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Pitch Black/The Chronicles of Riddick: Or, the most unsequelish sequel I've ever seen

Updated on April 10, 2011

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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    • stvrich profile image

      StvRich 3 years ago from East Rockaway - Long Island - Planet: Earth ~

      They do actually "fit". The entire series is thought out in far more detail than I care to admit, or bother with. Writing an article myself on it. And I couldn't actually disagree more. The 2nd movie "Chronicles" is so entirely a super-sequel, that, in my opinion, it is made too too grand and too "large-for-life" and simply cannot be topped as a story, let alone a movie in a series of movies... where do you "GO" from fighting for ALL humanity? ..... and, if you think of the universe as purely "black or white"... all the other flavors, ... other than those 2 flavors, will indeed be a form of "grey". We call this, the variety of Life. ...just sayin'. I do like your article as a contrast to my own. I don't particularly care to work so "hard", at something like a movie, but I must pay respects to all the people who actually approach "Riddick" like a religion, beginning with David Towhy. I just like to watch a good / fun movie like Riddick. And they're probably all going to be "predictable" from now on. But, remains to be seen.

    • profile image

      nobody 4 years ago

      where was the footage for the U.V.6 Scenes filmed? what real life location were those scenes based on?

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 6 years ago from Canada

      I don't see it as that much of a clash. In PITCH BLACK you have one single shipful of characters, far from their home base and from civilization, trying to survive. It's a monster-movie. Not much can be revealed about that civilization (would you think Americans were very smart if the only specimens you met were the crew and passengers of the S.S. Minnow from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND?) But THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK did delve into galactic civilizations and shifted across a nice number of setting changes. The only thing I don't like about the movie is that Riddick inadvertently won in a big way at the end of CHRONICLES. Where can you go from there? What sequel can possibly come out of that?