Chronicles of Riddick, The: Unrated Director’s Cut

  • Reviewed by: Jeff Kleist
  • Review Date: Apr 10, 2009
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Chronicles of Riddick, The: Unrated Director’s Cut

Director

David Twohy

Release Date(s)

2005 (March 31, 2009)

Studio(s)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: C+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

The Chronicles of Riddick: Unrated Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Given the success of Pitch Black, the gods at Universal decided to make all of David Twohy and Vin Diesel’s dreams come true by offering them a sequel production budget many times what the first movie cost in the hopes of creating a new franchise.

For five years after the events of the first film, Riddick has been hiding out on a remote ball of ice. Unfortunately, mercenaries have finally found him, and it’s one of the Pitch Black survivors who have ratted him out. But when Riddick confronts them, he learns that he has a unique destiny – he’s meant to stop a plague-like army from succeeding in its crusade to wipe out all life in the Universe, so they can enter heaven.

When Riddick arrived on the now defunct HD-DVD format, a lot of fans claimed it was a reference disc. Frankly, I disagreed. This new Blu-ray version features a new compression of the same master used on the HD-DVD, that actually manages to come in at a lower average bitrate than its predecessor thanks to improved video compression technology. Like the HD-DVD before it, Chronicles of Riddick on Blu-ray suffers from a definite application of Digital Noise Reduction. Take a look at the characters’ faces. You’ll notice often that they’re a lot more waxy looking then they should be. This looks suspiciously like something that was done to make home video compression easier. It’s not bad looking – this is still a dramatic improvement over the DVD, but I just can’t help feeling that the disc could look a little better.

Audio-wise, this Blu-ray is outstanding – Riddick’s DTS Master Audio presentation doesn’t disappoint. A huge upgrade over even the HD-DVD version, Riddick has all the window-busting sonic assault that home theater owners love, with a big brassy score, thrumming spaceships, and explosions that will rumble your subwoofers good. The surround channels never stop working throughout the entire picture. There is no question that this audio improvement alone is worth the Blu-ray upgrade price.

Most of the previous DVD extras have been included here, except for the Riddick Worlds featurettes and the Easter egg. New for the Blu-ray are a trio of featurettes that were originally on the Best Buy exclusive bonus disc, including The Creation of New Mecca (about building the set for the city), Keep what You Kill (which explores the history of the Necromongers) and Riddick Rises (a discussion of the character’s origins). Oddly missing from that bonus disc is the cool Interactive Production Calendar. Why that stuff wasn’t re-purposed for the Blu-ray’s new PiP track I have no idea – it was one of those rare DVD extras where less well known members of the production team took center stage, and I really enjoyed it. All the rest of the DVD material is here for you to enjoy, including the surprisingly Vin Diesel-less commentary. As with Pitch Black, this Blu-ray also includes both the theatrical and director’s cut versions of the film.

Chronicles of Riddick is an experiment that probably failed in terms of growing the franchise. A lot of the strength of the first movie lay in how it rose above its budget to creating truly memorable characters. Riddick goes for the grand scale, on the other hand, becoming the new Millennium’s answer to cheese ball 80’s classics like Krull. Still, on that level, the movie absolutely delights. Dame Judi Dench has a blast here, finally getting to share in the fun that her friends Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen have had in big budget fantasy films. Her performance alone adds to the quality of this film. Riddick is also surprisingly original and imaginative. I have no doubt in the passion of the filmmakers, but they probably overreached a bit. The director’s cut definitely expands the mythology quite a bit, so if you’ve only ever seen the theatrical version, it’s definitely worth checking out. While the Blu-ray is absolutely a worthwhile upgrade, I just wish the video presentation looked a little better.

- Jeff Kleist

Additional Notes

For the many readers among you who will be viewing these discs on a PlayStation 3, or who own a high-end PC or Xbox 360, I can’t recommend the new Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena videogame more highly. This game contains two tales that are official Riddick canon, and were made with the full cooperation of the same crew that created the films. Not only does this new game contain the original upgraded Xbox game (that tells the story of how Riddick’s eyes came to shine), but it also includes a brand new full-length game starring Lance Henrikson (Aliens) and Michelle Forbes (Star Trek: TNG). Having only played the first game, I can say that the writing, acting and game play are all terrific. This is one of the only (if not the only) such movie adaptations to really stand alone as a superior game without relying on its license to drive sales. While the first game finds Riddick in the slam Johns took him to prior to Pitch Black, the new game sees Riddick’s ship picked up by a mercenary carrier, and naturally he’s not happy about it. Given the track record of developer Starbreeze, I have no doubt it’ll be just as fun the second time around.

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