The best thing about Pitch Black, and the main reason it was a successful film, was because of the ambiguous character played by Vin Diesel. He was called Riddick, and we were never supposed to know what side he was on. Would he turn on the good characters? Would he lead them to safety? Does he care about anyone but himself? We don’t instantly know the answers to these questions, and the tension that came from not knowing kept us on our toes.
I have to wonder if studio executives noticed anything besides the fact that Pitch Black made money. It wouldn’t seem so, as The Chronicles of Riddick, Pitch Black‘s successor, has very little to do with the little sci-fi/horror flick that came before it. Instead, it took the character of Riddick, turned him into a generic action star, and placed him in a prophecy storyline. There are references to the earlier film and a couple of characters that return, but apart from that, this is mostly a standalone film.
We begin this film a while after Pitch Black concludes. Riddick (Diesel) has been jumping around planets looking for a place to settle down, but he’s being pursued by a mercenary named Toombs (Nick Chinlund). Our opening scene has Riddick killing all of Toombs’ crew before proceeding to steal his airship. He doesn’t kill Toombs, though, because Riddick doesn’t kill unnecessarily. Anymore. He apparently did before the first film began, but he’s walking the straight and narrow now for whatever reason you want to come up with.
He heads to find Imam (Keith David), one of two returning characters not named “Riddick.” The other is Jack (Alexa Davalos takes on the role this time), although she is in prison because she was busy emulating Riddick in between the two films. She went around killing people before getting caught. Anyway, Riddick is mad at Imam because Imam was the only one who knew where Riddick was, and therefore had to have told someone that location. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be mercenaries on his tail.
We learn at this point that there’s a prophecy involving Riddick’s character. Judi Dench shows up and tells us as much. That appears to be the only point to her character, although she appears in a few more scenes throughout the film. She’s a ghost, or something similar at least, although her character is almost completely pointless — and the prophecy business could have been delivered by Imam in his short time on-screen.
From here, we mostly just go from action scene to another action scene. The whole prophecy deal is forgotten about for most of the film. The villain isn’t particularly interesting, nor does Colm Feore play him with enough intensity to be frightening. There’s a subplot involving Karl Urban and Thandie Newton, but it seemed to be there just to extend the running time. I didn’t care about anyone in this film, especially the people Riddick was supposed to defeat. I didn’t necessarily want to see them get killed, but I also didn’t care if they lived.
There’s an entire section of the film that takes place inside a prison. Yes, the same prison that Jack was sent to. She’s now going by the name “Kyra,” although there isn’t any real reason for it. So, for about 30 minutes, we get a prison escape movie. And then we just continue on with random shootouts, fist-fights, chase scenes and pretty much at least one of every action scene that you’ll see in a generic action film.
The main problem that The Chronicles of Riddick has is its tone. The first film in the series was more of a horror film than it was an action one. That’s why Riddick was given eyes that allowed him to see in the dark! He needed them in order to be an asset to the team. This one doesn’t include any sort of horror. His see-in-the-dark eyes come into play only a couple of times, and more just to remind the audience that he has them instead of in a practical way, and the movie doesn’t even try to build tension for the vast majority of its runtime.
Even if his character has undergone a large change, Vin Diesel still does a good job with Riddick. Granted, all he really has to do is grunt and spout cheesy one-liners, but he’s suitable at doing that. This also appeared to be a lot more physically demanding than the previous film, and Diesel also does a good job at the action scenes. I just wished that the character wouldn’t have decided to become a generic action hero. The supporting cast didn’t really bring anything to the picture. Even someone like Judi Dench wasn’t able to improve this film, and that just speaks to how poor it was overall.
The Chronicles of Riddick is a generic action film that bored me. It brought nothing to the genre, shame to Pitch Black, and disappointment to me. It was a film that failed to capture the parts the made its predecessor good, while introducing elements that weighed it down and kept me from enjoying it. The action scenes were standard issue, the characters had no depth, Riddick was your average action hero, and even the one thing that makes him special, his see-in-the-dark eyes, were largely forgotten about. This is a waste of money and a waste of your time.