You see, I’m just not sure where this series goes wrong. This was the last gasp, Vin Diesel put up his own money and secured financing for this film because he believed in the character. I think he was right about that as well, he sees what I see in it, but perhaps fails to understand what’s required to make it work.
Approach. Perhaps it’s greatest problem is that it’s to back to basics. In a lot of ways I feel like I seen this story before and it borrows far too heavily from Pitch Black. We start off with Riddick stranded on a alien planet with absolutely gorgeous alien life forms. It’s one of the things that has always impressed me about this series and this entry in particular, just how well thought-out the creatures are. When I was a teenager I really was into Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials. Wayne Barlowe had an excellent grasp on anatomy and really thought out his creature designs. I get that same kind of vibe from this film.
As Riddick struggles to survive, he finds a way station and sends out an announcement that he’s at this location knowing rightly, that it will be picked up by bounty hunters. The bounty hunters arrive and the fun begins.
At this point it takes on most of the elements from Pitch Black but is missing a couple of key things here. Riddick is still very much the main character though we switch our focus in great part to the bounty hunters. This is a good thing, because we need other characters that we can relate to and root for here. What’s really missing however, is the heart. there’s something about the kid in Pitch Black that really a sense of peril and of warmth and humanity to the film and it’s been missing ever since. It’s still missing here. Vin Diesel is attempting to create a sort of carbon copy of pitch black but misses the mark by neglecting to infuse the soul of the film with heart. I like creepy monsters and I’m very happy that the violence and gore has been ratcheted up here (We finally have our R rating!). It’s just not enough, you need something new. You need a better story.
I’d like to see more in this universe I’d like to see more of these characters but with the failure to really zone in on a formula, I fear this franchise is dead for good.
That doesn’t mean I’m finished though. More next time.
Remember what I said about weird tonal shifts and the dramatic difference in style that we get from Chronicles of Riddick? Well that’s here in force. Dark Fury is an anime version of Riddick presumably taking place immediately after Pitch Black on their way to New Mecca.
It’s so clean! Anime tends to have that kind of a very slick and polished look but that’s totally out of place within Riddicks dirty, rusty universe. Even Riddick himself seems to slick – all the character that we get in Vin Diesel’s dirty face is missing.
We get some really good imagery here, giant ships, elegantly hand-painted along with dynamic and interesting-looking mercs. Riddick’s ship – the escape capsule last scene in Pitch Black is picked up by a bunch of mercenaries trying to capitalize on the bounty on his head. Hijinks ensue. We’ve got monster fighting again, but the monsters are… weird. Tentacles and glowing bodies, very much anime creatures. They lack the sophisticated attention to biology that the films show, but nevertheless it shows some thought going in here. There’s an attempt to keep some of those themes throughout these movies.
In the end it feels more like a random anime and it does a Riddick entry. That’s the problem with not having a series Bible… anything goes. The technique of anime sidequel works very well with the Matrix films, they already had heavy Japanese influence to them, and translating that kung fu action style into anime was simply a next logical step. Not so much here. Still, at least the animation is of a reasonable quality – that wasn’t the case with the Hellboy animated episodes. It’s a curiosity that would have been better suited as an extra on a DVD rather than a standalone entity in its own right. Unless you’re a completist, it’s not really worth owning.
Time to move on to the third film.
Did they actually intended for this series to be a franchise? Seriously, because this film makes me kind of think that wasn’t the plan. One of the biggest problems with Chronicles of Riddick is that it’s such a drastic departure from Pitch Black. Pitch black is a very small story. The premise is there the danger is all around, but the only people that are going to die are the ones who were shipwrecked. With Chronicles of Riddick the stakes are up to planet destroying, universe killing levels. The necromongers, our villains for this story, are a universal threat. Also, we’re rooting for the bad guy from the last movie.
Already I’m seeing some problems in the formula.
The formula is a big part of the problem here as well, because there isn’t one. Let me rephrase that, if there is a formula… we’ve gone off book and are trying to find a new one. Pitch Black work because it was a smaller story. A narrower focus and a genuinely good idea. This reads more of a by-the-numbers studio film trying to recapture the magic of the previous movie and the result is just a mess.
It’s a shame too because the film is lush. I mean it is beautiful, gaudy, the design is brilliant! I love the Necromonger masks with multiple faces and their shoulder pads with the ornate portraits. The ships are awe inspiring as they land on the worlds they are going to destroy (unless Riddick stops them). And yet the entire film feels vapid – like we’ve put the least possible amount of effort into telling a good story. You see, that’s what Pitch Black really was, just a good story. It’s really why I come back to this question of whether or not they intended to turn this into a franchise because that’s exactly what Chronicles is… and attempt to launch a franchise. They even went as far as to release the animated feature Dark Fury… Sort of a guaranteed trilogy, just in case things fell through.
Things fell through.
I want to like this, it’s just too long and too much of a slog to get through on a regular basis… There’s no rewatchability here, whereas I can view Pitch Black endlessly.
That should have been the end of things, but Vin Diesel had other plans and fought tirelessly to keep this series alive. More on that next later.