At the end of Pitch Black only three passengers of the spaceship Hunter-Gratzner were still alive. These three, Riddick, Jack, and Imam, took to space, destination unknown. Possibly New Mecca, if their little shuttle could make the trip. At the beginning of Pitch Black’s follow-up film, The Cronicles of Riddick, Riddick is a shaggy haired, scruffy bearded refugee on U.V. 6 chased by a bounty hunter named Tooms, Imam is on a planet called Hellion Prime, and Jack is a captive on the prison world of Crematoria.
Did you wonder how these three survivors split up? Why they were not all living happily together on New Mecca? Nope, those questions never crossed my mind either, but continuing to answer questions fans never asked come DVD bonus features and animated interquel films, such as The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury.
This direct-to-video animated short picks up immediately where Pitch Black left off. We see Riddick’s shuttle had barely left the planet when a mercenary ship arrived and captured the three survivors of the Hunter-Gratzner. But this is no ordinary merc troupe—this cadre is led by Antonia Chillingsworth, a psychopath who equates murder with art. She has traveled the galaxy collecting the most notorious killers and turning them into frozen, living statues in her gallery, cherishing the artistry of homicide.
What are the odds of such a collector randomly stumbling across Riddick, one of the galaxies most infamous killers? Slim. But logic goes out the window early in this action-fest who’s real purpose is not to tell a story but to entice Pitch Black fans with more of Vin Diesel’s monotone lines, and more of Riddick’s talent for killing.
The short was directed by Peter Chung, and without knowing his name I knew his work—the animation style, violence, and sensibility of Dark Fury closely mirrors that of Chung’s best-known creation Aeon Flux. Despite being based on a story by Riddick’s creator David Twohy, the film has Chung’s fingerprint on every frame. As such, your opinion of Chung’s old Liquid Television action heroine will likely influence your viewing experience of this Riddick animated movie.
With Chung’s style-over-substance approach Dark Fury’s 35 minute running time drags despite being almost nonstop action from start to finish. The fights are inventively staged; Riddick’s final showdown with Junner, Chillingsworth’s lover and chief lieutenant, is a highlight. But for me the animated violence fails to adrenalize. Like the merc leader I appreciate Chung’s artistry but feel no passion for it myself.
And if the action doesn’t work there is little else in the movie. The character moments entirely reprise those from Pitch Black—Jack idolizes Riddick; Riddick will risk his life to save Jack and Imam despite seeming to care for nobody but himself. We’ve seen it all before, done better. The film also introduces a new nemesis for Riddick: Tooms. This establishes Tooms as a soldier for Chillingsworth before we see him as a merc in The Chronicles of Riddick film, creating an unnecessary bridge between the two films.
But despite being unnecessary, I enjoyed this short far more than the film that succeeded it. It is stylized and violent with a good hint of dark humor as well. I have long been a fan of Aeon Flux and appreciate Chung’s return to form. It’s something only a fan of Chung or Riddick can appreciate, but as a fan of both I give it a recommend.