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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/14/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/13/2014
Hollywood always seems to be getting involved in weird trends, and we can probably all name the one which perplexes us the most. One which baffles me is the belated sequel. Unlike any other industry, those who make movies seems to know about striking when the iron is hot -- simply look at how many horror sequels have come out within 18 months (or much less) of the original being released. However, we occasionally get that movie likeIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Tron: Legacy which leave us wondering why they waited so long to make the films. Riddick comes nine years after the last time which that character graced the screen. While that time-frame may pale in comparison to other late sequels, it's enough of a gulf to create bewilderment in the viewer.
Riddick takes place following the events seen in The Chronicles of Riddick. Fugitive, warrior, and all-around bad guy Riddick (Vin Diesel) has been left to die on a hostile alien world. After nursing himself back to health, learning the dangers of the area, and taming a dingo (I'm not making that up), Riddick realizes that it won't be long before the region becomes uninhabitable. He finds a bounty hunter outpost and sends a distress call, hoping to find a way off of the planet. This beacon identifies Riddick and very soon Santana (Jordi Molla) and his band of bounty hunters arrive to capture their quarry. But, another team, lead by Johns (Matt Nable), also land, and the two parties begin to quarrel over who has the claim on Riddick. Meanwhile, Riddick is laying traps and stalking the groups so that he can escape before the monsters come.
You saw The Chronicles of Riddick, right? Yeah, me neither. (I know I tried to watch it, but didn't get very far.) When the very impressive Pitch Black was released in 2000, it became somewhat of a cult hit. After The Fast and the Furious became a hit, parent company Universal wanted to bank on Vin Diesel, so The Chronicles of Riddick was greenlit. The film cost a reported $105 million to make, but brought in just a tad over half of that at the box office. (Maybe they should have called it Pitch Black 2.) The movie also received a drubbing from critics. However, if the extras included here are to be believed, that film developed a cult following as well, and the demanded the return of Riddick. Well, I hope that the fans enjoyed Riddick, because I don't think that casual viewers will.
With Riddick, Writer/Director David Twohy, who has helmed all three films, has made a very odd hybrid movie. In a wise move, Twohy has brought back elements from Pitch Black, such as monsters and bounty hunters. As in the first film, this new planet is crawling with baddies who have specific limitations, and once Riddick learns these, he knows how to fight them. We also get the dimension where cocky, heavily armed semi-soldiers quickly learn that they are no match for Riddick. My favorite touch was how the mountains on this planet look suspiciously like the monsters from Pitch Black. However, in an effort to appease those fans of the second movie, Twohy also bookends Riddick with references to The Chronicles of Riddick which only muddy the (monster filled) waters.
Even with the callbacks to Pitch Black, Riddick simply is not a good movie. Riddick is alone on the planet for over 30 minutes, where he's learning the landscape and taming dingoes. (Again, not making that up.) This section is incredibly boring and is not the way to draw hesitant viewers into a film. Once the bounty hunters arrive, the movie becomes a very rote action film where tough guys talk tough, but not much happens. Twohy really makes a misstep with the introduction of Johns, who is the father of a character from Pitch Black. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen Pitch Black in years, so I had no idea about whom they were speaking until I looked it up and saw that it was Cole Hauser. A) Why didn't they show a clip from Pitch Black to remind us? (Rights issues?) and B) Why didn't they get Wings Hauser for this role? The other issue with the film is the character of Riddick himself. The entire point of this movie is Riddick's attempts to survive on and leave this planet. However, this assumes that we care about Riddick, which I, for one, don't. The movie presents him as an anti-hero, but when you get down to it, he's a villain, so I want him to get captured. Of course, all of the bounty hunters were so annoying and stereotypical, I really didn't care if they lived either.
As someone who knows a little something about the love of cult movies and the longing to see a series continued (Phantasm V anyone?), I appreciate that Twohy and Diesel would go out on a limb to make Riddick. But they could have made a better movie. While the visual effects are excellent, the action and acting are flat and the elements which aren't recalls to Pitch Black have been cribbed from other films. Perhaps Riddick needs a change of scenery for more than just his survival.
Riddick could have easily starred Cesar Millan on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The lack of grain is notable given the desert backdrops of most scenes. We don't get any bold colors here, but the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as we can see textures on items. The depth is nice as well and the actors are quite separate from the backgrounds The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix takes good advantage of the movie's elements, especially things like the wind, which moves through the surround sound speakers. The surround effects are nicely detailed and there are several moments where individual sounds stand out. The stereo effects are good as well and show good separation. The subwoofer effects are stellar, offering deep bass without distortion.
The Riddick Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extra features. "The Twohy Touch" (6 minutes) is a brief featurette which examines the thought process behind making a third film -- why it was made and what the goals were. "Riddickian Tech" (10 minutes) examines the designs of the spaceships, vehicles, and weapons in the film. This includes visual FX details and planning designs. "Vin's Riddick" (9 minutes) looks at not only Diesel's involvement as an actor in the trilogy, but as a producer who was determined to get the third movie made. We learn more about the actors and characters who comprise the mercenaries, as well as their look, in "Meet the Mercs" (11 minutes). Twohy talks about the look of the planet and the sky in "The World of Riddick" (11 minutes). This includes some production paintings. "Riddick: Blindsided" is a 5-minute animated short which serves as a sort of prologue to the movie.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long