MAYBE IT'S because of the movie "Troy" that I imagined the ancient gods of Mount Olympus, armed with TV controllers and chortling over the hilarious vanity of one Vin Diesel, a man who glows and hums with his own legend. How Jupiter, Apollo and the whole pantheon gang would have guffawed at the demigod and his sci-fi vanity picture, "The Chronicles of Riddick."
"Riddick," which His Deezness exec-produced, reprises Diesel's role as the physically ripped space adventurer Richard P. Riddick from the cult sci-fi movie "Pitch Black." It is five years after the events of the first film. Since then, Riddick -- a big, strapping dude with ice-blue eyes for night vision and a vocal cadence that suggests Elmer Fudd on steroids -- has spent his time ducking from space-age mercenaries. Seems there's a price on his head.
The story begins when Riddick is captured on the planet Helion by the occupying forces of Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), whose nasty army of Necromongers are hellbent on subjugation of all beings. Life's like that in outer space. The bad guys shove Riddick into a hard-core underground prison on the volcanic planet of Crematoria. There he reencounters Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a woman he has some history with; he rescued her back in the old days when she was a wee gal. Since then she has aged into a tough, no-nonsense femme-warrior who's about 20 years too late for a bit part in "The Road Warrior."
Also in the story: Thandie Newton as Dame Vaako, a quasi-dominatrix leader, the partner of Vaako (Karl Urban) -- both are clearly going to figure in the next "Riddick" movie -- and Keith David, who reprises his "Pitch Black" role as Imam. And speaking of dames, it seems to bring gravitas to a space-age flick, you have to hire a Brit. Which is why we find Dame Judi Dench playing Aereon, an ambassador of the "Elemental" race, who's able to transform herself, float in the air and move through objects. It's momentary fun to see her in this trashy flick. And she acquits herself well, but who would doubt she could?
Of course, Dame Judi is a mere plot vassal in the Diesel scheme of things. The muddy, convoluted story revolves around the star's cool-guy poses and one-liners.
"Who do I have to kill to get this payday offa my head?" he retorts at the beginning of the movie. And to continue Riddick's deification, a kid sidles up to him and asks: "Riddick, are you going to stop the new monsters?" ("Shane" this ain't.) Riddick is the chosen one, you see. Even the children look up to him. Those same kids, the moviemakers hope, will also be queuing to rent this movie later.
Will Riddick break out of Crematoria with Kyra? Will he find himself in a bruising mano a mano finale with the Lord Marshal on the Necromonger command ship? Ask yourself: Has anyone ever kept the Vinster down? No scary space creature, no Lord Marshal and certainly no snotty review.
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13, 115 minutes) -- Contains sci-fi violence, noise and some obscenity. Area theaters.