DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Chronicles of Riddick, Unrated Director’s Cut, Blu-ray (2004/2009)

The Chronicles creates a thoroughly threatening universe with escaped convict super-stud Riddick pitted against the even more evil half-dead Necromongers

Published on March 28, 2009

The Chronicles of Riddick, Unrated Director’s Cut, Blu-ray (2004/2009)

The Chronicles of Riddick, Unrated Director’s Cut, Blu-ray (2004/2009)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench, Colm Feore
Director: David Twohy
Studio: Universal 61106553 [Release date: Mar. 31, 09]
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish or French DTS 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: PIP, Chronicles Compendium, Intro by David Twohy, Deleted scenes, Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick, Toombs’ Chase Log, Visual Effects Revealed, Creation of New Mecca, Riddick Rises, Keep What You Kill, Commentary track by Twohy and actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos, U-Control features: Anatomy of a Fight, Complete Chronicles; BD Live
Length: Unrated version: 2 hrs. 14 min.; Theatrical: 2 hrs.
Rating: *****

A full-blown special effects-stuffed sci-fi epic is the sort-of-sequel to the earlier Diesel/Twohy feature Pitch Black, although when the first lower budget film was being shot there was no thought of a sequel.  The Chronicles creates a thoroughly threatening universe with escaped convict super-stud Riddick – plenty of a baddie himself – pitted against the even more evil half-dead Necromongers who want to convert all humans on the various planets to their religion or else destroy them.A few of the characters from Pitch Black appear in this film, and Riddick continues his efforts to elude the mercenaries who are always after him to collect the bounty on his head. He begins by visiting New Mecca, which is the peaceful city that the Muslim Imam from Pitch Black was traveling back to on Helion Prime.  The city is ruthlessly attacked by the Necromonger fleet and thus begins Riddick’s simultaneous struggles to escape from the mercenaries on one hand and the Necromongers on the other.  Occasionally his only caring about saving himself is slightly modified to assist some of the others endangered by the Necromongers.  His battles jump from one deadly planet to another, the very worst being the ultimate (underground) prison planet Crematoria, whose surface alternates daily between 300 degrees below zero and 700 degrees above.

Naturally, Riddick is the only man to ever escape from this prison.  In the prison he is reunited with Kyra, who was the young girl passing for a boy named Jack, with whom Riddick escaped from the dead planet in Pitch Black.  We learn something about his background for the first time; he is one of the last of a race of specially-enhanced Furyans, who according to the witch/fairy Elemental – played by Judi Dench – is the lone Furyan who will one day challenge the unstoppable evil and restore balance to the universe. Riddick’s main foes as he breaks into the Necromongers’ headquarters on Helion Prime for the grand finale are the Lord Marshal and his Commander Vaako, plus Vaako’s conniving wife who plans for him to eventually kill the Lord Marshal since the Necromongers follow the adage “you keep what you kill.” Of course, Reddick – with the help of Kyra – turns that around to his advantage and becomes the new leader of the empire.

The Blu-ray transfer is well done and the DTS lossless surround soundtrack is gangbusters. The Compendium featurette is much more complete than the one in Pitch Black, and explains many aspects of the Chronicle. The additional footage in the Director’s Cut also makes more understandable several elements of the film’s plot.  The director mentions in his introduction that this footage came from the original negatives and may not seem to match up with the theatrical footage, but I could tell little difference. The Director’s Cut ends more abruptly with Riddick just sitting on the Marshal’s throne – in the theatrical version the Necromonger fleet flies away, sparing the peaceful planet.

 – John Sunier


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