L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Chronicles of Riddick (Unrated Directors Cut) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Pitch Black 2")

 

(David Twohy, 2004)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Radar Pictures / One Race Films

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 119 min

Chapters: 28

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 31, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1 (on Theatrical Cut only).

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Theatrical & Director's cuts

• An Introduction by David Twohy (0:45)

• Commentary with Writer/Director David Twohy and Actors Karl Urban & Alexa Davalo

• Deleted Scenes with Commentary by David Twohy (14:06)

• Virtual Guide to Chronicles of Riddick (7:40)

• Toombs' Chase Log (9:56)

• Creation of New Mecca (11:12)

• Riddick Rises (13:26)

• Keep What You Kill (17:30)

• U-Control Picture-in-Picture: cast & crew interviews

• U-Control: Complete Chronicles

• U-Control: Chronicles Compendium

• U-Control: Anatomy of a Fight

• BD-Live 2.0

 

 

The Film: 4
Continuing Universal's voyage through their HD-DVD catalogue for re-release and upgrade where possible onto Blu-ray comes the two big Riddick adventures from the same writer/director thus far: the first, Pitch Black, dating from 2000, and The Chronicles of Riddick from 2004. They are getting a simultaneous release for March 31. I might mention that Dark Fury, a related animated short film, does not appear on either Blu-ray release.

The sequel to Pitch Black clearly identifies Riddick as the antihero of his time. It is now five years later and he remains a hunted man, though for the most part his whereabouts have remained secret until lately. He separated himself from the survivors of the first movie, most disturbingly from Jackie, whom we later learn is imprisoned in the same facility as Riddick was being taken to in the first movie. The Chronicles of Riddick eventually gets around to Riddick's coming to terms about Jackie and his attempt to break her out of that prison.

But long before that, and in what we are led to expect will be the main thrust of the movie, Riddick, one of the last of a race of Furions, finds himself in the middle of a galactic war in which hordes of Necromongers are taking over the planets and enslaving the populations – more like absorbing them in much the same way as the Borg, but with not nearly the intelligence or organic control. What the Necromongers have going for them is a relentless and very effective army and a leader that has visited the Underverse and lived to tell about it. Riddick confronts the head honcho in a style reminiscent of Errol Flynn's Robin Hood – without the deer. They both have the requisite sneer, though Diesel lacks just about everything else.
 

 

 

Compared to Pitch Black we can see where the sequel's much larger budget went: spectacular sets, fanciful costumes, an A-list star (Judi Dench) and one that should be (Thandie Newton ), and more pulse-pounding, more credible – if I may be permitted such use a term – set pieces. Even so, I find the first movie much the more satisfying, partly because it doesn't take itself as seriously, partly because the story maintains focus.


 

Image: 9/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Bathed in deep blues and high intensity golds, The Chronicles of Riddick is nothing if not awesome looking. Let me rephrase that: The Chronicles of Riddick is nothing if not awesome looking, and sounding. The image is clean, artifact-free, boldly black and unabashedly brilliant by turns. If only there was a movie to go with it.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/7
Punchy, bass-laden, crunching dynamics, clear dialogue, music melded perfectly into the effects, immersive surrounds. The escape from the prison is a ride worth taking. There is some serious soundscape management here – boosted in effect by the DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 mix. Crank it up. Knock yourself out.
 

Operations: 8
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point. And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite, delight and confuse.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
The audio commentary is the same as of old – no need to revisit, restore or record anew. And even though similarly expressed as the Extra Features on Pitch Black Blu-ray, the featurettes come across somewhat better – both in terms of content and visuals. Those that appeared in previous video formats in 480p, including the items new to the HD-DVD (Creation of New Mecca, Riddick Rises, and Keep What You Kill ) are here again in the same format. What's new are the U-Control items: Complete Chronicles (lots of trivia about Riddick's universe) and Anatomy of a Fight (images, graphics and text that tell the story behind the story.)

 

 

Bottom line: 6
With the bump to lossless audio and U-Control, this is the total video experience that fans have been waiting for.

Leonard Norwitz
March 14th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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