Universal // 2004 // 34 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 1st, 2004
An animated Vin Diesel?! Oh, that kind of animated.
Writer/director David Twohy has pieced together a new space mythology, spring-boarding from his cool little 2000 creature feature Pitch Black and opening up wide with the current Chronicles of Riddick. Twohy and Diesel are obviously engaged in the character of Richard Riddick, the nefarious felon and intergalactic bad-ass, and, in an effort to further streamline their developing saga, offer this direct-to-DVD animated adventure.
The events told in this 34 minute chunk of anime immediately follow the nastiness that transpired on the Pitch Black planet. As Riddick (Vin Diesel), Jack the smarmy-boy-cum-smarmy-girl, and Imam the ass-kicking holy man (Keith David, They Live) glide through space in their escape boat, they're suddenly intercepted by a mysterious mercenary ship.
Hauled into the ship's bay, the trio takes cover and follows Riddick's only direction: "Hold your breath."
Within the bowels of the merc vessel we meet Junner, a chic-looking commander of the mercs, serving an unknown leader. He orders his squads to capture Riddick and company, but to his surprise, what emerges from the ship is a mountain of some kind of restraint goo that acts as a futuristic airbag.
One by one the thugs are sliced and diced, as Riddick goes to work Jaws-style from within the blob. All good things, sadly, must come to an end, and Riddick is eventually captured after relieving a dozen or so opponents of their meager lives.
Following some macho discourse with Junner, Riddick and his crew are taken to meet Chillingworth, the enigmatic big-shot. Turns out she's a legendary bounty hunter, boasting a collection of the universe's all-time greatest killers, cryogenically frozen. In addition, she keeps a small army of mercenaries and slaves to be activated whenever she sees fit. Included in this motley collection is Toombs (Nick Chinlund, Con Air) who pops up in Chronicles.
Now Chillingworth wants to add Riddick to her zoo. Privy to the interstellar gossip of Riddick's prowess as a murderer, she's determined to make him one of the feature exhibits.
To test his fortitude, she pitches him in an arena to defend the lives of Jack and Imam from a couple of wacky space monsters that disintegrate their victims with what appears to be neon strands of space-snot.
Does Riddick escape? Do the space creatures get killed? And what of Junner and Chillingworth? Is it possible that they meet grim fates? Wouldn't you like to know.
I love Pitch Black. I sort of, kind of, like Chronicles of Riddick. I hear the XBOX game, Escape from Buther Bay rules and I anticipate playing it. So I suppose it would be fair to qualify myself as a low-impact fan of Diesel and Twohy's Riddick universe.
I say I'm a low-impact fan because of the following logic: Pitch Black exceeded my expectations and The Chronicles of Riddick fell short of my expectations.
Dark Fury is a worthwhile installment to the mythos. It's hard-hitting, gory, edgy, adult-oriented, and, for the most part, really well done. Some of the imagery is truly noteworthy and the voice-work is good. The fact they tagged the real actors to supply the voices really should get kudos; Dark Fury is not a cheap knock-off the franchise, but a legitimate piece of the puzzle.
What distracted me, however, was the quality of the animation. While all the designs are top-notch, and I'm a fan of the animator (Peter Chung, responsible for Aeon Flux, the hyper-cool cartoon featured on MTV's old Liquid Television), the actual movement on screen was jarringly herky-jerky. Maybe I'm an anime ignoramus, but I've seen my share of animation, and Dark Fury's was not nearly as smooth as I would have liked it to be, and it's unfortunate.
Unfortunate because of all the cool crap that happened -- eye-wounds, Riddick's smart-ass comments, point-blank shotgun blasts -- the one thing I now associate with the production was the jerkiness of the animation.
Maybe it's not that big a deal to anyone else, but for this release I expected more.
The extras, on the other hand, delivered above and beyond. The disc comes with two featurettes dedicated to furthering the story of the Riddick universe, featuring interviews with Diesel and Twohy. Again, it's admirable how much joy the two find in creating this world, though I'm relatively lukewarm toward it. We also get an interesting featurette looking at the animation, and sporting an interview with director Peter Chung.
The most unique bonus feature is a storyboard rendering of the entire feature! All 34 minutes are shown in this format, and while it proved to be interesting for a few minutes -- mainly because of its novelty -- it soon became tiresome. Why watch the "almost-finished" version instead of the "finished" one?
The widescreen format is welcome and does the visuals justice. Though most of the movie is dark, the brighter, action-oriented scenes really shine well with the transfer. The stereo mix is a disappointment, especially as a 5.1 mix could have really added to the events.
Riddick is getting lots of attention these days, and his creators are covering all the genre bases to tell his story. Is it worth telling? Debatable, but Dark Fury does it with style. Sort of...
Tough call. If the accused weren't hampered by its animated demerits, we'd dismiss the charge. So, ten days community service shoveling behind the horses at the Fourth of July parade and then you're free to go!
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 34 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Featurette: Bridging the Gap
* Interview with Peter Chung
* "Into the Light" interviews with David Twohy and Vin Diesel
* Animatic to animation