Riddick

Director: David Twohy
Screenplay: David Twohy (based on characters created by Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat and David Twohy)
Stars: Vin Diesel (Riddick), Jordi Mollà (Santana), Matt Nable (Boss Johns), Katee Sackhoff (Dahl), Dave Bautista (Diaz), Bokeem Woodbine (Moss), Raoul Trujillo (Lockspur), Conrad Pla (Vargas), Danny Blanco Hall (Falco), Noah Danby (Nunez), Neil Napier (Rubio), Nolan Gerard Funk (Luna), Karl Urban (Vaako), Andreas Apergis (Krone), Keri Hilson (Santana’s Prisoner)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2013
Country: U.S. / U.K.
Riddick Blu-ray
Touchy FeelyWhen we hear Vin Diesel, in his signature rumbling baritone, say in voice-over narration at the beginning of Riddick, “Don’t know how many times I’ve been crossed off the list and left for dead,” it is impossible to know if he is speaking in character or for himself. Back in 2000 when the character of Richard Riddick was introduced in the clever sci-fi/horror thriller Pitch Black, Diesel was hardly a household name. He was primarily known for his brief supporting role as the tough, doomed Pvt. Caparzo in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), so his performance as Riddick, a smart, cunning murder convict with the unusual ability to see in the dark, was an eye-opener, an introduction to a next generation of action heroes who merged the intense physicality of the Stallone-Schwarzenegger school of hardbody power with moral complexity and intellectual dexterity. Two years later, after the release of The Fast and the Furious (2001) and xXx (2002), Diesel was one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, although his star began to fade just as quickly, partially because of the lackluster response to the would-be epic Pitch Black sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick (2004).

However, in recent years Diesel has clamored back to the top of the pop culture heap, largely on the continued success of the Fast and Furious franchise, which is now in its sixth installment with a seventh and eighth on the way. Thus, it isn’t too surprising that he would want to return to the character that first put him in the spotlight, a character that means enough to him that he wrangled ownership of it away from Universal Pictures in exchange for appearing in more Fast and Furious sequels (a win-win for Diesel, as it turns out). Appropriately titled simply Riddick, the new film has no grand aspirations or mythical ideas; instead, writer/director David Twohy, who helmed the previous two films, as well, gets back to basics, returning the character to his B-movie roots in a stripped-down tale of competition and survival.

For reasons that are mostly unexplained (perhaps they have something to do with what happened in The Chronicles of Riddick, but I don’t remember that film’s long-winded narrative well enough to say for sure), Riddick has been severely wounded and left for dead on a desolate planet populated by prehistoric-looking creatures. The opening 20 minutes of the film provide us with a nicely sustained survival narrative in which Riddick must fight off the planet’s various denizens, all of whom want to peck, maul, or otherwise eat him, to find shelter and patch himself up. There is virtually no dialogue, but Diesel’s sizable screen presence and our previous experiences with the character are more than enough to sustain both tension and momentum (the digital effects used to create the planet’s vistas are a bit hokey-looking at times, as is a CGI dog creature that Riddick ultimately befriends Dances With Wolves-style, but it’s all part of the movie’s self-aware lowbrow charm). Desperate to get off the rock on which he’s been left, he activates a homing beacon at a way station for intergalactic bounty hunters, which of course means that bounty hunters immediately head his way, anxious to capture him dead or alive.

Riddick is so wanted that he draws not one group of bounty hunters, but two, who at first square off in competition for his head, but are eventually forced to join forces when he starts picking them off one by one. The first to arrive is Santana (Jordi Mollà), a crude vagabond who leads a motley group of thugs who look like they stepped out of a Mad Max knock-off, while the second group to arrive is led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable), a refined, articulate man who has very personal reasons for wanting to capture Riddick. Aside from the respective leaders, the bounty hunters are relatively interchangeable victims for Riddick to take out, with the only exception being Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), one of only two females to appear in the film and the only one who survives more than a few minutes. The fact that Dahl is a hardened veteran who can trade blows with anyone (especially Santana, whose gender politics are about as prehistoric as the creatures around them) is somewhat expected, although it is hard not to smile at the fact that her name sounds like “doll” every time it is uttered.

The stand-off between Riddick and the bounty hunters is intensified by a ticking clock that is counting down the arrival of an epic storm that will bring with it a whole host of nasty creatures. Thus, everyone on the planet has a good reason to get off it as soon as possible, which means that Riddick will somehow have to either convince or coerce the people who have arrived to kill him to work with him in order to ensure their mutual survival. It is never in any doubt that Riddick is both the strongest and the smartest person on the planet, which he demonstrates over and over again, usually at the expense of Santana, who becomes more and more ridiculous as the movie progresses.

The set-up is simple enough, but it allows Diesel to flex his chops playing a familiar and popular character without all the narrative convolution that made The Chronicles of Riddick such a chore. Twohy has also gotten away from the PG-13 safety of that film’s action so he can indulge in plenty of comically gruesome shock moments, many of which result from Riddick’s apparent ability to overcome the laws of physics in dispatching his adversaries (just wait and see what he is able to do by kicking a knife in midair). Twohy clearly realized that narrative minimalism suits a character like Riddick best, and the willful simplicity of the film’s B-movie ethos is easily its greatest asset.

Riddick Unrated Director’s Cut Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD
This Blu-ray includes both the theatrical version of the film as well as an unrated director’s cut.
Aspect Ratio2.35:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • Spanish 5.1 Digital Surround
  • French 5.1 Digital Surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
    Supplements
  • “The Twohy Touch” featurette
  • “Riddickian Tech” featurette
  • “The World of Riddick” featurette
  • “Vin’s Riddick” featurette
  • “Meet the Mercs” featurette
  • Riddick: Blindside motion comic prequel
  • DistributorUniversal Pictures Home Entertainment
    SRP$34.98
    Release DateJanuary 14, 2014

    VIDEO & AUDIO
    Presented in a clean, sharp 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation, Riddick looks quite excellent on Blu-ray. The film’s mostly dim visuals and dark color palette are well represented with excellent shadow detail and strong, inky blacks. The opening scenes, which are bathed in intense yellow hues, convey a true sense of the depth of the scorched landscape. Unfortunately, because some of the CGI effects are a little, shall we say, less than absolutely convicing, the fine detail of the image only enhances the shortcomings, but that’s about the worst thing I can say. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack is more than up to the task, conveying the smallest nuances of the alien environment as well providing plenty of thunder and weight to the various explosions, gunfire, and inclement weather (not to mention Diesel’s rumbling baritone, which always drops several octaves when he plays Riddick).
    SUPPLEMENTS
    The majority of the supplements on the disc are featurettes in the 5- to 10-minute range that touch on specific aspects of the film’s conception and production. “The Twohy Touch” focuses on writer/director David Twohy, who along with Vin Diesel, has been with the series since the very beginning. The awkwardly titled “Riddickian Tech” features interviews with various special effects artists about the film’s effects, both practical and digital. “The World of Riddick” includes interviews with Twohy, production designer Joseph C. Nemec III, and director of photography David Eggby discussing the origins and creation of the film’s various creatures. Diesel is the center of “Vin’s Riddick,” in which the star and other members of the filmmaking team discuss the character and how Diesel prepared to play him. “Meet the Mercs” introduces us to the film’s supporting cast, including Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Mollà, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, and Nolan Gerard Funk. Finally, the disc also includes Riddick: Blindsided, a 6-minute motion comic that bridges the narrative gap between The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) and Riddick (it basically answers the question “How did Riddick wind up deserted on that planet?”).

    Copyright ©2013 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)




    James Kendrick

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