Thanks to the overwhelming success of Peter Jackson’s extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the “Unrated Director’s Cut” DVD market has been booming. This time around we get that version of that box office sensation The Chronicles of Riddick. Okay, so it wasn’t a huge hit, but that won’t stop Universal’s home video department from capitalizing on the new DVD trend.
I wasn’t a fan of The Chronicles of Riddick when the film opened in theatres this past June. There were things missing, and half the flick was way over my head. Things just happened and one was left to assume most of the time. There were too many unanswered questions. Now after revisiting the film, with fifteen minutes of additional footage restored, I can safely say that now I like it. Why they didn’t stick with this version to begin with is beyond me.
The film centers around the galaxy’s fall to the Necromongers, a religious cult who lay waste to all that will not join their cause. The planet of Helion Prime is the next target for the mighty hoard, and the only thing that can stop this evil from expanding is that of another form of evil. Enter Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel), a serial killer on the run from his past and isolated on a snowy world. Riddick rushes to Helion Prime when he learns an acquaintance of his, a holy man by the name of Imam (Keith David), sold him out for a bounty; when in truth it was just to get him there to stop the religious coup. The rogue killer refuses to fight and carries on his merry way, that is until the Necros make the fight very personal. This leads Riddick on a journey of both self discovery and self preservation as he must follow his path toward destiny.
I that in order to defeat this evil he was presented with, he has to encounter his past. The middle of the movie is spent away from the Necros and Helion Prime on the prison planet of Crematoria. Riddick is brought there by bounty hunter Toombs (Nick Chinlund) and comes back in contact with feisty Kyra (Alexa Davalos), who has come a long way and grown up since her days as Jack in Pitch Black. His regret and his fear: He must conquer them both, or have them stripped away. It is only then that Riddick must stop the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore) of the Necromongers. It is his birth right. This new version fleshes out everything; there are no unanswered questions anymore.
The fifteen minutes returned into the film add a lot to the story. Before, it was just the random adventures of a cunning beefy guy. Now there is more depth in Riddick’s character arch. For instance, the new character of Sheira (Kristen Lehman) as a voice from Riddick’s home world of Furia, comes to Riddick so that he can understand his past, and who he is. Also added in are a few juicier fight scenes and more from the tongue-friendly couple of Lord and Dame Vaako (Karl Urban & Thandie Newton)
The Chronicles of Riddick both takes itself a little too seriously and evokes loads of camp, kind of like Stargate meets Flash Gordon. Surprisingly this combination doesn’t make it a train wreck. Sure there are parts that are little willy nilly, but over all the film - this version - isn’t half bad. I would most definitely be interested in seeing further Chronicles.
If you’re a fan of the “series”, it’s better to stick with this director’s cut rather than the theatrical edition. If you haven’t seen the flick at all yet I say choose this version first and foremost, because now there is a solid story worth being told, and it’s actually quite good.
Other than the fact that there are fifteen minutes off additional footage cut back into the film there a bunch of extras on this disc. No big behind the scenes featurettes and in depth looks into the production like other “extended editions” though.
There is a choice that can be made watching this DVD, you can “convert” or “fight”. To “convert” will lead you to a DVD menu veered more towards the Necromongers, while to “fight” will have more Riddick-like menus, as well as an easter egg with actor Colm Feore on set learning how to take a kick.
Five minutes of additional deleted scenes are on this disc, all with optional director commentary. All were understandably edited out. There is an alternate version of how we meet Riddick on the snowy world of Planet UV 6, quite tame and boring in comparison to how it ended up. Also there is an alternate scene where rather than being locked up with the hellhounds in Crematoria, Toombs meets his untimely fate just before the convicts and inmates make a mad dash for the hanger on the surface.
Speaking of Toombs, we get a long little feature on the disc entitled “Toombs Chase Log”. The little video diary accounts for the adventures of Toombs all before we meet up with him in pursuit of Riddick at the beginning of the film. Quite funny to watch, as DVD features are not subject to MPAA ridicule. Look for plenty of grizzled foul language to let loose on your ear drums in this feature.
The “Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick” is an interactive guide that introduces and explains the vast cultures and planets that inhabit the Riddick universe, all narrated by the film’s stars.
“Riddick’s Worlds” are a series of 360º images around the sets of the film in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Also we get a brief guided tour of the set with Vin Diesel.
If you are nothing like me and you actually own an Xbox, then you can take advantage of a feature I myself couldn’t. The DVD includes a playable version of the game “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay”. Let me know how it is will ya?
Writer/director David Twohy, Alexa Davalos, and Karl Urban provide a global group commentary for the film. Twohy and Davalos are in London while Urban is in New Zealand, and through the miracle of technology they comment together in the commentary track. The three talk about the characters, which shots and which lines they like, and how much Vin Diesel is a cool guy.
“Riddick Insider Facts On Demand” plays along with the movie like VH1's Pop-up Video. Not so much “On Demand” as it is “While You Watch”. The various little facts are of little things like how long Keith David worked on the movie to more specific things concerning the histories of each world. All the while making sure to pimp the Xbox game and the direct to DVD animated prequel The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury.
All the extras are pretty good. They are entertaining and informative, however it feels like there is so much more to tell. There could’ve been an extra disc here with cast interviews, behind the scenes stuff, featurettes on effects shots and things like that. I mean this DVD does the job but it seems so empty at the same time. Then again I’ll bet money that if Universal green lights another chapter in the Riddick saga, two weeks before it hits theatres we’ll see a three disc Chronicles of Riddick Ultimate Edition. You can’t win.