The Good: Decent story, Adequate character development
The Bad: Short, Repetitive feel to story
The Basics: A good, dark animated work, The Chronicles Of Riddick: Dark Fury tells the basic story of the time between the two movies with varying degrees of sensibility and satisfaction.
In recent science fiction, there have arguably been few franchises that have suffered more because of shortsighted market analysts than The Chronicles Of Riddick. Having just rewatched Pitch Black (reviewed here!) and as I prepare to rewatch The Chronicles Of Riddick, it occurs to me that had either film done better at the box office, the long-planned sequels would probably have been released by now. In between the two films came an animated short, Dark Fury to bridge the gap.
Rather troublingly, Dark Fury does little else, but bridge the two movies. While it does have entertainment value, it is hard to want to shell out for the thirty-five minute DVD which does little more than answer one of the basic questions of the franchise. The animated work is appropriately dark, so it is intended for the adult audience of Pitch Black and The Chronicles Of Riddick. Unfortunately, for those who have not seen Pitch Black, there is absolutely no credible way to discuss Dark Fury without revealing some of how that movie ends. That's the spoiler alert!
Riddick, Imam and Jack are in their little ship heading for civilization when they are awoken by the presence of another ship. That ship is a giant mercenary vessel and Riddick quickly represents the potential that getting rescued represents. Unfortunately for him, the computer systems positively identify him and his attempt to pass himself off as another member of the crew from his former ship fails. After a brief fight with security forces from the mercenary ship, Riddick is given an audience with the noblewoman aboard, while Imam and Jack are detained.
The captain of the ship is a woman, arguably a psychopath, who is fascinated with serial killers. She has a collection of them frozen in her gallery and she has the desire to have Riddick join her collection. But first, she wants to watch him kill, which she delights in. When Riddick refuses, she throws Imam and Jack in with two giant, squidlike aliens which will kill them if Riddick does not kill the creatures first!
Dark Fury might tell an interesting story which fleshes out the "Riddick" universe, but it falls sadly flat when it comes to making a whole lot of sense. The short film makes a point of introducing Tooms - who is seen hunting Riddick at the outset of The Chronicles Of Riddick - and that is a nice tie-in. But beyond that, Dark Fury makes little sense. The reason for the nonsensical quality is the woman who is interested in collecting Riddick. Her stated desire is to watch the act of killing. However, in the first conflict with her crew, Riddick manages to take out some members of her crew.
But then, she pits Riddick against the giant aliens. The aliens are essentially violent creatures with no apparent intelligence, so Riddick attempting to fight them is basically the same instinct and execution as a farmer executing cattle. Perhaps the analogy works better with a cowboy putting down a bull with mad cow disease, but the basic concept holds: if the woman truly wanted to see that type of violent activity, she could watch the nature channel.
The voice acting in Dark Fury is good, undoubtedly because the producers managed to get Vin Diesel (Riddick), Keith David (Imam) and others from the two movies to participate. The animation style is a style very familiar to those who watch anime. This is not trying to be an animated work that fools the viewer into thinking they are watching a live-action production. Instead, this is an animated work and the production looks good within the context that the physics are not quite those of reality.
Even so, the animators do a decent job of creating characters like the aliens Riddick must fight that would have been cost-prohibitive for a film to make. And the shootout in the landing bay is appropriately spectacular in its execution. The blood from that scene would have made a live-action version of it PG-13 and the animators clearly delighted in having Riddick play in zero gravity.
On DVD, Dark Fury has featurettes on how the animated work bridges the two movies and another on the animation style. The interviews clearly illustrate how Vin Diesel is invested in the project and that is refreshing. There is a commentary track as well, though that repeats a lot of information from the featurettes.
Ultimately, Dark Fury is a short, animated film that is supposed to bridge the two existing Chronicles Of Riddick movies and it does that. It does it well-enough, but it is not, objectively, spectacular in any way.
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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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