The Chronicles of Riddick
Bigger isn't always better, but for anyone who enjoyed Pitch Black, a nominal sequel like The Chronicles of Riddick should prove adequately entertaining. Writer-director David Twohy returns with expansive sets, detailed costumes, an army of CGI effects artists, and the star he helped launch--Vin Diesel--bearing his franchise burden quite nicely as he reprises his title role. The Furian renegade Riddick has another bounty on his head, but when he escapes from his mercenary captors, he's plunged into an epic-scale war waged by the Necromongers. A fascist master race led by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), they're determined to conquer all enemies in their quest for the Underverse, the appeal of which is largely unexplained (since Twohy is presumably reserving details for subsequent "chronicles"). With tissue-thin plotting, scant character development, and skimpy roles that waste the talents of Thandie Newton (as a Necromonger conspirator) and Judi Dench (as a wispy "Elemental" priestess), Twohy's back in the B-movie territory he started in (with The Arrival), brought to vivid life on a vast digital landscape with the conceptual allure of a lavish graphic novel. But does Riddick have leadership skills on his resum?To get an answer to that question, sci-fi fans will welcome another sequel. --Jeff Shannon
Owing a major debt to Alien and its cinematic spawn, Pitch Black is a guilty pleasure that surpasses expectations. As he did with The Arrival, director David Twohy revitalizes a derivative story, allowing you to forgive its flaws and submit to its visceral thrills. Under casual scrutiny, the plot's logic crumbles like a stale cookie, but it's definitely fun while it lasts. A spaceship crashes on a desert planet scorched under three suns. The mostly doomed survivors include a resourceful captain (Radha Mitchell), a drug-addled cop (Cole Hauser), and a deadly prisoner (Vin Diesel) who quickly escapes. These clashing personalities discover that the planet is plunging into the darkness of an extended eclipse, and it's populated by hordes of ravenous, razor-fanged beasties that only come out at night. The body count rises, and Pitch Black settles into familiar sci-fi territory.
What sets the movie apart is Twohy's developing visual style, suggesting that this veteran of B-movie schlock may advance to the big leagues. Like the makers of The Blair Witch Project, Twohy understands the frightening power of suggestion; his hungry monsters are better heard than seen (although once seen, they're chillingly effective), and Pitch Black gets full value from moments of genuine panic. Best of all, Twohy's got a well-matched cast, with Mitchell (so memorable with Ally Sheedy in High Art) and Diesel (Pvt. Caparzo from Saving Private Ryan) being the standouts. The latter makes the most of his muscle-man role, and his character's development is one more reason this movie works better than it should. --Jeff Shannon
In The Chronicles of Riddick, the sequel to cult sci-fi hit Pitch Black sees Vin Diesel enthusiastically returning to his role as Richard B. Riddick. Director-writer David Twohy is on board again, building on themes established in the first movie, and expanding his vision with some incredible special effects work. Twohy opens the movie with Riddick on the run from a group of bounty hunters. He escapes them with ease, then seeks information from an old friend named Inam (Keith David). Inam informs Riddick that he has been singled out by an Air Elemental, Aereon (Judi Dench), as the one man who can stop the evil Necromongers from taking over the Universe. Suddenly, the Necromongers arrive on the planet, causing mayhem and destruction. They capture Riddick. He soon escapes, only to fall into the hands of the bounty hunters he so deftly eluded at the start of the movie. They take Riddick to a rogue prison planet where he is met by scorching heat, an underground penitentiary, and his female companion from Pitch Black, Jack (who is now called Kyra, and played by a different actress, Alexa Davalos). They plan their escape from the planet, and vow to bring down the Necromongers. Things don't go according to plan however, leading to a suspense-filled climax to the film, and an eyebrow-raising ending that suggests Twohy may have plans for further installments in the story. In Pitch Black a spacecraft carrying an assortment of passengers including Riddick (Vin Diesel), a dangerous, shackled murderer between prisons, is forced to make a crash landing on a barren, triple-sunned planet after the craft suffers severe damage during a meteor shower. The ship is ripped into pieces, killing several crew members and leaving meek officer Fry (Radha Mitchell) in charge of the survivors. After two unfortunate deaths, the survivors discover that the only visible life form on the planet is a species of light-fearing, carnivorous, occasionally cannibalistic aliens dwelling in caverns beneath the desert surface. Using a model of the planet and its suns in an abandoned research station, Fry deduces that she and her fellow travellers have unfortunately descended on the planet on the day of its first total eclipse in 22 years, giving them mere hours before they are bathed in total darkness. Only then is it safe for the hungry subterranean creatures to emerge, seeking to feed on the remaining survivors. However, the dangerous Riddick, through black market injections received in lock-up, is able to see in darkness- causing the surviving crew members to reluctantly remain dependent on the potentially harmful criminal. As the survivors are killed one by one by the hungry creatures, they realize that Riddick may be their only hope.