being led by the religious leader, Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), and he's bent on converting humanity on all planets to his faith. As a pretty near all powerful semi-godlike figure, he's got but one Achilles' heel. It's been preordained that he can only be taken down by a Furian. So, he pretty much wiped out the entire race in order to protect himself against his sole weakness. But there's one Furian survivor who is strong enough to do the job. Riddick.

Richard B. Riddick, the outlaw, comes to us from "Pitch Black", a previous collaboration between Vin Diesel and writer-director David Twohy ("Below"). He may not have the supernatural powers of his arch enemy, Lord Marshal, but he's no fluff ball. Trouble is, he's also inclined to be a hermit who dearly wants to be left alone, and a bit of a bad boy when it comes to popular causes. The mistake the really bad guys make is pissing him off, like putting a bounty on his head.

So he cops the bounty hunter's aircraft and makes for Helion Prime, the planetary HQ for the Necros. His mission is a purely personal one -- to get the contract on him cancelled. Or else. And, therein lies the tale... and the battle against forced worship and enslavement.

The notion of being a loner conflicts with his deep feelings for Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a very tough and athletically acrobatic lady who is almost as deadly as Riddick, the man she admires above all others. So, why doesn't he want to track her down more than he wants to remain on his planet unmolested. In any case, his venture into the lair of the all too powerful villains brings him to her, where they get all the chances they want to kick some ass.

Diesel is an actor with his own unique gifts. He may not have all the internal shadings of, say, a Jeff Bridges, but he does command the screen with a greater than average strongman's capacity for emotion and thought. He is worthy of the stardom he's attained. "The Fast and the Furious" was elevated from simplistic gang territoriality by virtue of his quality of character complexity. Director Twohy exploits that for all its worth in this actioner.

As he does another of my favorite unheralded and underused actresses, the fetching, seductive Thandie Newton. With a mere 16 or so film roles before this one, she appears this year in two, both calling for wily, evil ambition. First as a relentlessly scheming grifter in "Shade" and here as Dame Vaako, the partner of the Necromonger commander (Karl Urban) whom she plays "Lady Macbeth" for. In full sensual foxiness and provocative garb, she is a smashing vamp who awaits the chance to make her guy the seventh Lord Marshal. Her anger, when she's thwarted, is a sight that steams with carnality.

The colorful and adventure-supporting cast also includes Keith David, a cleric who projects a vestige of dignity within the prevailing culture by remaining compassionate; Nick Chinlund as Toombs, the mercenary who thinks he's capable of capturing Riddick on a permanent basis and make some money; Yorick van Wageningen, the warden on the planet Crematoria who would be the none-too-scrupulous contractor to pay the money for his new and dangerous inmate; and, Judi Dench as Aereon, as vaporous a figure as her name implies.

Hugh Johnson provided the exceptional cinematography for a state-of-the-art computer graphic team that brings high concept and seamlessly inventive images to the design of other worlds, its machinery, its CGI beasts, its evil menace. It may not stand up to earthbound critical demands but there's plenty here to keep the action fan in orbit.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Vin Diesel as Riddick and Alexa Davalos as Kyra
Battling their way off a hellish planet

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