Although you'd never guess it from the titles, the movies Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick are related. They were both written and directed by David Twohy, and star Vin Diesel. Pitch Black came out in 2000, a time when not too many people knew who Diesel was. Now, everyone knows.
Pitch Black introduced the character of Richard B. Riddick (Diesel), a dangerous murderer who, while being transported between prisons, is forced to help his captors after a crash landing on a barren, triple-sunned planet. The horror happened when those suns went down, and the animal-eyed Riddick had to fight demonic night creatures in the pitch blackness. Less horror and more sci-fi action-adventure epic, The Chronicles of Riddick, picks up about five years after Pitch Black left off.
Riddick has spent the last half-decade on the move living here and there among the forgotten worlds on the outskirts of the galaxy, dodging mercenaries hell-bent on catching him and collecting the price on his head. When we catch up with him, the ripped and cut fugitive has landed on the planet Helion, home to a multicultural society that has been invaded by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore, channeling Count Dooku), a tyrant who targets humans for subjugation with his army of warriors known as Necromongers. The Necromongers provide most of the horror elements here, with their thirst for blood and their love of death. There are a few other "scary" characters, including an ill-tempered armored creature that looks like a cross between a panther, a pit bull, and the guts of an Apple Mac.
Exiled to a subterranean, labyrinthine prison where the extremes of temperature range from icy nights to lava days, our steely-eyed hero meets up with the feisty, blade-wielding Kyra (Alexa Davalos, channeling Ripley), a girl much changed from when he knew her as the child "Jack" in Pitch Black. Riddick, after spilling much blood (and even killing one poor sap with a teacup!) winds up on the Necromonger Command Ship, where he is pitted against the Lord Marshal in a battle to the death.
This is all pretty standard high-concept, dark and stark sci-fi fare, but if you like those sorts of movies (Dune, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the Mordor scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, et al) then you should not be disappointed by The Chronicles of Riddick. It took awhile for Pitch Black to grow on me, but I liked Riddick right from the start. It's definitely more accessible and carefree in its approach.
Don't get me wrong; there are a few problems with The Chronicles of Riddick. It takes itself a bit too seriously, and some of the arch dialogue will undoubtedly provoke a few giggles from the audience in what are supposed to be serious moments. Secondly, there are way, way too many fight scenes. So many, and so claustrophobic, that they sort of blend in with each other and after awhile you're bleary-eyed, wondering which pack of bad guys Riddick is dispatching now. When the big showdown comes at the end, you're already so desensitized that it's sort of a letdown.
The Chronicles of Riddick does deliver what the hype promises: Vin Diesel looking every inch the star, delivering the best lines, and kicking major ass all the way through a sci-fi action extravaganza epic. The supporting actors are all very well cast: Thandie Newton looks like an evil queen and plays it to the Lady Macbeth hilt. Karl Urban is believable as her malleable lapdog, with his beady eyes firmly on the prize. Dame Judi Dench is ethereal and likable as an "Elemental" creature, and one of Riddick's few allies.
As long as you know going in that you're going to see more action than horror/sci-fi, and that you're going to get more than an eyeful of Vin Diesel's guns, then you won't be disappointed. The Chronicles of Riddick is best seen on the big screen, in all its extraterrestrial two-fisted glory.
Review by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com