After hiding for five years after the events of Pitch Black, mercenaries chase Riddick to Helion Prime. There, he reunites with Imam (Keith David) who tells Riddick about the invading Necromongers. He agrees to help fend off the invaders after the leader of the “elementals” of Helion, Aereon (Judi Dench), pleas for help.
I didn’t really care for Pitch Black, but I did like the character of Riddick, so I was excited to see if his follow up film engaged me better than his debut. Much to my satisfaction, The Chronicles of Riddick is an improvement from its predecessor, and is much closer to my science fiction tastes.
One major distinction between the first two Riddick movies is the type of sci-fi film they are. Pitch Black is a B-level horror-survival film that has a cult following, but never really clicked for me, whereas Chronicles moves more towards the fantastical elements of sci-fi, more towards my inclination. The fantasy element is pretty prevalent throughout the film. Aereon is a wind elemental, so she can float around like a wisp. Then the leader of the Necromongers, the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore), can grab peoples souls. It’s and interesting blend of the sci-fi and fantasy genres.
The other main difference between Chronicles and Pitch Black is Chronicles actually has somewhat of a storyline. This film has Riddick working towards something tangible, rather than just surviving like in the first movie. In Chronicles, Riddick has two enemies to face: Toombs (Nick Chinlund), a mercenary also seen in the short Dark Fury, and the Necromongers, a warrior race determined to wipe out humanity. Normally, I would complain about no central villain, therefore losing focus on both parties, but the Director’s Cut’s 135 minute run time gives both villains enough screen time and doesn’t feel rushed or clustered.
Also, there is an added sub-plot about Riddick’s past and the fate of his home planet of Furya. It doesn’t really add much to the film itself, but I enjoyed these little tid-bits because it fleshed out his character more.
There is a diverse range of locations throughout the course of the movie, and the sets all look amazing. There are several starship interiors, the surface of a sun-scorched planet, cities, and Necromonger rooms, but my favorite was the prison Riddick was sent to after being captured. It was very reminiscent of the Alien films. Very well done.
As cool as the fantasy elements were, I think they also hurt the film the most. Pitch Black established the Riddick universe as a more grounded sci-fi, and although I applaud them for trying something different in Chronicles, it contradicts the tone established in the first movie. It also made for some weird plot devices (Surrounded by enemies? All of a sudden Riddick can shoot energy waves from his body. Sure, why not?). They could have still done something different, yet maintain the mood of the Pitch Black.
Riddick is as bad-ass as ever, and Chronicles explores the character’s past, further fleshing him out. With alluring set design, energetic fight scenes, and a blending of science-fiction and fantasy, Chronicles of Riddick may not be the perfect sci-fi movie, but it’s a fun experience nonetheless.