The two transfers, side by side, stand up as being almost identical. Twohy himself comments on how the additional scenes are of a poorer quality but, in my opinion, you can barely tell the difference. As for the rest of the picture, you would be hard-pushed to distinguish the two versions. Damage-wise, both transfers have no print damage: no scratches, glitches or anything else that might hamper your viewing. They are perfect renditions of a 2004 film that simply looks fantastic.
Commentary. Recorded in London with the Writer-Director David Twohy and actress Alexa Davalos, they are joined by telephone conference with Karl Urban. It is a very amicable affair that is the perfect example of a good choice in people to do commentary: an informative individual (the director), a funny anecdotal individual (Urban) and a slightly nervous, energetic, fresh individual (Davalos). They all contribute well, and it's probably one of the best commentaries I have heard in a while. They discuss many aspects of the film's production: the cast and their great voices, the fantastic effects and the budget that caused some cuts and some re-shoots. Twohy explains the new scenes and the new experience, Urban talks about Thandie Newton's dresses and his own stupid haircut, always keeping the chat jovial, and Alexa divulges how hard it was to work on such a big film after what she had done before. Highlights include Twohy's impressions of various cast members - he does an uncanny Nick Chinlund impression (Toombs) - and the background into the different characters and planets. Well worth a listen, if you appreciate the whole Riddick universe.
There is a Making-Of section amidst the extra features option that is split into three distinct categories: Hell and Back, Keep What You Kill and A New Future. The first runs at fifteen minutes and discusses the bridging of the Riddick saga, the second runs at eighteen minutes and looks at the new bad guys - the Necromongers, and the third looks at the future for the Riddick Universe. All of them have contributions from the main cast and crew - including Vin Diesel of course - and they are fairly interesting but a little unnecessary if you have seen and followed all of the Riddick movies already.
There are three deleted scenes. Aereon and Imam on Helion (90s) is an unnecessary addition where little happens. Original Planet U.V. 6 (3 min) is quite a good scene - the original opening which was cut because Twohy wanted a better opening. Shame because this one looks more serious - like he might have actually killed some people. It's a nice scene with Riddick facing off against Toombs. It also shows the Merc-ship's originally intended sub-ice capabilities. Toombs on Crematoria (3m) sees a conclusion to Riddick's encounter with Toombs on Crematoria, and was taken out purely for budgetary reasons. It is a shame this was cut but I guess we don't need any more shots of the Hell Hounds in this film - those Hell Hounds are still distinctly Tony The Tiger to me.
360 degree virtual tour. Vin Diesel takes you on a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the Riddick sets with an interactive 360 degree view of 8 different sets from the film. There are two options here. Firstly you can view a 3 minute tour with Vin himself where he runs around the sets: New Mecca, Crematoria, Basilica, Throne, Quasi Grotto etc. really quickly going over them in context. It's a ridiculously short featurette, and Vin is a little too enthusiastic about the sets not to come across as a bit sarcastic. Still, it's nice to see him contribute here. Alternatively, you get the option to select 360 degree views of 8 different locations: The Basilica Centre Floor, Helion Fountain Square, Crematoria Main Hangar, The Lord Marshal's Theme, Imam's Living Room, Quasi's Grotto, Planet UV6 and the Slam Centre. This is a nice but limited option.
There are also Biographies of all of the major cast and crew, unfortunately in Japanese only.
On the same disc as the theatrical cut we get the following:
Toombs chase log. Here you get the option to “Track the hunt for Riddick from bounty-hunter Toombs' perspective and follow the action leading up to the opening scene of the movie.” This is through watching a futuristic computer log with digitised images whilst several (25) audio excerpts play. There is the option to fast forward, but it is quite nice to listen to the 30 second segments as Toombs explains how he tracked Riddick from his previous mercenary job, got involved with the Russians and how he recruited his different teams. There isn't a fantastic amount of information here, but it's still a nice feature that follows on from the chase log on the Pitch Black DVD.
