Pitch Black/The Chronicles of Riddick: Or, the most unsequelish sequel I've ever seen
This review will be a little different than some of my others. I'll be focusing on one particular aspect of this trilogy of movies ("Pitch Black," "The Chronicles of Riddick," and the short animated film "Dark Fury," which takes place between the other two), notably their lack of coherency in style with each other. I will however address more conventional topics for review (characters, plot, etc.), in service to this aim, however. As I will be talking about a movie and its sequel, there will be some spoilers for "Pitch Black," just to warn any spoilerphobic readers.
The three movies are all relatively soft science fiction films revolving around a badass criminal named Richard B. Riddick (played by Vin Diesel). Although "The Chronicles of Riddick" is supposed to be a sequel to "Pitch Black," and in fact two characters from "Pitch Black" show up in the latter movie, it feels like the two films take place in vastly different universes, with "Pitch Black" taking place in a human-centric used future where all of the characters are some shade of moral grey; while "The Chronicles of Riddick" is an epic science fantasy space opera with relatively black and white sides (although it is more grey than your typical space opera, however) and two alien races (three, if the Furyans count). It's rather like as if "Star Wars" were a sequel to "Firefly": it just comes off as strange.
There's even tonal schism within "The Chronicles of Riddick," whenever Riddick has to deal with the slimy bounty hunter Toomes or when he visits the prison planet Crematoria. These scenes fit much more into the world of "Pitch Black," with morally grey heroes, broken-down spaceships, and consequences of actions small and personal, rather than epic and universe-shaking as much of the rest of the film is.
While neither film is bad (although "Pitch Black" seemed a better film to me, with more interesting characters and a more believable story), the fact that the two have been paired together hurts them both. Riddick himself fits in better as the anti-villain/extremely reluctant anti-hero of the small and intense "Pitch Black" than the hero of the epic "Chronicles." Also, the world of New Mecca that the Imam of the first film was traveling to was implied to be a sort of Saudi Arabia on a foreign planet; to see it as a generic cultural mishmash in the second is somewhat disappointing. That one may have had to do with the fact that the first film was made before 9/11 and the second was made after. The tonal schism hurts "Dark Fury" even more so, as it is trapped between the two tonally, having Riddick, Jack, and the Imam immediately after their escape from the world of Hades being picked up by a mercenary captain with a ridiculously large and elaborate ship full of paralyzed criminals posed as "art." It feels uncomfortably mishmashed, and it's not helped that it tries to explain things that don't really need to be explained from "Chronicles" (such as why Riddick was on the planet UV 6 at the beginning of the film and why Toombs hates Riddick so much).
All in all, these films are solid enough on their own, but together they don't really fit. Supposedly there's a third movie that may or may not happen; if it does, we'll have to see how it deals with the tonal issues
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