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Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a loner living in a remote part of the universe, with a bounty on his head but space travelling mercinaries ('merks') who try and collect end up as the hunted. When he gets dragged into the conflict between the aggressive fundamentalist Nacromongers and humans, Riddick's extraordinary skills as a warrior are tested to their limits. In the course of his battles, he is forced to confront his demons.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The title gives us a clue to the filmmakers' aspirations: 'chronicles' are more than just a story. There's grandeur to chronicles, something worth savouring, something written in a larger font. Certainly the production designer has taken this notion to heart, crowding the frames with a combination of old world Earthy elements (from rustic - and rusty - industrial to Middle Eastern) and futurism by way of weapon design. It's a pity the script doesn't; put together with a lack of clarity that negates its cinematic energy, Chronicles of Riddick is a chronically indigestible film occasionally risking ridicule.

It's almost as if it relies on design - both of the visual and production kind. The film is in fact gizmo rich: even the basic attack knives are made like ancient craftsmen may have done, had they money, time and inclination. Sculpture, too, is in the majestic/tribal mould, and the entire film is photographed through what appears to be a nostalgia filter of bronze, with never a spot of white in sight. But plenty of black, or at least dark. The Chronicles of Riddick has taken the Riddick character from Pitch Black (Vin Diesel) and put him into a warring universe of some fine actors mouthing incredibly clumsy lines, and being encouraged to overact.

In this busy universe, Riddick is the classic lone ranger (only nastier), the saviour, the stranger, the man with no name, the anti hero we have to have in post modern cinema. But he has no grace, no wit, no human weaknesses we can relate to. He's been inflated to super size, without the super soul.

With a producer credit, Diesel has no excuse. Indeed, it seems clear that it's a project he has driven, at least as far as the Riddick character is concerned. Laconic, barely willing to put a whole sentence together in one go, Riddick speaks low, in Diesel's wonderfully rich voice. He's so seduced by it, in fact, that all he wants us to hear is his V8-powered grunt of sardonicism before he 'ghosts' another opponent. In the callous language of the film, 'ghosting' enemies is the whole point.

This means lots of action. But director David Towhy miscalculated the outcome of his overriding vision to make every action scene a series of close ups, edited into jump cut frenzy so that we never get any sense of context, physicality of the scene, or even who is doing what to whom. It's all a blur. So much so that when the film isn't its cheesy, regurgitated dialogue-laden soup, it's an eye-glazing gazump which leaves us totally uncaring whether anyone survives the regular massacres. Gawd, it's a long two hours.

Special Features reviewed by Craig Miller:
In lieu of an audio commentary, this single disc features a facts and trivia track which runs for the film's duration. The trivia comes thick and fast for the most part, but there are occasional slow patches, and this film-specific track will only be of interest to those looking for further information on the mythology of the series.

There's also a virtual guide to The Chronicles of Riddick universe which features character voice-overs dubbed over film footage and conceptual art which explains aspects of the film, like the different worlds and the various character species.

The visual effects featurette is the standard DVD fare, terribly short at 7 minutes and equally as vague, and just when you thought it couldn't be any more average, along comes Vin Diesel in the Riddick's World featurette to take you on a tour of the film's sets. It's a little goofy, Vin rabbiting on about the texture and detail of the sets and all, but his enthusiasm means it can be watched with a smile and that makes it a welcome relief. The second part of this feature is a collection of interactive 360-degree views of eight of the film's sets and, quite possibly, could be up for an award as one of the most boring DVD extras ever.

Published December 9, 2004

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Thandie Newton, Dame Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Nick Chinlund

DIRECTOR: David Twohy

SCRIPT: David Twohy & Ken Wheat

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.40:1, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Virtual Guide to The Chronicles of Riddick, Toombs' Chase Log featurette, Riddick Insider trivia track, Visual Effects Revealed featurette, Riddick's Worlds featurette.


DVD RELEASE: December 8, 2004

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