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THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Blu-ray Edition

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: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes (Theatrical), 135 Minutes (Unrated)
Release Date: March 31, 2009

“You keep what you kill.”

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. In 2004, the lead candidate was 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 nonstop 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 may be 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 ****

A movie like this is exactly what Blu-ray was made for! The DVD release for this movie delivered what was one of the best looking presentations I had ever seen in the format. But on Blu-ray, I’ve gotten one of the most spectacular presentations I’ve seen, PERIOD! The many different kinds of futuristic set pieces appear twice as astonishing, and the visual effects are even more tremendous to look at than they were before. The movie is comprised of many color schemes, all of which provide a stunning treat for the eye. A phenomenal looking presentation, to say the least!

Audio ****

Whereas the original DVD release contained what I found to be the best sounding release of that year, the Blu-ray release manages to be even more explosive on the ears. The DTS HD track supplies a most stupendous piece of sound for the kind of movie that really deserves it. With the countless action sequences, epic-level set pieces involving armies of people, and the many special effects, this is one presentation where you will feel practically engulfed in all the action. Bottom line; if you’ve just invested in a Blu-ray player, then this is one release you should instantly take advantage of!

Features ****

Even if you happen to own the original DVD copy, you will most certainly want to take advantage of the movie’s upgrade to Blu-ray. For one thing, the Blu-ray happens to include both the Theatrical version and the Unrated Director’s Cut on one disc (though I’d prefer you stick with the latter of the two). Also, Universal’s exclusive U-Control feature allows you to access both a Picture-in-Picture look at behind the scenes footage while the movie is in play, as well as a look at the entire Riddick mythology. In addition, all of the extras from the DVD release have been ported over to this release, including an introduction by writer/director David Twohy, a commentary with Twohy and actors Karl Urban and Alexa Davalos, Deleted Scenes with optional director commentary, and various behind the scenes featurettes including “Virtual Guide To The Chronicles Of Riddick”, “Toombs' Chase Log”, “Visual Effects Revealed”, “Creation Of New Mecca”, “Riddick Rises” and “Keep What You Kill”. Lastly, there’s also the BD Live option where additional stuff can be accessed online.

Summary:

The Chronicles of Riddick remains 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 his most signature role. In addition, the movie has been made even more awesome by way of a fantastic Blu-ray presentation!

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