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David Twohy
Vin Diesel, Judi Dench, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Yorick van Wageningen, Nick Chinlund, Keith David
Writing Credits:
Jim Wheat (characters), Ken Wheat (characters), David Twohy

All the power in the universe can't change destiny.

Vin Diesel reprises his star-making role as Riddick in this thrilling, non-stop action adventure. On the run from a group of bounty hunters, Riddick now finds himself in the middle of a cataclysmic battle between good and evil-and the fate of the human race hangs in the balance.

Box Office:
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$24.289 million on 2757 screens.
Domestic Gross
$57.637 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/16/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director David Twohy and Actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos
• Deleted Scenes
• Virtual Guide
• “Toombs’ Chase Log”
• “Riddick Insider” Text Commentary
• “Visual Effects Revealed” Featurettte
• “Riddick’s Worlds” Interactive Tour
• XBox Game Demo
• Easter Egg


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Chronicles Of Riddick: Unrated (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 16, 2004)

For about 20 minutes, Vin Diesel seemed primed to become the Next Big Thing. Much of this came after the success of 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, which helped attract a fanbase for him. However, though 2002’s xXx came touted as James Bond for the 21st century and a breakout flick for Diesel, it didn’t achieve super-success; it made a positive $141 million but wasn’t able to establish Diesel as the “A”-list star some expected.

A sequel to 2000’s Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick demonstrates that Diesel still can’t sell a summer blockbuster on his own. Set a few years after the action in the first movie, this one introduces us to the concept of the UnderVerse, a constellation of dark new worlds. A group called the Necromongers creates an army to get there and kill whoever they can’t convert along the way. Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) leads them; he’s the only one to make it to the UnderVerse and back, and the experience changed him.

Next we head to UV System Planet 6, where a bounty hunter Toombs (Nick Chinlund) tries to capture Riddick (Diesel). He fails and Riddick demands to know who commissioned the bounty. Riddick takes Toombs’ ship and heads to Helion Prime to get to the bottom of things. There he confronts a character from the first flick, Imam (Keith David), who Riddick thinks betrayed him. Imam admits that he did so due to the threat of Necromonger invasion, and he relates his society’s imminent danger.

A group that includes Elemental envoy Aereon (Judi Dench) tells Riddick the news and why they need his help, but he remains unsympathetic. He learns that Jack - another personality from the first movie - became imprisoned on the rugged planet Crematoria, which incites Riddick to some action.

The invasion occurs and Imam eventually sacrifices himself for his cause. Necromongers take over Helion and proselytize for their beliefs; they try to convert the locals with the glories of the UnderVerse. The population converts when threatened with loss of their souls, but Riddick refuses to bow to the Lord Marshal. They capture him and try to convert him but he gets out. Toombs again comes after him and takes him into custody although he should remain under Necromonger control. Riddick doesn’t fight it because he knows they’ll take him to Crematoria and he wants to get Jack.

The Necromongers plan their conquest but they also eagerly pursue Riddick. Lord Marshal sends Lord Vaako (Karl Urban) to pursue Riddick. His wife Lady Vaako (Thandie Newton) acts like the brains behind the man and connives for his advancement at the Lord Marshal’s expense. We learn why Lord Marshal pursues Riddick, as there’s a deeper motive at work. In addition, we see Riddick on Crematoria with Jack, who now calls herself Kyra (Alexa Davalos). The rest of the movie follows their attempts to escape Crematoria and their inevitable fight with the Necromongers.

Since I never saw Pitch Black, I worried that Riddick might become confusing. However, I don’t think a lack of familiarity with the original causes any problems. Yeah, the sequel alludes to the original at times, especially in regard to the relationship between Riddick and Jack/Kyra, but it creates a fairly self-contained story and provides enough explanation for those references to tamp down bewilderment.

I remain unsure why they decided to make a sequel to Pitch in the first place. That flick only earned $39 million, which seems like an awfully insubstantial sum to use to greenlight a $110 million sequel. I suppose the suits figured Diesel’s growing popularity would bolster the sequel’s profile, but they guessed incorrectly. Riddick took in $57 million, which is a weak sum for a big-budget summer release.

