This starship was on a routine mission, taking passengers from one planet to another, with them and the crew in suspended animation when the journey was interrupted as a meteor shower shot straight through the hull. The pilot, Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell), was awoken and tried to do something about the emergency as the craft was pulled into the orbit of a nearby world, even trying to jettison the passengers because she thought it would increase her chances of survival, but the lever jammed, preventing such drastic action. They crash anyway, and find themselves on a desert landscape - with a deadly criminal for company.
And that criminal is one Richard B. Riddick, played by Vin Diesel in the movie that garnered him his first flush of worldwide success as a leading man; Pitch Black was a sleeper hit and the character did him such great favours that he returned to it in sequels over the next number of years, almost as if he considered Riddick a mascot of sorts, no matter if the public were not embracing him quite as much as Diesel enthusiastically was. A lot of the reason this was a hit was thanks to it tapping into the audience who wanted to see a good, straightforward science fiction flick with no pretension other than a spot of spectacle and a dose of action, its simplicity one of its main strengths.
Riddick is one of those anti-heroes who may well have a heart of gold beating beneath that beefy, tough guy exterior, though director David Twohy kept things as ambiguous as he could without actually alienating us from the character's better qualities. Once the ship has crashed, it is left for the survivors to plan their next move, finding water being a priority, never mind an alternative form of transport off this blasted globe which happens to have three suns blazing down on it. Or it does for the next few hours, because the threat of the murderous Riddick to the passengers and crew turns out to be a lot less important that the local wildlife, as there is a breed of ravenous critters which would only be too happy to feed on the humans.
Luckily, those three suns keep the creatures underground in caverns since they are allergic to light, but oops, there's an eclipse on the way which could last months, and the swarming menace is not going to be kept at bay for long when there are some tasty morsels to be feasted upon. Those potential victims are predictably picked off one by one after a fashion, but Twohy and his fellow screenwriters Ken and Jim Wheat made them less the generic personalities that many a sci-fi adventure might have used, especially in the straight to video market, and offered them idiosyncrasies, so Keith David is an Imam taking pilgrims of a futuristic form of Islam to a Mecca planet, and Lewis Fitz-Gerald is an antiques dealer more concerned with his wine collection than any of his fellow passengers.
The man Riddick, reluctantly allowed to join the party, is worried about is the lawman who brought him in, Johns (Cole Hauser), who recognises the worth of the convict (who can see in the dark) but also that they will have a showdown sooner or later. This is the least interesting part of the plot as Twohy had trouble keeping Johns as intriguing as his rival, but once darkness falls and the threat is from those batlike predators Pitch Black turns fairly tense, managing the occasional surprise, though it never quite attains the level of pulpy excitement that it promises to. The relationships are based on those rivalries, not only between Riddick and Johns but between them both and Fry, who is feeling guilt her over attempt to basically kill everyone else to save her own skin but now makes the best of a bad situation, and more spiritually between Riddick and the Imam, who quietly clash over just how far God is prepared to rescue or damn them. But mainly this was a selection of suspense and action sequences strung together in a slightly too self-important way, and not bad as that went. Music by Graeme Revell.