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THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Unrated Director's Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Karl Urban, Colm Feore, Linus Roache, Yorick van Wageningen, Alexa Davalos, Nick Chinlund, Judi Dench
Director: David Twohy
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2004

"Remember your favorite game?"

"Who's the Best Killer?"

"Let's play."

Film ***1/2

Every year there is at least one movie that didn't seem to meet expectations at the box office, or please any of the critics, that is very much worth defending. This year's candidate is the enthralling sci-fi epic, The Chronicles of Riddick.

We were first introduced to the title character in the creepy and well made sci-fi thriller, Pitch Black, more than four years ago. That movie turned out to be a surprise hit, made for a relatively small budget of $20 million and recouping around $40 million.

This time around, writer/director David Twohy has been given a much larger budget and plentiful creative control for a continuation into the world of the Riddick character. The result is a non stop ride of an action adventure, like its predecessor, but with a larger scope, stunning visual effects, and even something of a worthy story to spare. It saddens me that we probably won't be seeing a continuing franchise.

As far as science fiction action adventures go, Riddick is a milestone entry in my book. When I say the movie is science fiction, I mean straight up sci-fi and nothing less. This is a movie that creates an original universe, complete with origins all its own and uniquely original character creations that I'm sure even the likes of George Lucas would appreciate, because for once it feels as if his Star Wars franchise wasn't knocked off in any way.

And then…there's Vin Diesel, back in the signature role that made him into a pivotal action movie presence. There's no question about it, the role of Riddick was, and continues to be Diesel's finest hour in the movies. He owns this role to the fullest, making the character of Riddick the ultimate bad guy to root for even since Schwarzenegger in the original Terminator.

The story picks up five years after Pitch Black, as the escaped convict Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) still finds himself on the lam. This time around, he's pursued by high priced bounty hunters known as "mercs", led by a renegade named Toombs (Nick Chinlund). The price on Riddick's head has gone up to 1.5 million.

After eluding his captors, Riddick makes a return to visit his old chum, Inam (Keith David), who put the price on Riddick's head. It isn't too long until Riddick is faced with an even deadlier matter. A diabolical race of beings known as the Necromongers have arrived on the very planet Riddick has found himself on.

The Necromongers are a superior race of beings; warmongers bent on converting anyone and everyone they come across. They are led by the nearly-invincible Lord Marshall (Colm Feore), who preaches to people that his way of life is a much safer one. Anyone who doesn't convert at his request will have their soul completely removed from their body. It's too bad for the Necromongers that they happen to run into Riddick, who bows to no man.

What follows is an endlessly enthralling array of action and dazzling special effects sequences, as Riddick attempts to elude both the grasp of the Necromongers, and the hired "mercs" who are trying to nab him. A reencounter with the mercs leads Riddick to a chance reunion with Jack, the young girl disguised as a boy in the first movie, who's now grown into a beautifully defensive woman named Kyra (Alexa Davalos).

Although it maybe true that special effects tend to dominate most of the movies they're in, it's refreshing to see something like The Chronicles of Riddick, where in which case the makers have made terrifically inventive use of the visuals at their disposal. There's something to be awe struck by in just about every single frame of the film. The initial Necromonger invasion sequence is absolutely jaw dropping, as is a scene late in the movie where Riddick must elude blazing sunlight to prevent getting burned to death.

Was this movie too sci-fi for a mainstream movie audience? Probably, which is also why it wasn't able to find the huge summer audience it was looking for, and deserved. However, I admire The Chronicles of Riddick even more because of that notion.

Just like Star Wars and The Matrix before it, here's a sci-fi epic that is willing to create its own rules, its own characters, and its very own environment. You might call me crazy, but I think The Chronicles of Riddick, along with its predecessor, deserves to be in the same league as those aforementioned movies.

Video ****

I saw this movie in its theatrical run, and I remember it being one of the best theatrical presentations I'd seen in a long time, and this groundbreaking DVD presentation matches the theater performance a hundred percent. Just as Pitch Black was one of the most outstanding DVD presentations of its time, the same can ultimately be said for the DVD presentation of The Chronicles of Riddick. Universal has put together quite simply one of the most outstanding video transfers I've ever experienced, pure and simple. The level of detail displayed in the anamorphic picture is one that is truly a treat for the visual senses. I needn't even need to inform you of how amazing the visual and special effects appear. This has no doubt got my vote for video performance of the year!

Audio ****

Likewise for the audio, which is nothing short of astonishing! You'll recall the amazing digital audio displayed on the Pitch Black disc. Well, as outstanding as that disc was, don't be surprised if you find the 5.1 mix on The Chronicles of Riddick to easily surpass it. The sound quality is mind blowing at every possible turn. This is one of those audio presentations that does nothing short of making you feel like you're there amongst all the action. The overall level of detail and surround sound is something to be rivaled on just about every remaining DVD release this year. It's that incredible. Music score, action, effects, and dialogue delivery all get high scores in what is certain to be the top sounding disc for 2004!

Features ****

Universal's exclusive Unrated Director's Cut release includes a futuristic level of extras, starting off with a commentary track with writer/director David Twohy and actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos. Also, there is 5 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes, several featurettes including "Riddick's Worlds", where Vin Diesel takes you on a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the sets of the movie, an Interactive 360 Degree View of 8 sets from the film, as well as "A Virtual Guide to The Chronicles Of Riddick", and "Toomb's Chase Log", a feature that actually serves as the pathway to the opening duel between Toombs and Riddick. Lastly, there's "Riddick Insider Facts on Demand", where you can get scene-specific background facts and trivia displayed on-screen in real time as you watch the movie.

Summary:

The Chronicles of Riddick is a larger than life, badass extravaganza, packed with an enormous level of thrills, purely awesome special effects, and the extremely cool, menacing presence of Vin Diesel in the role he was born to play. In addition, the movie has earned its status as one of the top DVD releases of the year!

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