The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
18th December 2004
Five years have passed since Riddick and a few survivors escaped from the remote and inhospitable planet which claimed so many lives in Pitch Black. But hero or not, Riddick still has a hefty bounty sitting on his head. With every bounty hunter in the galaxy looking for him, Riddick has gone from one planetary extreme to another by living in exile on the barren and frozen planet UV6. But when a Merc ship finally tracks him down, it doesn't take long for Riddick to practice his highly skilled fighting techniques on the crew and obtain a new ship. Acquiring new information on the source of the bounty, Riddick heads straight for Helion Prime and the city of New Mecca where he plans to confront Imam, the only man alive who could betray his confidence.
With Riddick's extended period in exile he is unaware of the deadly force which is sweeping across the galaxy and laying waste to countless planets. Under the command of the ruthless Lord Marshal, the Necromongers are a race of warriors who are searching for their prophesied Underverse, a strange place where heaven and hell co-exist. And believing that death is only the beginning, they have slaughtered countless millions in their conquest. With their powerful armada of ships capable of destroying a planet, the invaders offer the conquered a simple choice. Convert or Die. Needless to say, the choice is not a difficult one to make, but those planets which do decide to fight don't resist for long. With the armada rapidly approaching Helion Prime, and in order to draw Riddick to him, this the reason why Imam has placed the bounty on his head.
But along with the prophesy of the Underverse, there is another prophecy which foretells of the Furyans, an extinct race of people, and a single survivor who may just hold the power to defeat the Necromongers. And after Imam told the wise old Aereon of Riddick's amazing exploits, Aereon realises that Riddick may be that last Furyan and thus mankind's only hope in defeating the fast approaching evil. Naturally, Riddick is far from impressed with the prophesy and when Imam reminds him of Jack, the other remaining survivor, who has been incarcerated on the inescapable prison planet Crematoria, Riddick decides to leave on a rescue mission. Naturally, it doesn't take long for Riddick to rewrite the prison security manual before he returns to Helion Prime and an unwanted battle with the Necromongers. Is Aereon right, is Riddick the last Furyan?
One of the major things that stands out the most in The Chronicles of Riddick is the wonderful picture transfer and, apart from the prison scenes with their extremely obvious CGI hell hounds, the effects in the film are totally awesome. Not since the release of The Day After Tomorrow has the visual effects looked this good on DVD, and with the exemplary transfer it really does take picture reproduction on DVD to another level. With pictures like this, who needs high-definition DVD?
Quality wise, colours are superbly rich and vibrant with extreme levels of detail that range from the subtle and warm textures of New Mecca to the sublime colours of the UV planet and the fiery prison planet Crematoria. From the moment the film starts you know you're in for a CGI extravaganza, and although the introduction to the tyranny of the Necromongers looks like a bit of a CGI overkill, the scenes of Riddick fleeing the advancing Merc ship on the frozen UV planet are gobsmackingly clear and detailed without any signs or artifacting or outlining. Finding any fault with the transfer is very hard to do, and unless you really go out of your way to find one, you may as well sit back and enjoy the visuals. You'll find it very hard not to be impressed with the quality of the sets and special effects. It's no wonder the film cost well over $100 million dollars to make, and all that money is on screen before you.
The Chronicles of Riddick is an action film and thus cries out for a powerful soundtrack to match. Fortunately, it doesn't disappoint with the 384 Kbps Dolby Digital soundtrack producing some dynamic and involving effects which complement the on screen action. Sure, a DTS soundtrack would have been the real icing on the cake, but with plentiful use of the surround channels, ground shaking LFE effects and excellent stereo steerage at the front, you can't complain with what is on offer here. Even the gravely voice of Vin Diesel is relatively easy to pick out in the front channel, so if it's possible to understand what he's saying, things are already onto a winner!
The menu system is pleasantly animated and scored with, once the disc is initially inserted, the chance to select one of two different menu schemes. Depending on your choice of either wishing to Convert or Fight the Necromongers, the menu system is laid out differently, although both menu systems appear to offer the same options. However, I have the strongest suspicion yet that an Easter egg or two lurk within them. The differing menus are an interesting concept, but like the majority of the extras on this disc, are ultimately a rather pointless one.
Although there is no audio commentary from either director David Twohy or principle actor Vin Diesel, there is a fairly interesting fact track where items of trivia about the film, production and cast are displayed on-screen whilst you watch the film. Whilst the trivia information box can be a little obtrusive on the screen at times, it's not a complete information overload and film geeks will love the level of detail on the storyline and the background to the arrival of the Necromongers. Still, an audio commentary would have been a welcome addition to the extras and the film suffers a little without it.