If nothing else, one can’t criticize Riddick for a lack of visual ambition. The movie comes across like a sci-fi Lord of the Rings with its look. It combines detailed and distinctive costumes with lush settings to create its own style.

Or maybe not quite its own, for Riddick owes a debt to sci-fi artists of the past. I got a definite Giger vibe from much of the material. It lacks that artist’s ominous perversity but a lot of the flick feels influenced by his work.

Despite that debt, the visuals of Riddick stand as a strength. Make no mistake - this isn’t the usual sci-fi setting, as it demonstrates a much broader and more painterly visual style. The film consistently gives us gorgeous, luxuriant images. The computer graphics occasionally resemble videogame cutscenes, but mostly they appear effective and well-executed.

Too bad Riddick fails to back up the visuals with a similarly distinctive story. Part of the problem stems from its bifurcated nature. Much of the time it splits our attention. Some of the movie concentrates on the war of the Necromongers and their internal struggles, while the rest looks at Riddick and his own concerns. The movie fails to connect these pieces smoothly, and they often feel like they come from two different universes. Granted, that’s technically true, but the film needs to join the various elements in a cleaner way. As it stands, the story lacks consistency and fails to mesh.

It doesn’t help that neither side produces much excitement or interest. The Necromonger elements simply offer warmed-over Shakespeare that the actors play with almost absurd intensity. Riddick’s pieces function as standard action bits, with our title character placed in the “tough superhero” role. Occasionally the flick manifests some decent sequences, but the absence of a coherent plot and rich characters renders them less effective.

Many criticize big-budget blockbusters as all style, no substance, and that seems to be the case with The Chronicles of Riddick. The filmmakers executed a lavish and detailed sci-fi universe but didn’t bother to come up with an involving story or much dynamic action. Riddick does enough well to maintain moderate interest, but it never rises above the level of general mediocrity.

Note that this DVD presents the “Unrated Director’s Cut”. Whereas the theatrical version of Riddick runs 119 minutes, this version fills 134 minutes. Some of the extra footage comes from material cut for ratings purposes, so this edition includes slightly more graphic information. Many of the bits were excised for pacing, though, which leaves the Director’s Cut as a more detailed take on the story.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

The Chronicles of Riddick appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect of a recent big-budget flick, Riddick offered positive visuals.

Despite a smidgen of edge enhancement at times, sharpness always remained rock solid. The movie consistently presented excellent clarity and definition. The haloes created slight distractions, but they didn’t make the image soft or ill-defined. I noticed no jagged edges but some mild shimmering occasionally occurred. The movie lacked noticeable source flaws. It came without any defects and remained nicely clean.

Riddick featured a palette that often went for subdued hues. Parts of the film came across as monochromatic, and when it branched into more intense tones, they still stayed fairly cool. Some rich reds provided the biggest evidence of color in this stylized piece. The subdued tones we did see looked very rich and full. Blacks became more important than usual, and the transfer delivered excellent depth and fullness to its dark elements. Low-light shots were clear and smooth. Because of the mild shimmering and edge enhancement, I almost knocked down my grade to a “B+”. However, I thought the flick looked too good to bump it below an “A-“.

No waffling occurred when I determined my ranking for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Chronicles of Riddick, as it firmly earned an “A-”. I expected an assault on my ears and that’s what I usually got. The soundfield consistently used all five channels to good advantage. The mix featured a wide and involving soundstage. Music demonstrated excellent stereo delineation, and the effects popped up all over the spectrum. Those elements showed nice localization and melded together smoothly. The surrounds played a very active role and added quite a lot to the mix. Given the film’s use of so much action, the soundtrack sure gave us many opportunities for involvement, and it never disappointed. This was a vivid and engrossing mix.

Happily, the audio quality lived up expectations as well. Speech consistently came across as warm and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or issues with intelligibility. Music could have become lost amidst all the effects, but the score managed to maintain its own personality. The music stayed loud and dynamic, as the track replicated the score with nice clarity and definition. Unsurprisingly, the effects packed a wallop. They were vibrant and accurate, with clear highs and booming bass. Low-end was always tight and firm, as the track exhibited genuinely terrific bass response. The audio lived up to expectations and worked very well.

