Directed by: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff
The Riddick franchise is one that I soooo wish was a good one. Vin Diesel as a science fiction action star seems like perfect casting. The first film in the franchise, Pitch Black, was a fantastic hybrid film with elements of horror, science fiction, and action film. The second film, The Chronicles of Riddick, was a convoluted and ugly mess. I had hope that the third film in the franchise might just fix the failings of the second film and set the stage for a longer running franchise.
Riddick starts slightly out of order with Riddick beaten and left for dead on a dark and desolate alien world. As he pulls himself together and begins the work of survival the events that led Riddick to his predicament are laid out in flashback. Right away the strengths and weaknesses of the film are apparent. Riddick playing sci-fi Castaway is quite entertaining. He struggles to find food, shelter, and even friendship in a dog like alien animal. This first act is slow paced and at times mesmerizing. The flashbacks scenes though are back to being convoluted similar to the previous film. The story isn’t clear or well executed and having recently seen the previous film is a requirement. The biggest failing in the story that builds to Riddick’s situation is that it doesn’t seem to matter. If there wasn’t to be a return to this story the fact that it has no weight would be less important but the fact is that the story from the second film does make a comeback by the final act of this movie.
When Riddick discovers a crashed ship and tries to use a communication device to get help what he actually does is let two groups of bounty hunters know of his existence. So, as you might expect these two groups soon land on the planet seeking Riddick’s head. One group is simply out for money and the second is after information from Riddick which calls back to the first film. This information too just feels tacked on.
It’s a cool idea to have this new film find its way back to the tone of the first film but the mistake is that this film simply uses the plot devices of the first film making much of what happens in the second half feel way too familiar. With that said the familiarity is comfortable and often entertaining, especially when Riddick is captured and becomes even more of a badass once he’s chained up, fun stuff. Carl Urban is surprisingly fun in these sorts of sci-fi action films as demonstrated in the fantastic Dredd and in some ways the Star Trek films but he’s just underused here.
In the end Riddick seems rehashed and a little stale with the actual good stuff happening at the beginning of the film when Riddick is all on his own. Sadly this could be a very high budgeted Syfy Channel original film, and not in a good way. It just seems like it would be so simple to make a film about a space traveling badass but this franchise just isn’t working. Maybe there will be one more, and maybe someone like David Goyer will come in and actually do something good with the story, or maybe not.
The 1080p widescreen presentation is a true mixed bag. The film was shot digitally with moderate budget special fx and tons of green screen leading to soft edges and some soft backgrounds. Indoor scenes show off the blu-ray format though with detailed skin and costumes and good inky black levels. Overall considering the limitations of the source material the image looks pretty good.
The 5.1 DTS_HD Mater sound is properly dynamic and immersive. Surrounds are well used and the subwoofer kicks in at all the right times along with a soundtrack that layers well across the action. Gravely dialogue is clean and easy to hear from beginning to end. Overall the audio presentation is as good as most current releases and better than some. No real complaints here.
Packaging and Bonus Features
The single blu-ray, and DVD discs are packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with good but not overwhelming artwork. The blu-ray features two cuts of the film, a director’s cut and a theatrical cut. The director’s cut adds eight minutes to the film. The biggest addition to the director’s cut is an alternate ending that may actually hint at plans to future films. The biggest disappointment here is that there is no audio commentary. My favorite part of this film is the story of how it came to be. That story is told during the 45 minutes of so of documentary featurettes but I’d love to have heard more detail about exactly how the film came to be. It has taken Diesel ten years to get the film made and he actually wrestled the film into existence in a fairly clever way. Unfortunately most of the featurettes come off as marketing fodder covering the characters, gadgets, and the world in which the characters exist. The real story is there though just way too short and lacking detail. There’s also a motion comic prequel provided with some of the scenes actually in the director’s cut version of the film.
Riddick has some great moments but they are just a few too few and far between. I want to watch The Chronicles of Riddick again followed directly by this film to see how they tie together. Seeing the bloated story told in this way might make it work better but I’m not holding my breath. Diesel is great as the character and entertaining; he just needs a better story to be a part of.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10