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Universal Studios Home Video presents
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

"In normal times, evil would be fought by good. But in times like these, well, it should be fought by another kind of evil."
- Aereon (Judi Dench)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 17, 2004

Stars: Vin Diesel
Other Stars: Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Judi Dench, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Nick Chinlund, Keith David
Director: David Twohy

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 02h:15m:10s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 025192632426
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A C+A-A B

DVD Review

In this sequel to 2000s Pitch Black, director David Twohy once again handles the directing duties—and with a substantially larger budget, at that—all the while attempting to try and establish Vin Diesel's anti-hero Riddick, he of the night vision glowing eyes, as some sort of action franchise.

The problem with the premise of the anti-hero as a successful franchise material is that there eventually needs to end up being some thread or glimmer of a likeable quality that audiences are supposed to connect or latch onto, but Diesel's Riddick is pretty much the definitive monosyllabic loner. Even with the extra 15 minutes inserted for this unrated director's cut, the story never paints its lead character as anything but an incredibly adept fighter with no real agenda other than saving his own ass, over and over again. Most of the added material is made up of longer dialogue sequences, though some of the restored footage features some additional violence (though remarkably gore free for the most part), as well as a couple of odd dream sequences originally chopped from the theatrical run.

Set five years after the last time we saw him, Riddick is on the run from bounty hunters, though early on he crosses paths briefly with Iman (Keith David), leftover from Pitch Black. Instead of the creepy winged alien monsters for Riddick to battle (who were at least confined to just one miserable planet), this time it is something far more sweeping and menacing: the comically named Necromongers. Apparently some pseudo-religious, planet-destroying armada of identically uniformed bad guys, the Necromongers travel the galaxy looking to either convert or destroy whoever crosses their paths, and the fact that they have a massive army of soldiers equipped with powerful weapons and towering spear-shaped ships adorned with a quartet of massive heads (I mean "conquest icons"), the Necromongers meet with very little resistance most of the time. The resistance is futile elements quickly give way to what ends up ultimately as a film that resembles a sci-fi version of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, what with the huge CG armies, ornately intricate ancient cities and even a couple of Warg-like creatures for good measure.

The typically Necromonger pompous leader is the villainous Lord Marshall (Colm Feore), a chap who spends most of his time wandering around in a ridiculously garish and ornate uniform that seems impractical for walking, let alone the simple act of sitting. There is the eventual reveal of an ancient prophecy (naturally), and some thinly veiled biblical undertones rise up here and there, but of course perpetual prisoner Riddick once again finds himself as the only one who can put a stop to the brainwashing advance of the Necromongers. That means lots and lots of fighting. Trust me on this.

Mix in a subplot about a proposed overthrow of the Lord Marshall by his once faithful underling Vaacko (Karl Urban), masterminded by his scheming wife Dame Vaacko (a horribly over-the-the-top Thandie Newton), Judi Dench (?!) as the wispy and mysterious Elemental witch Aereon (she's the requisite Galadriel-esque character), a troop of cocky mercenaries, and an underground prison on the really, really hot planet of Crematoria.

It is during the middle portion of The Chronicles of Riddick, spent below the surface on Crematoria, that our intrepid anti-hero encounters yet another familiar character from the original Pitch Black— Jack (that's a she, by the way)— who has over the preceding five years has taken on the name Kyra, and this time is played by midriff-baring ass-kicker Alexa Davalos instead of Rhiana Griffith.

Structural defects and weaknesses of the storytelling aside—which more often than not seemed like not much more than a live-action video game—Diesel-as-Riddick is a watchable enough character for an overly macho sci-fi action flick, with his standard issue action hero witty comebacks and one-liners all delivered in that Iron Giant rumble of a voice. The production values on this effects-heavy outing are certainly impressive to look at, and Twohy loads up just about every scene with a miasma of futuristic gadgets, ships and locales, so much so that I'm hard pressed to really say that I was not at least entertained visually by the look of the finished product.

The plot, well, that's another thing entirely.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Universal has issued this unrated director's cut in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and this is just a gorgeous looking transfer all the way around. The minor edge enhancement issues are actually pretty negligible, and in no way detract from the overall presentation, with the level of image detail on the extensive effects shots and backgrounds just about perfect. Colors tend to stay dark, with a palette of deep reds and muddy browns the predominant color scheme, and the solid black levels are spot on.

Beautiful.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix found here is just the kind of overly aggressive and thunderous presentation one would expect on a big, noisy action-filled flick, and this one really delivers when and where it counts in all the right places. Rears get used early and often, and the spatial separation across all channels really lends itself to the creation of an immersive listening experience that makes some of the weaker story elements seem almost, well, powerful. Dialogue, while hardly this film's strong suit, is crystal clear, regardless. The wonderfully deep and boomy .LFE channel is a proper wall shaker, and during the constant fight sequences there is a clean, rich punch.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Drunken Jackass: The Quest, The Bourne Supremacy, Earthsea, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison
3 Deleted Scenes
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by David Twohy, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. X-Box demo
Extras Review: Writer/director David Twohy, along with actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos, provide a commentary that in the end really should have been Twohy's alone. This is such an effects laden film that the bulk of the talk is about the post production elements and visual trickery so that the actors don't have that much to contribute. Urban (who contributes his part via telephone from New Zealand) and Davalos are fine to listen to, and keep the track moving at a fairly quick clip, but this is really Twohy's track.

Riddick Insider: Facts On Demand promises that viewers will be "enlightened, informed and entertained", and this is one of those optional pop-up text commentaries full of random tidbits, ranging from production info (learn how long it took to assemble the Lord Marshall's outfit) to clarification of some elements of the plot (just how big are those conquest icons?). The factoids are of moderate interest in short bursts, but it is unlikely I would ever sit through the whole two hour and fifteen minute film to watch them all.

Next up are three Deleted Scenes (08m:03s)—with optional David Twohy commentary—that are presented in rough, pre-effects format. Two of three sequences are offer no major surprises that advance the story, but the third provides a death scene for a supporting character that was only hinted at in the finished film.

The Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick (07m:40s) has a quick look at 10 different characters, locales and ideologies that make up the universe of the story. The content is supposedly delivered by the characters, except to me it sounded more like voice talent trying to imitate the actual actors. Likewise with Toomb's Chase Log (09m:56s), where someone who doesn't quite sound like the real Nick Chinlund spews some backstory on the whole bounty hunter subplot. Riddick's Worlds provides a fairly dull 360 degree view of eight assorted locales from the film, and is remarkably pointless.

The best part is probably the shortest, and it is the Visual Effects Revealed (06m:02s) segment, where Twohy and special effects supervisor Peter Chiang discuss the extensive and detailed work required to create a film with such a strong visual element. It's a shame this runs just six minutes, and considering the complexity of the visual effects this should have been much longer. Still, interesting and informative as is.

In addition to a handful of forced trailers when you pop in the disc (why?), there is also an X-Box demo for The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay video game and a 47 second Easter egg of Colm Feore. The disc itself is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Storywise, this is not the greatest film ever made, but as a sci-fi action flick it delivers on a regular basis. Wonderfully mindless and brainless, this energetic followup to Pitch Black tries really hard to dazzle, and it is true that the action sequences are particularly well done. It's just too bad the story can't keep up with the energy of the set pieces, which often play out more like a video game than a movie. This unrated director's cut tacks on an additional 15 minutes of footage for your enjoyment, and the impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is meant to be played very, very loud.

I loved the look and feel of The Chronicles of Riddick, but in the end I just didn't really care what happened to anyone, least of all Riddick.

 


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