When we examine the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director David Twohy plus actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos. Through the wonders of teleconferencing, the commentary offers the impression all three sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. The piece focuses on locations and sets, with information about the elaborate nature of the latter. We hear a little about casting via stories like the one that explains how they landed Judi Dench. Some story and character notes also appear, along with good details about the differences between the theatrical and director’s cuts.

Those elements are the best part of the commentary, as Twohy aptly lets us know what changes he made for the longer version and why he executed them. Otherwise, this is a pretty bland track. Some of the character/story pieces give us a better appreciation for what Twohy wanted to do, and Urban provides some nice humor and insights into his role. Davalos proves less useful, as she mostly just talks about how great everything was. The commentary definitely suffers from too much happy talk as well as more than a few empty spaces. Parts of it succeed, but as a whole, this is a somewhat dull discussion.

This version of Riddick opens with a 46-second Introduction from Twohy. He simply lets us know that we may notice frame cuts when the material added for the director’s cut appears.

Next we see three deleted scenes. These last a total of eight minutes, three seconds and mostly present exposition that would have appeared early in the flick. The movie provides those notes later, so these were fairly redundant. The exception comes from the final scene, which depicts the death of a major character. It’s actually fairly interesting.

We can watch the scenes with or without comments from Twohy. He tosses out some notes about the sequences and also lets us know why they were cut. The commentary adds to our understanding of the filmmaking process.

With Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick, we get a piece that offers details about the movie’s various elements. We find out about things like the Necromongers, the Elementals, Helion Prime, and Planet UV; the feature digs into 10 components in all. Some of the information already pops up in the movie, but it offers a nice shorthand way to remind you of the different pieces. A fair amount of new bits help make this more enriching. In a nice touch, all the narration comes from cast members.

After this we locate Toombs’ Chase Log, a piece that follows the bounty hunter’s path. We see how he came to find Riddick and other aspects of his journey in this nine-minute and 55-second featurette. It’s not great, but it’s cute and will be fun for fans.

Riddick Insider: Facts On Demand essentially provides a subtitle commentary. With this feature activated, we learn a little about different aspects of the movie. It covers topics like the characters, the settings, vehicles, and other story elements. We also get notes about the production such as details related to the cast, costumes, sets and effects. Too many gaps without text show up, but the information provided is quite good.

Inside Visual Effects Revealed, we find a six-minute and two-second featurette. It mixes behind the scenes bits with movie clips and interviews. We hear from Twohy, visual effects supervisors Peter Chiang and Mike Wassel, compositing supervisor Sean McPherson, and digital effects supervisor Mike O’Neal. They discuss the execution of visuals like Aereon, a burning man, planet surfaces, set extensions, and CG animals. It’s too short to provide much depth, but it tells us some nice notes.

Riddick’s Worlds offers another interactive feature. It starts with a quick three-minute and five-second “guided tour” of the sets with Vin Diesel. He runs through them so quickly that we don’t get a very good look at them. The “Interactive 360 degree View” works better. It covers eight of the movie’s locations. It’s not all that interactive; basically, we pan left or right to slowly check out the settings. Nonetheless, it lets us inspect them in a satisfying way.

If you have the proper equipment, you can play the XBox Game. I don’t, so I can’t.

The disc opens with a collection of Previews. We find ads for The Bourne Supremacy, the new Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore DVDs, EarthSea, the Riddick videogame, and Drunken Jackasses - The Quest.

At least one Easter egg appears here. From the main menu, click to the left of “Play” and then hit “enter”. This lets you see a 46-second clip in which Colm Feore talks about pretending to be kicked in the head. It’s a slightly interesting piece.

A sequel to a movie not seen by a lot of people, The Chronicles of Riddick seems likely to end the series. It didn’t do well at the box office, and outside of its visual design, it fails to present enough distinctiveness and creativity to earn it much of an audience on DVD. The disc offers very strong picture and sound. The extras are hit or miss, but they add a mix of useful components. Universal brings Riddick to DVD well, but the movie itself doesn’t entertain well enough to merit a recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 36
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