Riddick (UK - DVD R2)
Riddick is back. Marcus looks around the return of the Pitch Black monsters...
The original Riddick adventure Pitch Black was a bit of a favorite of mine at the time of release in 2000. It arrived with the right mood, the right anti-hero, the right monsters and at the right time. It echoed the aliens of the Alien franchise but did its own thing, had a rough low budget edge that worked for it and Vin Diesel was hella cool as the prisoner turned really an okay guy Riddick.
Even though the original doesn't quite hold up now-a-days it still carries the positive thoughts as being "the good one" in the stop/start franchise, that's had a sequel and even animated outings. When the first sequel arrived it left behind the minimalist approach and just went too wacky. I can understand the semi-cult following the brave visually playful film sort of has but I just thought it was plain silly and was I was left wishing for more from the monsters in the first flick as opposed to another Riddick outing.
The film left such a bad taste in my mouth in fact I actually never intended on seeing it again but fate stepped in and I caught it in a Thai hotel a year or so ago. So I was all back up to speed with Mr Riddick again and ready for this latest return for the character.
The road to Riddick has been a pretty well documented one. Vin Diesel had a fairly open dialogue with fans in regards to his back and forths with Universal and where he wanted to take the film. There was a lot of talk of the limited budgets and lots of pre-awarness during the film’s production. Diesel has had epic success with the Fast and Furious franchise when it comes to interacting with his fanbase and it seemed like he wanted the same for the return of Riddick.
So how did it turn out? This threequel starts in CGI heavy landscapes much like the second film (but done way cheaper) and has our cloudy eyed anti-hero battling the dusty elements of the planet he's on as well as the vicious wildlife. Vin delivers unconvincing rumbley voice overs and the slow pacing and largely eye rolling set up makes for a pretty boring start even with splattering of monsters.
After taking a long while to get going and playing like a John Carter style sci-fi with alien pet dogs and wide open landscapes, Riddick gets going. Weirdly though it gets going with a distinct lack of Riddick. Beyond the odd stealthy take down that he carries out on the poorly written Mercs, our lead is played as a menace in the shadows toying with his hunters and we're happily back to Pitch Black mystery man Riddick.
The plot here is pretty lousy. A group of assholes butting heads over Riddick and getting off of the planet all with Riddick stirring up the situation in a smug, oddly self sabotaging approach. It's not a great entry in the series but its small success is that it’s a film that manages to balance the silly overkill sci-fi of the second film with the more beaten down real world looks of the first.
There’s good intentions here but in general this feels like a thirty minute short movie spread too thinly over an overlong near two hours. Scenes are so stretched out, played slow for sometimes no reason and there’s a lot of repeating of the odds. The film actually ends up catering for both sides of the Riddick fanbase but with a distinct yearning (or budget restriction) that echoes the feel of the original film as opposed to its sequel. That makes it a better sequel than Chronicles was but the “my balls are bigger than your balls” attitude is getting tiresome in modern actioners and this franchise is feeling more Starship Troopers sequels than what turned out to be the a great re-shuffle success over in Vin’s other baby The Fast and the Furious series.
The warm CGI heavy opening is a rich orange with strong amber lighting. Detail is nice and sharp and despite the scale of the back drops the imagery still feels small and budget limited, sort of like 300 but without the keen eye for style. Switching to the flashbacks, Riddick goes more cold and grey. There's a lot of textures and a real depth to the sets. Costumes are detailed and noticably dusty and worn and while the world always feels like a set and very small in terms of what's convincingly real, there's plenty of dust and debris to create the illusion of environment.
This DVD actually winds up looking alright. Its sharpness suffers without any HD power behind it but light sources are nice and strong and colours glow extremely well. Black levels are also solid and the whole image looks like most mid-range budget sci-fi flicks tend to of late. There's no helping the cheap looking CGI here but even some of that looks well textured at times (especially his dingo dog thing), even if its not all that convincing.
To begin with it's Vin Diesel talking a lot so of course the track is bassy but when laser guns start going off and fists start flying that bass line steps up with a nice bit of punch. Animal hisses, roars and clicks all play around the speakers and the score sits in the rears well. The frontal elements of the score often feel a bit stronger rather than balanced with the rears but this is an overall solid modern audio presentation with very little to fault.
Small elements like scraping rocks, rattling chains or wind fill up the largely quiet feeling film. Sure there's plenty of bombastic sounds but this is a one man trek through the desert for the most part or Mercs shouting at each other with terrible dialogue so its the small ambient sounds that bring it to life a lot of the time. Of course when the bad guys start start firing machine guns the silence it pushed aside for pure aggressive roar.
The disc opens with trailers for Need for Speed, Divergence, Escape Plan and Metallica: Through the Never then it's on to the extras.
'Vin's Riddick' (08:28) talks up the actor/producer's hands on approach to getting the film made as well as his love of the character.
'Meet the Mercs' (10:18)looks at the rest of the cast and 'Riddick: Blindsided' (05:15) is web comic style prequel of the brief flashback we see in the film.
Riddick was an okay sequel for a series I no longer have any investment in. I'm sure there's at least one more film to come out of the franchise but I have little desire to see it after this entry. There's too much repetition of visuals from the first film, too little in the way of originality and I'm not really sure what to think of Riddick as a character anymore, sure he's cool enough but seriously what else is going on with him? Like with most of the action heroes out there, the more they play the same role, the less believable they become (*cough* John McClane) and Riddick doesn't seem to work outside of the original Pitch Black, well for me anyway.
Anyway, the disc is okay for DVD, good picture, good audio, thin fluffy extras. Fans should dig it, those of the fence will probably stay that way, those not bothered with what came before probably won't change their minds. This really winds up to be a non-event rather than a return to goodness.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 13th January 2014
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi and Thriller
Length: 0 minutes
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