A damaged interplanetary ship crash-lands on a desert planet with three suns. Among the survivors is a violent prisoner, Riddick, on his way to another space prison. Add an odd assortment of other survivors, including the ship’s navigator, Fry, and Riddick’s captor, the bounty hunter Johns, and you have the makings of a creepy and well-told fable that has much to say about the human condition.
The washed-out cinematography makes you feel like you’re on the triple sun-blasted planet, and you get thirsty just watching the movie. The rag-tag band soon discovers an abandoned mining colony. It’s workers apparently left in a hurry—except their escape craft is still there, primed to fly but short a few power cells. Mystery and intrigue lurk, as do nasty, bat-like creatures living in the dark caverns nearby.
Three suns means no night. No night means no monsters. No monsters mean safety for all. Right? Wrong. Fry puts two and two together to figure out that they are only hours away from a total solar eclipse, which will plunge the entire planet into darkness. And because all the equipment at the mining colony is solar-powered, they will not have enough light to fend off the beasts of the dark. Throw in the uncertainty of how the condemned prisoner will behave and some really scary chase scenes and you have the makings of a grand sci-fi thriller.
Fry, the navigator, has the option on several occasions to abandon her fellow survivors to save her own life, but each time she chooses to put herself in danger to rescue others. The survivors, with one exception, band together in the face of adversity.
A key, sympathetically portrayed character is Imam, a Muslim cleric who, with several acolytes, is on the way to a planet called New Mecca when the ship crashes. There are many scenes of Imam praying to Allah and assuring fellow survivors that Allah is still looking out for their welfare. When things look bleakest Imam and Riddick engage in a conversation about how a merciful deity could allow his followers to be put in such a predicament. “Where is your god?” Riddick ridicules. "Why do you pray? It’s pointless." Imam asks Riddick why he does not believe. Riddick replies, "Oh, I do believe in God, and I absolutely hate him."
Taken out of its Islamic context, a positive lesson can be extracted when Riddick’s contempt for and mockery of God are rebuked; when all seems lost, a providential “accident” provides the final means of escape. Imam turns to Riddick and says, “There, Mr. Riddick, is my god.” (An interesting statement considering that Islamic followers do not generally believe in a providential god who intervenes in human affairs.)
A female character shows a lot of cleavage as she crawls through a cave opening. A young woman’s menstruating becomes a plot point.
There is some gore as one victim after another is nabbed by the night creatures, but it’s not excessive. Riddick engages in several violent fights with Johns, the bounty hunter who is bringing him in, and in one a man is badly slashed with a knife. Also, a man is shot from behind; his blood splatters across a woman’s face.
Crude or Profane Language
Over 30 f-words, at least once in a sexual context. A handful of s-words and a few milder profanities. God’s name is taken in vain a few times as well.
Drug and Alcohol Content
One of the survivors is an antiquities dealer who is more interested in his collection of fine wines than in helping his fellow survivors. There are several scenes of people drinking the wine, but mostly in the context of not being able to find any water on the desert planet. Paris smokes a cigar. Johns is a junkie who injects morphine into his eye socket.
Other Negative Elements
Most of the film encourages moviegoers to root for the antihero.
Unnecessary foul language, violence and nods to Islam taint what could have been a great movie with a truly moral message of self-sacrifice and courage. The need to work together despite huge differences among people is driven home time and again.
Also shown is a form of redemption. [Spoiler Warning] Riddick appears to go through a genuine conversion after being influenced by Fry’s example of sacrificing her life so the others can escape. The diminutive and uncertain Fry, the polar opposite of the muscular and supremely self-confident Riddick, could provide a good talking point about finding strength in weakness. But a movie is ultimately the sum of its parts. And those parts, in this case, will prompt many discerning families to turn the lights out on Pitch Black.