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Review: 'Riddick' big, boomy, bad

Just another summer movie with explosions and cliches

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

Thandie Newton and Vin Diesel in "The Chronicles of Riddick."
Thandie Newton
Vin Diesel
Judi Dench

(CNN) -- OK, it's summer. Befitting the blockbuster season, Hollywood has already destroyed most of the world in "The Day After Tomorrow." What could be next?

How about destroying a whole bunch of worlds?

That's what you get with "The Chronicles of Riddick."

In 2000, a still-unknown Vin Diesel made a big splash in a low-budget sci-fi flick called "Pitch Black." Written and directed by David Twohy, the movie made a lot of money, so of course they had to make a sequel.

This time, the toy box is much bigger, and Twohy pulls out all the bells and whistles that money can buy.

Once again, Riddick (Diesel) is a rebel without a cause, reluctantly dragged into a conflict he wants nothing to do with -- though instead of just a few monsters on one planet, he's facing a huge army trying to conquer a whole bunch of planets and wipe out mankind. But all you really have to know is that there is a group of very bad, bad guys -- dressed to kill in form-fitting leather and metal -- who are after the good guy.

And, of course, the good guy is the only person who can save the universe.

Good talent with nothing to do

What is unusual for a summer action flick is the talent that Diesel and Twohy were able to attract to this dubious project. Academy Award winner Judi Dench lends her formidable presence to the project as Aereon, a mysterious ambassador who changes shape at will and serves as a narrator for the film. Renowned Canadian stage actor Colm Feore ("Chicago," "The Sum of All Fears") plays the main villain, Lord Marshall, leader of the evil Necromongers, and gives the role plenty of flair, if not substance.

And Thandie Newton ("Beloved," "The Truth About Charlie") plays Vaako, the ambitious wife of one of Lord Marshall's commanders. She basically serves as a lovely coat hanger, modeling a series of slinky, futuristic gowns while displaying tons of attitude.

Judi Dench plays a mysterious ambassador in "The Chronicles of Riddick."

Unfortunately, none of these actors are able to lend any kind of real weight or legitimacy to this special effects extravaganza.

Okay, so the story is lame and the dialogue is trite. But that's not the point. This is a wannabe summer blockbuster, so all that really matters is one question -- how does it look?

It looks great. Obviously, millions of dollars were poured into the amazing sets and costumes.

Big cheese

German-born production designer Holger Gross ("Stargate," "Broken Arrow") has given the sets a decidedly Teutonic look, especially the Necromongers' home planet.

And the sets are huge. According to production notes, they took up a grand total of 310,000 square feet, and "Riddick" set the record for the most lumber -- 1.5 million board feet -- ever used in Vancouver for a film. However, that's probably the only record this flick will ever hold.

Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick ("Face/Off," "The Haunting") also pulled out all the stops, dressing 300 extras and coming up with some remarkable designs for the Necromongers' uniforms (not to mention the aforementioned sexy dresses for Newton).

Reportedly, Diesel's needs were much more modest: 60 black T-shirts and 50 pairs of black pants.

Overall, "The Chronicles Of Riddick" is what it is -- a big, cheesy sci-fi flick tailor-made for a young male audience looking for things that go boom. It's big, loud and meaningless.

"The Chronicles of Riddick" opens nationwide on Friday, June 11, and is rated PG-13.

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