VFX featurette. This is another all-too-short featurette on the visual effects. Running at 6 minutes, it covers three main aspects: shooting on Crematoria, Aereon and the Hell Hounds. They also briefly dissect the Purifier scene, which is an excellent showcase of the effects used. The visual effects in the movie are superb and they deserve to be explored more fully than just in this brief featurette but, that said, here we get a nice flavour of the effort put in without having too many secrets divulged. The comparison shots between the Visual FX and the final version scenes are particularly good, and there is even a bit of behind the scenes footage thrown into the bargain (amidst far too much film clip footage set to music). The director, along with some of the effects supervisors, provide interview sound bites along the way.
Virtual Guide. This is “An Interactive guide that immerses the viewer into the world of The Chronicles of Riddick from the perspectives of the characters.” When they say 'from the perspectives of the characters' what they mean is that each relevant participant provides a voice commentary for the featurette. It's a shame that they're not seen in person, but I guess it allows them to better stay in character. Here we find about 10 different elements discussed, either by one or two characters from the story (everybody but Vin Diesel makes an appearance). The 10 are: Conquest Icon (Toombs/Nick Chinlund), Crematoria (Kyra/Alexa), Elementals (Aereon/Judi Dench and Dame Vakko/Thandie Newton), Hellion Prime (Imam/Keith David), Planet UV (Toombs), Lord Marshal (The Purifier), Necromonger (Aereon, Dame Vakko), Necropolis (Lord Marshal/Colm Feore), New Mecca (Imam) and the Quasi-Deads (The Purifier). Each one has a 30 second audio snippet explaining, in character, a little bit about the element whilst clips from the movie, along with a bit of concept art, is played on a holo-display for your pleasure.
Daily making-of. This interesting feature enables you to select on-set clips of various crew members talking about their particular days on set. Many days are involved and the navigation system is slightly annoying, but nevertheless innovative.
Interviews. There are also interviews with all of the principle cast and crew talking about their characters (split into five different main characters) and a separate option to chose interviews with Director/Screenwriter David Twohy and Producer Scott Kroope.
Escape From Butcher Bay movie. By far the most interesting new feature with this release is this short movie that basically takes all of the movie sequences from the Butcher Bay and splices them together as a thirty-minute film. Now, I know it's neither as good quality as the main feature, nor as fluid as the well-animated Dark Fury short, but computer games have come a long way over the last few years and it is a good effort. Dark and broody, it exhibits Riddick in much the same light as Pitch Black rather than as the goody-goody that he is in the new movie, and allows you to see some of the many interesting things that happen to him that were hinted at in the later parts of the saga. These involve him getting his eyes done and, obviously, his violent escape. Aside from this Japanese release having almost everything that has come before on previous Riddick releases packed into one set, this movie alone is an argument for double-dipping.
Finally there are several Japanese trailers - three for the main feature itself, one for Pitch Black and one for Dark Fury. Most of them are in English with fixed Japanese subtitles. It should be noted that most of the extra features do have Japanese subtitles but luckily none of them are fixed - so they can be turned off and also that this release appears to have most of the main extras from the previous releases along with some extra material. Notable missing are the facts on demand trivia track and the Xbox game demo, but instead we get extra interviews and featurettes and a wonderful extra movie - chronicling Riddick's adventures in Butcher Bay, which more than makes up for anything missing.
Ok, so Riddick isn't exactly everybody's cup of tea, but if you accept that it's not Pitch Black and enjoy it for the action-adventure-sci-fi that it is, it is actually quite rewarding. The director's cut clearly has the edge, both in terms of story telling and action, but it is always nice to have both versions - and this is the only release so far that has offered this ability. Japan has always been more logical in terms of alternative film versions - as per Leon and a multitude of other films like this one, rather than having two different releases, you get both in one package. To top that off, not only does it include all of the important extra features from the previous releases, but it also has a couple of interesting new ones - including an extra movie to augment the Riddick world. Fantastic. If you like Vin Diesel, you should at least give it a couple of hours' of your time - and if you actually dig the whole Riddick universe, then buy this glorious ultimate release of the film and sit back, enjoy, and wait for the next instalment.
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