The Chronicles of Riddick DVD will be released Tuesday, but I was fortunate to get an advanced review copy. I had not seen the movie during its theatrical release, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was relatively pleased.
The basic plot isn’t very unusual – a group called the Necromongers, who believe that the “underverse” leads to true life through death, and that all the living beings in this universe need to be cleansed, are hopping from world to world, giving the inhabitants two choices – convert to their beliefs, or die. If they choose the latter, the planet is laid waste. They are lead by the Lord Marshall, who has “traversed the barrier” between life and death and returned – “half alive, half – something else.”
Riddick (Vin Diesel), the anti-hero from Pitch Black, has been in hiding on a frozen planet for five years, but a mercenary named Toombs (Nick Chinlund) tracks him down, apparently with information provided by Imam (played by Keith David, reprising his Pitch Black role) – a deleted scene adds a little sense to this. Riddick escapes again and travels to Helion Prime to see Imam and meets Aereon (Judi Dench), an Air Elemental who hints at Riddick’s past – we learn he is one of the last of the Furions, a warrior race that was practically wiped out, and he may be the only one who can stop the Necromongers – who choose that point to land on Helion Prime.
Along the way, after being captured by Toombs and taken to the Triple-Max Slam (prison) Crematoria, Riddick crosses paths with Kyra (who changed her name from Jack in Pitch Black, along with an actress change, Alexa Davalos), who herself has been a prisoner after joining a Merc group.
Plot/Story: As I said, the basic plot isn’t that unusual – I’ve seen it a number of times before – Krull and Battle Beyond the Stars just offhand. The execution of it is decent, but average. 2 out of our 0-5 scale.
Character: We find out a bit more about Riddick here – the aforementioned Furions, more of which you find out from the deleted scenes. We learn more of the backstory to this “universe”, which is always a plus to me – I like large, well thought out universes. Kyra’s character certainly has changed, becoming a tough girl that could even give Riddick a challenge. For this type of movie, not bad. 4/5
Visuals/Effects: Often dark, but with some stunning shots. I especially liked the sunrise effect on Crematoria, along with the heat wave. 4/5
DVD Extras: This is the “Unrated Director’s Cut”, which seems to be synonymous nowadays with any extended version. David Twohy gives a brief intro explaining the new scenes being spliced in and the possibility of a noticeable cut, but I didn’t notice any specifically. Also, when you load the DVD, you get an initial menu with only two choices – “Convert” and “Fight”, with no explanation. As far as I can tell, both lead to the main menu and submenus, but with a different visual interface.
The few deleted scenes add a little backstory. There is a small encyclopedia with narration from several characters, including a few entries that give different viewpoints. There is a short behind-the-scenes feature with Vin Diesel showing the sets (he seems very different out of character), and a “bounty hunter log” of Toombs gearing up for his hunt for Riddick, plus the usual director’s commentary track. Probably par for DVDs of this type. 3/5
Overall: I was pleasantly surprised, given that I expected this to be simply an action-flick vehicle for the star. The backstory could use some more work, but perhaps that is for another story… 3/5
Total: 3.2 out of 5 stars. Enjoyable for a sci-fi action flick.