I love Pitch Black. It’s an almost perfect B movie to me, all horror and snark and very little fat left on the bone.
After the bloat of Chronicles of Riddick, I was hoping the third movie would be a return to form, stripping away the mythology of the sequel to reveal the basics that made the original great.
Instead, Riddick is just another male power fantasy, embracing every cliche possible, from “one man against the wilderness” to “masculine man of manliness converts lesbian to heterosexuality.”
What a mess.
But it’s not hopeless. There’s a good movie buried in there. We get flashes of it in the dialog given to the grunt mercs, which is cynical and darkly funny. We see more of it in the early scenes of Riddick hunting the mercs down, a horror film where Riddick is the monster.
It’s this film we need to strengthen.
We start by dropping the entire first third of the movie. I don’t care how Riddick ended up marooned on the world. The fact that he is marooned is what’s important, and that it happened after the events of Chronicles of Riddick. But I can learn he’s marooned there from the mercs' dialog when they talk about someone setting off the emergency beacon, and I can deduce this is happening after Chronicles when I see Riddick wearing his Necromonger armor.
Instead of starting with backstory, the movie should open with the mercs landing. By starting there, all the mystery they encounter gives the movie tension. We know (or think we know) Riddick’s going to show up at some point, but we don’t know where or when or how. And when we find out he called the mercs there, and we read his note, we wonder when the bodies will start to fall.
The entire first half of the movie should be given over to this Alien-like horror sequence, with the mercs pitted against Riddick, the monster in the night.
Given more room to breathe, this part can tell us all we need to know about Riddick’s time on the planet. We can see him use his dog to trick the mercs. We can watch him use the water monsters' poison to kill one or two of the others (and let him explain in an off-hand remark that he’s immune to their venom). By using the planet as part of his arsenal, we’ll get the sense that Riddick’s been there a while, that he knows his way around, and that the mercs face an uphill battle.
For the final half, we can introduce the rain storm. This twist forces Riddick to reach out to the (reduced to maybe one or two remaining) mercs for a truce, and now we get the scenes of a captured Riddick escaping and the tension of the mistrust between the two groups.
Finally, Dahl’s character should have a consistent sexuality. Either she should be – and remain – a lesbian, and the sexual talk between her and Riddick rewritten into a form of oddly respectful banter, or her line to Santana should be changed to “I don’t f— little boys,” and it made clear that she’s attracted to men that could their own against her in a fight (maybe by hitting on Diaz). Either way, their lines to each other need to be rewritten to show some chemistry – either friendly or otherwise – between the two.