DVD Review HTF Review: The Chronicles of Riddick - Dark Fury

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jun 17, 2004.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]


    The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury




    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2004
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 35 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Captions: English
    Subtitles: French and Spanish
    Audio: English - Dolby Digital 5.1




    Release Date:
    June 15th, 2004





    Following the lead of their animated Van Helsing: The London Assignment prequel, Universal has decided to expand upon the Riddick universe with the The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury. This animated feature, directed by Peter Chung (The Animatrix), bridges the gap between the events in Pitch Black, which introduced the Riddick character, and the new summer blockbuster, The Chronicles of Riddick.

    Interestingly, Peter Chung decided to blend computer-generated images (especially backgrounds) with hand-drawn characters, which is a bit of a departure from the style chosen for The Animatrix. There are many different styles of animation, and although I appreciate them all, I did not think that the aforementioned techniques were married very effectively in this particular case.

    Basically, the sharp edges and over-emphasized musculature of the characters just contrasted too sharply with the smoothly rendered CGI backgrounds for my liking. To be sure, this is a purely subjective observation, and it did not impact my assessment of either the story or video quality, but I thought I would throw it out there anyway. I am curious to see what you (there must be some animation connoisseurs here on the Forum) think of the contrast between the CGI and hand drawn elements of Dark Fury.

    Anyway, in moving on to the plot, we learn that shortly after lifting off from the planet at the end of Pitch Black, Riddick (voiced by Vin Diesel) and the other survivors are taken prisoner by a group of mercenaries (aka “Mercs”). After being taken aboard the mercenaries’ ship, Riddick is introduced to the ship’s captain, an insane and ruthless older woman (Julia Fletcher) who sees death as an art form, and keeps the remnants of those she captures like a trophy collection.

    Of course, once she sees what an unusual and lethal specimen Riddick is, she has designs on him – for a place of honor in her trophy case! Since Riddick obviously has other plans, the anti-hero is forced to fight for survival against not only mercenaries, but also against voracious alien creatures that are kept in an arena deep inside the bowels of the massive space cruiser that the “Mercs” inhabit.

    As you can see, this is basically an action adventure, which transitions nicely into the beginning of The Chronicles of Riddick. A little surprisingly, Dark Fury is also a pretty well written story. Unfortunately, the writing is not as polished when it comes to dialogue, which contains far too many cheesy one-liners and an over-the-top monologue about death by the mercenaries’ leader.

    And since Dark Fury bridges the gap between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, it does not take a genius to figure out that Riddick survives this adventure, so the sense of suspense is somewhat diminished. In all honesty, there is no need to see this before seeing The Chronicles of Riddick. Nevertheless, this film is moderately entertaining, so harcore fans of the series may wish to know what Riddick has been up to since they saw him last.






    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    To me, there is almost nothing that looks better on DVD than animation, which can look nearly as good as HD when done well. That being said, the presentation of the straight-to-video The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury is disappointing, especially because the image has not been anamorphically enhanced, despite being offered in a widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio.

    Further, although colors, especially primaries, exhibit acceptable levels of saturation, there was also some slight dot crawl evident throughout the feature. And though they are very clean, whites are too “hot” in most of the brighter scenes (there is almost no in between – scenes are either really dark or very light). As a result, brightly lit scenes tend to have a hazy and washed out appearance. I also noticed minor compression artifacting and aliasing during a few sequences, although neither proved to be a major distraction.

    Black levels fare much better, but some of the scenes in extremely dark environments are still not as detailed as I would have liked them to be. In less extreme cases, however, shadow delineation is above average, and the image usually exhibits a decent sense of depth and three-dimensionality.

    On the whole, I can’t say the picture was unwatchable, but for a recent animated production, this has to be regarded as average (at best) image quality, because of the variety of image quality issues that detract from the viewing experience.




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    Universal offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround mix for The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, in English only, that is mired by a few problems. The most irksome of these problems for me was the limited dynamic range and generally poor frequency response, even during the frenetic action sequences. The ineffective use of the rear of the soundstage during these sequences was also extremely disappointing. Indeed, aside from some weapons fire, bullet ricochets, and reverberation, the rears are largely silent.

    Another problem that manifests itself is the unnatural sound of a few of the characters’ voices. The notable exceptions to this are Riddick, voiced by Vin Diesel; Imam, voiced by Keith David; and the Mercs’ leader, voiced by Julia Fletcher. It is possible that this is more a product of poor voice acting than the encoded audio, but the aforementioned three characters aside, most of the other characters in the film sound harsh and almost computerized.

