With the imminent release of Riddick on Blu-ray (2014-1-14), I think it is time for me to revisit the whole series.
Pitch Black: Slam City is a short flash video that shows what toke place before the first movie in the Riddick Series. I don’t think it’s terribly important, but we get to see (instead of just being told) how Riddick got his night-vision eyes. It can still be watched on YouTube.
Pitch Black (2000) is the movie that started it all. As a prisoner Riddick got the chance to escape when the ship that transported him crashed on a planet. Soon enough we learn that the true villain is the monsters on this planet. It certainly is quite decent for a low budget sci-fi monster movie. It also gives us a rather unusual antihero as a protagonist, unlike similar types of movies. The story and the characters make it very different from the alien monster classics like Alien (1979) or Aliens (1986), or all the other alien ripoffs. Although it seems inevitable that characters tend to do really stupid things in monster movies, I think there is only one or two occurrence(s) in this movie that is very unreasonable.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004) is a short direct-to-DVD animated video that shows what happens right after Pitch Black (2000). Riddick and the survivors got captured by a merc ship. Of course he needs to deal with new monsters, and escape again. Its animated nature gives it an advantage in portraying very different alien monsters that would be too costly to make as life action. As an action-packed half-hour feature, it is thoroughly entertaining enough. Although it was meant to bridge the first and the second movie, I found that this bridging is not needed to begin with. In fact the explanation given here for the Toombs character, who tries to catch Riddick in the second movie, is not entirely coherent with the explanation given in the movie itself.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) is the big-budget life action sequel to the 2000 original. When I first watched it 9 years ago, I felt it was pretty underwhelming. Watching the Director’s Cut again, I can now see that it is not as bad as I originally thought. It tried to be a big-budget action movie with a large universe spanning multiple planets, multiple species, many characters, a religion and mythology. If we compare this movie to Star Wars (1977), this movie is actually far more ambitious, but this is exactly why it fails. Star Wars is the perfect example of having sci-fi fantasy religion done right. The sci-fi fantasy religion in this movie, however, goes wrong and sounds ridiculous. The action sequences are more than acceptable but not good enough to cover the flaws in the story.
Although the second movie is flawed, it sets up enough interesting elements that can be further explored. Unfortunately, with its failure, the filmmakers abandoned everything that was set up, and goes back to copy its own first movie. The third Riddick movie (2013), again has Riddick stranded on an unknown planet, facing unknown monsters and needing to work with people who tried to kill him in order to survive. In the climax, again Riddick has to go to some place to get some components for the space ship when there are monsters everywhere. Although this movie is competent, it lacks the originality from the first two movies.