The Chronicles of Riddick: Directors Cut (2004)
3rd September 2005
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, thanks to Toombs, 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? Confused? You will be.
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. And as with the original release, there is no DTS soundtrack, although in this instance with an audio commentary, other audio languages and the length of the film you can see why it would have been a problem to squeeze everything onto the disc without losing picture quality. Still, that 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 the lower bitrate Dolby Digital soundtrack supplied 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 systems across both discs are pleasantly animated and scored with, once the disc is initially inserted, the chance to select one of two different menu schemes. The design is pretty much identical to the original release and, depending on your choice of either wishing to Convert or Fight the Necromongers, the menu design is different. Still, I would have hoped that this new edition of the film would have been accompanied by a completely new menu system. However, perhaps budget restraints for this DVD release put a stop to that.
With the addition of an audio commentary track the majority of the extras have been farmed out onto a supplemental disc. Whilst some of the extras on both discs are carried forward from the original release there are a number of features, including the audio commentary on the main disc, which are new to this new edition of the film.
The main extra, if you can class it as such, are the additional fifteen minutes of footage fully restored to the film. Whilst there's no new bone crunching action, the majority of the footage is additional scenes and sections of dialogue which were cut for pacing purposes, and it's all introduced by director too. Although none of the scenes are ground breaking stuff they do at least expand on the story slightly and anything that helps explains things is a bonus! This is all accompanied by an audio commentary with writer/director David Twohy and actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos (who were both obviously not working and were dragged up from somewhere for a few extra dollars). If you'd rather not listen to the simple "Ooh", "Aars" and "That's a great scene" comments from the actors then you can also opt for a textual version of the audio commentary. Still, director Twohy does manage to provide a few nuggets of information about the sets, the production and the complicated stunts that Vin Diesel picked up in a matter of minutes. He also very handily points out the newly restored scenes too.
Despite this longer version of the film, there are still eight minutes worth of Deleted Scenes to watch. With an ever handy optional commentary by directory Twohy, the scenes are essentially extensions or yet more pieces of complicated dialogue which were cut for pacing purposes. Still, I have this theory that with no extra money on offer some of the incomplete green screen effects were the real reason why they weren't restored to this version. Carried over from the original release is the fairly interesting Riddick Insider 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.
In the disappointingly short Riddick's World featurette, Vin Diesel takes you on a three minute behind-the-scenes guided tour of the various 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. Still, you can at least obtain some information about this from the audio commentary and there's the New Mecca featurette to watch too. To complement this short feature, there's also a Interactive 360° View of the sets of from the film with eight 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 tedious and tiresome.
In the eleven minute Creation of New Mecca featurette, director and writer David Twohy, producer Scott Kroopf, Vin Diesel, Keith David and others, including Dame Judy Dench, look at the transition from Pitch Black to the Chronicles of Riddick. The main focal point of this is New Mecca on Helion Prime and the impressive sets, props and costume design. With plenty of clips from the film and behind-the-scenes footage of the stars, and no forgetting the trusty prop engineers, it's a worthy look in. The thirteen minute Riddick Rises featurette looks at Riddick's past, present and future and includes interviews with Van Diesel, Nick Chinlund, Alexa Davalos and director/director David Twohy. Again, there's plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of Diesel running, jumping and fighting, plus a good look at the massive indoor sets. It's just what a featurette is, and should, be all about with the back slapping kept to a minimum.
Following on is the eighteen minute Keep What you Kill featurette. All the usual crowd of Vin Diesel, Twohy and Kroopf are are hand to offer their thoughts on the Necromonger Empire and just how nasty, dark and Nazi like they are. There's plenty of clips from the film, quite a few quotes from those ever eager extras in their Necromonger uniforms, whilst Necromongers Colm Feore, Linus Roache, Karl Urban and the rather stunning Thandie Newton are also interviewed about their roles in the film. Again, there's another good look at those fantastic sets, set designs, costumes and concept artwork. It's fair to say that the final result is rather impressive indeed. The rather confusing Interactive Production Calendar allows you to view and chronicle the making of the film. The days in question are selected via a wheel style display with various cursors to move the wheel around to the next section. With the clips only lasting a few moments, and with no apparent way of playing the entire calender in one go, it all becomes rather tiresome and I soon got bored and gave up exploring. Still, it's a novel, and no doubt, interesting featurette for those people who can persevere which such annoyances.
The interactive featurettes go some way towards helping to explain the goings on in this wacky Riddick 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 and previous 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 reasonably interesting six 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 is rounded off with a nice bit bit of padding material in the form of the theatrical trailers for other Universal titles Pitch Black : Special Edition, Dark Fury, Van Helsing and the rather excellent action feature The Bourne Supremacy.
I can safely say that The Chronicles of Riddick left me totally and utterly confused, although after watching and reviewing the original release I was a little less so this time around. 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 film that appears to swap between three different films, including a near repeat scene of Pitch Black (but in reverse), 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 (it's amazing how you can kill someone with a tin tea cup). 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 elses.
My only criticism would have to be to ask why this two disc edition wasn't the main release in the first place? With less than a year between the two releases you just have to wonder whether those clever marketing types have been up to their old tricks again in an attempt to recoup some of the money from what was a bit of a disastrous theatrical release. 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 an unambiguous "yes" - simply for the wonderful madness of it all.
However, if you already own the initial DVD release then it may be a little harder to justify. Still, if you feel a little short changed by the original release then you may wish to demote your disc to a wine coaster and be a little tempted to upgrade, especially if you can search out a bargain price on the Internet. Overall, those additional extras, plus the fifteen minutes of restored footage, has made me feel very generous towards this title and I've decided to give it a highly recommended. I'm I mad? Perhaps. But beware, I have a tin tea cup and know how to use it!
- Director's commentary - with writer/director David Twohy, actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos
- Riddick Insider - The movie comes alive as character details, background on the mythology characters, planetary guides and more behind-the-story information is displayed in real time as you watch the movie!
- Deleted scenes - five minutes of never-seen-before deleted scenes (New Bonus)
- Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick - An interactive guide that immerses you into the Chronicles mythology from the perspective of the characters
- Toomb's Chase Log - Track the hunt for Riddick from Toomb's perspective and follow the action leading up to the opening scene of the movie
- Visual Effects Revealed - A play-by-play breakdown of the most complex and compelling visual FX in The Chronicles of Riddick
- Riddick's Worlds - An interactive 360 view of the sets and Vin Diesel guided tour
- Creation of New Mecca - Visit New Mecca on Helion Prime and explore this futuristic world from concepts to completion. Features interviews with Dame Judi Dench and Keith David (New Bonus)
- Riddick Rises - Learn about Riddick's past, present and future including an in-depth view of his training, weapons of choice and more. Also includes interviews with Vin Diesel and writer/director David Twohy, Alexa Davalos and look a behind-the-scenes at the sets and visual effects (New Bonus)
- Keep What you Kill - Discover how the Necromonger Empire has mastered the art of war, learn their dark secrets, their strategies, and witness their powers and fighting prowess. Includes cast interviews with Lord Marshal, Purifier, Vaako and Dame Vaako (New Bonus)
- Interactive Production Calendar - Take an insider look at life on the set. Watch the action unfold day by day with this exclusive feature (New Bonus)
- Theatrical Trailers