In the disappointingly short Riddick's World, Vin Diesel takes you on a 3 minute behind-the-scenes guided tour of the various Riddick sets. Unfortunately, it only offers the briefest amount of information and you are simply left to wonder at just how the massive sets were constructed and how the crew went about the arduous task of filming. To complement this short feature, there's also a Interactive 360° View of the sets of from the film with 8 different views available. However, whilst it's quite a novel approach to exploring the sets, the actual interactive operation of using the up, down, left and right buttons on your remote to scroll about soon become rather tiresome.
Next up are some other interactive features which go some way towards explaining the goings on in this wacky universe. In the Virtual Guide To 'The Chronicles Of Riddick', along with a voice over, various images from the film are used to help explain some of the characters and locations from the film. As with the original extras on the Pitch Black release, the mind numbingly boring and overlong Toombs Chase Logs uses voiceovers and crude visual effects from Toombs perspective as he hunts down Riddick.
In the slightly more interesting 6 minute Visual Effects Revealed featurette, visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang and other members of the effects team give a fascinating insight into the very impressive planetary visual effects created for the film. It's just a pity that the whole thing is so short. The disc also includes a nice bit bit of padding material in the form of the theatrical trailers for the other Universal titles Pitch Black, Dark Fury, Van Helsing, The Bourne Supremacy and Billy Elliot: The Musical. Still, they rather bizarrely couldn't find the room for the rather good theatrical trailer for the Chronicles Of Riddick.
Finally, if you are fortunate to own an X-Box then you can insert the DVD into your console and play the first level of Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. From the games visual trailer on the animated Dark Fury : The Chronicles of Riddick disc it does actually look like a rather good Half-Life engine styled game. If you insert the disc into your PC then there's also some DVD-ROM content. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what the contents are as all I could manage to do was play the film via the Interactual player. Still, even that's an improvement on my previous failed attempts to play a film via the Interactual software DVD player with my Windows XP complaining at every opportunity. Perhaps installing Service Pack 2 made all the difference.
All in all the extras are a big disappointment, and considering that there's already a region one director's cut which contains an additional fifteen minutes of footage, you can't help but feel a little short changed and left wondering whether a two disc "special edition" will be making an appearance here in the near future. Still, I thought this ridiculous notion of having different versions either side of the Atlantic had finally been put to bed, but apparently this is not the case here.
I can safely say that The Chronicles of Riddick left me totally and utterly confused. What exactly was the film trying to be? Is it some sort of quasi-religious brain wash along the lines of Battlefield Earth or some bizarre mythological story along the lines of Stargate? But whilst the storyline wanders about more than a cloud on a windy day, there's something strangely fascinating about a single film which swaps between three different films, including a near repeat scene of Pitch Black, at will. It's almost as if they made it all up as they went along and somebody kept pointing out bits they'd missed along the way.
Whilst The Chronicles of Riddick is not going to win any Oscars for the casts acting prowess, it's not the complete and utter stinker that most people claim. Science fiction fans are sure to enjoy the impressive visual effects and lavish set pieces whilst action junkies will be more than happy when Vin Diesel kicks some serious ass in the well choreographed fight scenes. Even Dame Judi Dench manages to stamp her authority on the madness that surrounds her which ultimately results in some form of level headedness to the proceedings - even if her dialogue is just as cheesy as everyone else's.
Never the less, the question of whether to make a purchase still remains. If you enjoyed Pitch Black and wish to continue with The Chronicles, then the answer would have to be a "yes". But if you've never seen, or weren't that impressed with Pitch Black then a rental is definitely in order, if only to see the shear audacity and silliness of it all.
- Visual Effects Revealed - Go behind the scenes at look at the amazing visual effects used in the film
- Toombs' Chase Log - Track the hunt for Riddick from bounty-hunter 'Toombs' perspective and follow the action leading up to the opening scene of the movie
- Virtual Guide To 'The Chronicles Of Riddick' - An interactive guide that immerses the viewer into the world of The Chronicles of Riddick from the perspectives of the characters
- Interactive 360 Degree View - 8 different views of the sets from the film
- Riddick's World - Vin Diesel takes you on a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the Riddick sets
- Riddick Insider Facts On Demand - Scene specific background facts and trivia is displayed on-screen in real time as you watch the movie
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay X-Box game
- Theatrical Trailers
- DVD-ROM content