Sometimes a middling movie is made marvelous by kicking so much ass with a few elements that you can overlook the ones that aren't as excellent. Such is the case with Chronicles of Riddick, for my money one of the best movies of the last decades.
For everything it gets wrong, for every wince-worthy bit of dialogue, for every silly plot contrivance and comic-book name, it matches with something so wickedly off the scale I am very much inclined to forgive it.
It should be pointed out that I like sci fi, I like space opera, I like grand themes, and this movie has these things. It also has Vin Diesel, who I generally enjoy. Perhaps then I am bound to like this movie, but I do not think these elements alone can excuse some of the very poor choices made.
What makes me wince most is the naming of things. The bad guys are Necromongers, they seek the Underverse, the good guy's a Furion, the hot fiery planet is called Crematoria, in the Igneon system. Do you see what they're doing here? Of course you do, a six year old would giggle, it's so ham-handed.
But the fictional world portrayed in this movie is so well designed and so consistent with itself that I can and do forgive it. I do more, in fact: I love it. I can't quite believe anyone could say, with a straight face at least, that they were a Necromonger, but I can get past that to see the gorgeous art, costumes and sets. I can appreciate the architecture, and how often do you get to say that of a movie?
The bad guys cruise around in these slab-sided monstrous vehicles that inhale an oily black essence from the very fabric of the world around them. Torturous statues adorn beautiful hallways, every scene inside a Necromonger ship is wondrous and vile at the same time. It's beautiful, and it's consistent. There's a lot to see here.
The basic premise is standard stuff, but rent with twists and unexpected turns. You know what's coming, but you can't see when and you can't see how. It's fun to know what will happen but still enjoy the ride. Throughout the movie, Riddick is chased, captured, jailed, liberated, captured and fights and fights and fights.
The special effects are solid, the world believable enough that I can look away when the filmmakers do something daft on occasion. The acting isn't perfect, the dialogue occasionally wretched, but the view offered into this amazing universe is delightful.
Two thumbs up, bitches.