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Back in 2000, director David Twohy introduced us to the anti-hero, Riddick, in the gritty sci-fi horror Pitch Black. Starring rising star Vin Diesel, the movie was a modest success, outperforming the expectations for a relatively low-budget feature. Four years later and, with a cash injection from a major studio, Twohy and Diesel have offered us a sequel, with the hope of creating a long-running franchise...

Chronicles of Riddick, The
Film
A new species threatens to enslave the galaxy. Known as the Necromongers, a half-dead army of warriors, they plan to convert all races to their breed, or destroy them if they resist (think Star Trek's Borg). Fortunately, as is the way with these things, a prophecy exists which spells the end of the war (think The Matrix). A ghost-like being known as Aereon (Judi Dench) believes that one man is the key to the prophecy. That man is wanted criminal Riddick (Vin Diesel), who is still being pursued across the galaxy by various parties (think Star Wars). While Riddick can battle most enemies, he soon discovers that he can't fight his own destiny and, reluctantly enlisted to the cause, he prepares to face the Necromongers...

With the re-branding of Pitch Black as ‘another chronicle’ and an onslaught of new media (animation Dark Fury and computer game Escape from Butcher Bay), it was pretty hard to avoid Riddick in 2004. Rather than concentrating on these separate projects, one wishes that the producers had focused purely on this, the centrepiece of this fledging franchise.

Pitch Black was not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it completed the limited goals of a low-budget flick by having a gritty and unique style of its own.  Chronicles, meanwhile, is something very different; a bloated movie made to appeal to a mainstream audience. Watering down the elements that made Pitch Black stand out, what we have instead of a fitting follow-up, is a self-important, but strangely half-hearted, film that cobbles together elements of other franchises and dumps Diesel's Riddick into the proceedings. The outcome is a sprawling mess of a movie that deserved to go unnoticed at the cinema.

If you’re looking for a chief culprit for this film’s failings, look no further than the story. Bizarrely changing the genre from sci-fi horror to fantasy, and meandering through a bunch of unremarkable set-pieces, the plot is full of holes and the narrative is too undeveloped to hold the attention. Don’t expect to get a good idea of just who Riddick is, either. This is one of the sequels that assumes you’ve seen part one, and plunges head-first into the action without a second’s thought for such filmic staples as characterisation.

Chronicles of Riddick, The
Things might be helped if there was one likeable character in the film’s runtime, but, alas, there’s not one to be found. Of course Riddick, as the typical anti-hero, is who we should be rooting for, but he’s not so much an anti-hero as an anti-character. In a conscious desire to not alienate the mainstream audience, Riddick’s mantle as a deadly killer has been severely diluted. Where we once had a man wrestling with his inner demons, we now have a bloke who just seems to be a bit grumpy. Diesel’s one-note performance fails to make him three-dimensional and further irritation is the fact that no-one seems to ever come close to threatening his life. You could say the same thing about James Bond but at least 007 has charm, style and an Aston Martin. In contrast, Riddick has one vacant expression and some dodgy contact lenses.

The best comparison I can give for Chronicles of Riddick is Alien Resurrection, a similar misfire that failed to understand the appeal of its prequels. While you may be content to sit this movie out to the end credits, don’t expect to remember it in a week’s time.

Video
Universal delivers a pleasing transfer for The Chronicles of Riddick, which is presented in 235:1 anamorphic widescreen. The frequent moments of shadow and darkness are handled exceptionally well, while the different colours are presented with good contrast and clarity. There's an occasional lack of sharpness in those scenes heavily dominated by special effects, but one assumes that this is more the fault of the CGI team than the producers of the DVD.

Audio
Presented in Dolby 5.1, this is an excellent audio mix with the frequent action scenes handled exceptionally well. There's a pleasing bass to the numerous explosions and dialogue is clear and concise. Its only fault is a lack of ambition concerning spatial effects with a minimal amount of direction indicated by the speakers.

Chronicles of Riddick, The
Extras
Just when you thought that region two viewers were getting the same deal as those in region one, The Chronicles of Riddick arrives without the commentary track that was to be found on the US disc. This means that a rather lack-lustre bunch of extras becomes all the more disappointing.

Riddick Insider Facts on Demand is a trivia track to you and me. Mostly dull stuff but there's the occasional nugget of interesting information.

Toomb's Chase Log is a pretty lame featurette that, with the aid of scripted diary entries read by actor Nick Chunlund, explores the events leading to the first scene of the film. This is a pointless exercise that is further hampered by a so-so script and leaden vocal work.

Vin Diesel makes an enthusiastic, if slightly under-rehearsed, host for a tour of the set. If you fancy dispensing with his services, you can go on a Virtual Tour, which is nowhere near as impressive as it sounds. It's merely a group of connected photographs which will appeal only to those viewers with a strong interest in set design. The fact that the accompanying audio track must reset every time you view a different angle is also a minor nuisance.

Visual Effects Revealed is your standard technical featurette, although the insight is limited considering it stretches to just over five minutes.

Supposedly an attempt to expand the mythology of the film by providing back-stories to the locations and species in the movie, the Virtual Guide is a nicely presented featurette with clips accompanied by narration. It's a good idea, but will do little to enhance your enjoyment of the main feature.

The Xbox playable demo will only be of use to those people with the right equipment, but if you're blessed with the Microsoft console, you should probably give this a try as it has garnered impressive marks from various reviews. In contrast, the DVD-Rom content, never the most exciting of special features, is probably not worth the effort.  

Finally, we have a fairly small collection of Trailers for other Universal features.

Chronicles of Riddick, The
Overall
Good audio and video quality can do little to turn this disc into something that is worthy of your attention. Uninspiring extras coupled with a very forgettable movie means this is strictly for fans of Vin Diesel and those few viewers still rooting for the central character. The Chronicles can end here, please.


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