    Finally, although the LFE channel does reinforce the feature’s action sequences and electronica-influenced score a bit, I have to say that I found bass response to be under-whelming as well. Quite simply, there just wasn’t enough “oomph”. Well, at least this soundtrack is consistent in its mediocrity…but in my mind this mix represents a missed opportunity to create an enveloping audio experience for those watching the film.





    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    From Pitch Black to The Chronicles of Riddick: Bridging the Gap
    “Bridging the Gap” is a decent 8-minute featurette that delves into Riddick’s transition from the relatively low-budget sci-fi/horror flick Pitch Black to its “event film” action-adventure follow-up, The Chronicles of Riddick. More specifically, actor Vin Diesel and writer/director David Twohy walk about documenting the time period between the two feature films, and about the effort made to make The Chronicles of Riddick a distinctly different film from Pitch Black.

    Subsequently, a brief interview with Peter Chung provides some insight into the different aspects of creating Dark Fury, and illustrates the difficulties inherent in directing an animated feature.


    Animatic to Animation
    This featurette is a magnificent addition to the disc, and a must watch for anybody that is even marginally interested in how an animated feature is put together. Essentially, what we have here is a feature length presentation of the film’s storyboard drawings, with only the dialogue on top of them. There are a few color drawings, but most are in black and white.

    Some of the drawings are a bit crude, but it is evident that the filmmakers put a lot of effort into creating this animatic version of the film. Bottom line, this is a fascinating look at how the initial drawings provide the foundation for the final, fully animated version to be built upon.


    Into the Light
    Clocking in at just over 5 minutes, “Into the Light” is the least impressive bonus featurette on the disc. Essentially, it is nothing more than a garden-variety EPK preview for The Chronicles of Riddick, which features very brief cast and crew interviews, and a smattering of behind-the-scenes footage. Yawn…


    Peter Chung – The Mind of an Animator
    Also running about five minutes, “The Mind of an Animator” consists of excerpts from an interview with renowned animator Peter Chung, of Animatrix and Aeon Flux fame. Though there is not enough time for Chung to get into too much depth, this featurette provides a brief overview of the animation process, and offers viewers a look at some of the concept art for Dark Fury.

    What I found most interesting were Chung’s comments on filmmaking in general, how he brings the divergent parts of the animation team together, and the impact technology (i.e. CGI) has had on the world of animation. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, the featurette is too short for Peter to go into much detail on any of these topics, but for people with a more limited knowledge of animation (like myself), it is still worth the investment of five minutes!


    NOTE: The disc kicks off with skip-able previews for the Knight Rider – Season One DVD set and the DVD re-release of Pitch Black.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Movie: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Given that it really is not necessary for people to see Dark Fury before taking in The Chronicles of Riddick, and its disappointing overall presentation, I am hard pressed to recommend anything more than a rental for this title. Although the story is decent, it is also a very short film, and I think the combination of CG animation and hand drawn characters creates a contrast that may be distracting for some viewers.

    On the other hand, there are some really good extras on this disc, particularly the excellent “Animatic to Animation”, which is a must watch for fans of animation. It really makes me wish I could draw more than stick figures! [​IMG] Anyway, all silliness aside, I really can’t see anyone giving the film itself too many spins, so I will have to reiterate my recommendation for a rental – at most.


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    For $13.95CDN I couldn't pass this one up. Especially since it comes with a coupon for the Chronicles of Riddock which I planned on seeing anyway.

    Kevin
     
  3. Mike~Sileck

    Mike~Sileck Supporting Actor

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    I got it for 10 bux .. but i didnt get any ticket for CoR ... only an ad for Pitch Black...interesting

    Mike
     
  4. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Mike,

    If I am not mistaken, the ticket to see COR was supposed to be in the Pitch Black DVD re-release, not Dark Fury. All I had in my review copy was an ad for the Pitch Black re-release and Chronicles of Riddick novel.

    Happy movie watching!!!


    Regards,

    Jason
     
  5. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    I thought the trailer looked good, but initially passed as I thought it would be on the same level as theat dullan Helsing prequel. Maybe I'll pick it up now....
     
  6. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    I thought the trailer looked good, but initially passed as I thought it would be on the same level as theat dullan Helsing prequel. Maybe I'll pick it up now....
     
  7. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    I got the ticket for CoR, too.
     
  8. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

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    I got the ticket for CoR, too.
     
  9. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Just saw CoR[​IMG] [​IMG] . Excellent DVD in the making.

    Kevin
     
  10. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Just saw CoR[​IMG] [​IMG] . Excellent DVD in the making.

    Kevin
     

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