Blu Ray Title: The Chronicles of Riddick
Disk Release Date: 31 March, 2009
Rated: Unrated and PG-13 Rated on 1 disk via seamless branching
Screen format: 1080P Widescreen High Definition 2.35:1
First theatrical release: 11 June, 2004
Previous releases on disk: Multiple including Rated and Unrated DVD releases and an Unrated HDDVD in 2006
Director: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Colm Feorge, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Linus Roache, Keith David, Alexa Davalos, Nick Chinlund, and Dame Judi Dench
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish and French DTS 5.1
Length: PG-13 Rated 2 Hours, Unrated 2 Hours 14 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
After the events of Pitch Black, Riddick (Diesel) has gone into hiding from the legions of bounty hunters who are still after him to claim the reward for his capture. As The Chronicles opens, we find him pursued by one such mercenary, Toombs (Chinlund). Turns out Toombs works for Riddick’s old pal and fellow Pitch Black survivor Imam Abu al-Walid (David). The Imam wants Riddick back to recruit him to take on Humanity’s greatest threat, a race of Necromongers who wish to convert the entire universe to their religion or burn all non-believers. He also lets Riddick know that “Jack” from the first film now goes by the name of Kyra (Newton) and she has been captured and sent to the prison planet of Crematoria while searching for Riddick, and following in his footsteps. We also learn that Riddick is mentioned in a prophecy, he apparently is the one person who can defeat the Necromonger Lord Marshal (Feore) and in doing so perhaps achieve what what the Imam wants. Problem is, Riddick isn’t really up on Humanity or God to begin with.
It’s a complex story for an action movie and one that drags a bit in places. The liberal borrowing from other films continues here, as PB was to Aliens TCOR is to Dune with liberal influences from the Borg, the story of Moses and art direction from Boris Vallejo. There’s even a mine cart scene that feels like it was ripped out of Donkey Kong. But this time around the atmosphere is a lot more standard Sci-Fi adventure than Horror, and it remains Riddick at the heart of it all, you just gotta love the character and Diesel plays him like he was born to. And like PB, the bad guys here are even worse than Riddick himself so it hardly feels wrong to cheer the guy on knowing he’s easily the lesser of the evils. It’s not a redemption story per se, but it could be setting Riddick up to make choices that lead to that if the story continues. Riddick’s story arc takes a huge turn here and, if rumors are to be believed this is the first part of a new trilogy, so the long exposition in this one can partly be forgiven.
As for the rest of the cast, David gets entirely too little to do, Dame Judi Dench’s Elemental manages to pull off her etherial character without looking completely out of place and Karl “StoneFace” Urban manages to go an entire movie without much emotion at all. While the cast is a little bit uneven (the “good” guys seem much more interesting to me than the menacing evil guys do) the action and atmosphere more than make up for it.
Overall tho while it doesn't have the charm or satisfaction of Pitch Black TCOR is a fun little ride that has a flashy exterior and the unusual charm of Riddick to back it up. Fans of PB might be a bit puzzled by this major shift, but those who have followed the rest of Riddick’s adventures in videogame, book and animated DVD form will be right at home with this one.
Sound Quality: 5/5
Sound quality is outstanding from start to finish, particularly in the areas of score and bass, tho the surround is a juicy experience in many parts as well. Score-wise, Graeme Revell reprises his role in creating the soundtrack, his work in Pitch Black was moody but sparse, here it becomes much more full bodied, with memorable themes for most of the major players and tones that fit the varied planets they find themselves on. For the sound backing up the action you would be hard pressed to find anything that sounds as incredible as what Chronicles brings, with superb gun effects with tight bass that literally feels like it rolls from one corner of your room to another, perhaps even more noticeably than the ‘real’ surround effects do. Not that they are lackluster at all, the full battery of your speaker setup will get a thorough workout, but it was the bass that had me grinning during the many many action sequences.
Visual Quality: 4.5/5
As noted the environments shift from icy blue of the frozen planet to the deep blacks and oranges of Crematoria, and this transfer captures every nuance of them, from establishing space shots to close ups on the ground. The visual effects are astounding, particularly the visually echoing auras of both the Lord Marshal and the Elemental. The print itself is also immaculate and detailed, with deep blacks balanced with excellent detail, sharp close-ups and not a hint of edge enhancement, over processing or damage of any kind. Rock solid for sure.
Extra Features: 4.5/5
Universal continues to impress by including both static and dynamic extras content together. Faithful readers know I have no love for the U-Control format but there are four separate U-Control features for those who prefer their extras with ADD. First up is Anatomy of a fight which picks apart the fight scenes to show how Riddick operates, next we have the traditional PiP behind the scenes popup (which does chop up a lot of the featurettes), and finally we have two commentary tracks which can be turned on or off at will. From the traditional front we have an introduction from Director Twohy explaining some of the jumps viewers will see due to editing content back in, a series of interesting deleted scenes (better than most of the ones I have seen on other disks) and a cheesy “Toomb’s chase log” which is of interest only to those who must have every available bit of Riddick trivia. For effects junkies like me however the rest of the featurettes are well worth watching, as Visual Effects Revealed does just that and Creation of New Mecca shows the construction of this important set piece. Keep what you Kill and Riddick Rises act as traditional “Making of” episodes and both were worth the time to watch. Overall it’s a nice batch.
Overall: 4/5 (not an average) Recommended
In the end I’m a much bigger fan of Pitch Black than I am Chronicles, but I can appreciate this film for the adventure it brings and the guts that all involved had in radically changing the course of Riddick as a character. If the series continues it is sure to be in the vein of a redemption story and redeeming a character like Riddick is bound to be an interesting challenge. This BluRay presentation of the film does it more than justice, with the full effect of its audiovisual thunder rendered in pristine quality, backed by a batch of satisfying extras. Recommended.