I’ve seen “The Chronicles of Riddick” four times now. The Theatrical version twice and the Unrated Director’s Cut twice. “Why” might you ask? The answer is simple, because it’s a friggin’ great movie! Not only is it epic in scale and scope, it doesn’t retread the same ground as “Pitch Black” and it assumes that the audience is somewhat intelligent.
Now I’ve heard all sorts of criticisms of the movie including Vin Diesel’s performance, (which doesn’t exactly help the movie, but it in no way harms it either) and that the story is unfocused because they keep on jumping from planet to planet (which I retort with – So, is “The Empire Strikes Back” the only movie that can take place on multiple planets?). I think Writer/Director David Twohy puts it better when he offers: “If we are really invested in our characters we should be able to follow them wherever they go and wherever they go to – that’s the movie”.
The movie may have its flaws but they are so minor compared with the obvious love for science fiction and epic storytelling that David Twohy possesses. Here is a Writer/Director who consistently delivers quality genre movies that elevate the material above and beyond their B-level trappings. He does this with great aplomb in Riddick and should certainly be commended for it. This is not some stupid action space fantasy. It has compelling characters in unique situations as well as a magnificent design aesthetic.
As for the DVD, I found the Unrated Director’s Cut intriguing. Before I continue I will offer this one caveat. Don’t be mislead by the “Unrated” label. The additional 15 minutes of footage only technically brings the film to an “R” rating. I can only assume that Universal didn’t want to pony up the money to have this version re-rated by the MPAA, so by law, it has to be labeled “Unrated” (Sorry, no naked Alexa Davalos, folks). Most of the additional footage expands already existing scenes. What you gain by this is a further understanding of the machinations of the Necromonger way. Personally, I thought it was all rather interesting especially the scene of The Purifier (Linus Roache) explaining about the Necromonger theory of conquest to the people of Helion Prime shortly after the planetwide attack.
Another fascinating scene that probably left the Execs scratching their heads is a long distance conversation between Vaako (Karl Urban) and Dame Vaako (Thandie Newton) through the use of the “quasi-dead”. They use these writhing corpses like cellphones and not only is it creepy as all hell, but it perfectly displays Twohy’s understanding that in science fiction you are limited only by your imagination.
One other aspect worth noting is the addition of a new character. Described as a beacon of hope from the planet Furia or as Twohy puts it “Riddick’s spiritual muse”, Shira offers us a further glimpse into Riddick’s past.
As far as the Special Features are concerned, they’re a bit of a mixed bag: The Deleted Scenes are interesting, most notably an alternate version of Toomb’s demise which would have ground the movie to a screeching halt. The 360 degree tour of the sets in Riddick’s World lets you appreciate the incredible visual craftsmanship and the featurette on the Visual Effects doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The other two major features are a Virtual Guide to “The Chronicles of Riddick” which further expounds on the “Whys” and the “Wheres” of the epic universe. Unfortunately, it does so in a rather distracting way. Instead of just presenting the information, it is obscured slightly by a “virtual display projector” at the bottom of the screen. If this sounds confusing, you’ll understand my complaint when you watch it. Toomb’s Chase Log is a Star Trek-like Captain’s Log that charts Toombs’ progress in locating Riddick. It serves as a prequel of sorts and gives us a different perspective. I ultimately found it a tad tedious because I wasn’t captivated by Toombs all that much to begin with. I give credit for trying to be clever with the extras, but Toombs is no Boba Fett if you catch my drift.
The Commentary track is decent, offering some interesting technical as well as performance tidbits. They managed to integrate David Twohy & Alexa Davalos with Karl Urban (who was watching simultaneously from across the globe) via sattelite, but Vin is noticeably absent. It is his movie for crying out loud!
So in conclusion, “The Chronicles of Riddick” rocks whether you want to believe it or not. I suggest if you have seen it before, give this version a chance and watch it with an open mind. Because I believe one day it will find its place in the annals of great sci-fi along with other such late bloomers as “Dune”, “The Thing”, “The Fifth Element”, “Starship Troopers” and “Blade Runner”.