Vin Diesel's Riddick character has gone through an interesting film history. The first film Pitch Black was shot in Australia on a modest $US23 million budget and made a bit over double that amount at the box office. The second film, The Chronicles of Riddick, saw a massive jump in scale, and budget to $US105 million and only made $115 million at the box office worldwide. The franchise was effectively dead - so much so that Vin Diesel obtained the rights to Riddick for doing a cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. So this is the third film in the franchise but the only way it could be made was for Vin Diesel to pour most of his money, and his house, into this film and we're glad he did as Riddick is a pretty entertaining film that has a lot going for it.
Riddick tells the story of a dangerous, escaped convict wanted by every bounty hunter in the known galaxy, Riddick. He has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he's encountered. The only way off is for him to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty. With time running out and a deadly storm on the horizon that no one could survive, his hunters won't leave the planet without Riddick's head as their trophy.
First of all we need to point out that we are reviewing the Standard Edition Blu-Ray release - there is also an Extended Directors Cut on Blu-Ray which, according to IMDB, adds around 7 minutes of footage. It is somewhat baffling as to why there are two releases - has seamless branching stopped working suddenly for two versions of films on a single disc? In any case we are reviewing the Theatrical version on Blu-Ray.
The film begins with Riddick stuck on an unknown planet, alone, and battling to survive. While it is later detailed how he got to the planet in a brief flashback, the fact is he's alone, surrounded by deadly creatures, and learning how to live off the land. Soon enough he becomes friendly with a wild jackal/dog who soon becomes his companion in the, we suspect, years that pass (unless the local wildlife grows at a very quick rate). Soon enough though a storm approaches which has the potential to bring with it something much more deadly then rain. Riddick's only chance is to send a distress signal which will bring in mercenaries to the planet to collect the bounty on Riddick's head. The only chance for Riddick is to survive the mercenaries, and steal one of their ships.
The mercenaries here are varied enough to be of interest with the highlights being Jordi Mollą as Santana, Dave Batista as Diaz, Matt Nable as Johns (and who many would recognise from Australia's Underbelly: Badness TV series) and the only female in the film Katee Sackhoff as Dahl. Each put in pretty entertaining performances although at times the dialogue is a bit corny and bland particularly around Dahl's sexuality or sexual activity. Take the following exchange "Why am I not loving this plan so far? Oh, I know, I know. Because it sucks ass and swallows! I'm not taking orders from your pet whore who think I won't smack her right back." to which Dahl replies with "I don't fuck guys. Occasionally I fuck 'em up if they need it." Later in the film there's another exchange "If Riddick comes back here without us, you go ahead, you kill him on general principle" to which Dahl replies with "Is that before or after I'm supposed to fuck him?" It's just not great writing in places and puts too much emphasis on Dahl's sexual prowess - we never got lines like this in films such as Alien, Resident Evil or Terminator 2 which have strong, almost solo, female lead characters.
Our PS3 is showing a video bitrate often sitting well above 30Mbps and it allows plenty of fine detail at all times - and given the amount of darkness, and deep reds, on this alien world is a good thing. We did notice, however, that some of the CG smoke and dust does look, well, CG but thats a result of the post production rather then the transfer to Blu-Ray.
The Twohy Touch (6:22/HD): This extra focuses on the director of Riddick - David Twohy. There's some on-set footage and discussion about how deeply involved both David and Vin are in the creation of this world, and how invested they are in.
Vin's Riddick (8:50/HD): Vin Diesel is Riddick and has starred in all three films, and his input into the franchise has been instrumental in keeping the franchise alive and has stepped up to being a Producer.
Meet The Mercs (10:44/HD): As the title suggests this looks at the various Mercenaries in the game - and we give kudos to David Twohy for ensuring everyone has a different "look". There's a bit of a focus on Katee Sackhoff as the only female cast member.
The World of Riddick (10:50/HD): This is a pretty impressive look at how the filmmakers created the sets and look of the alien world including filming the Jackal dogs in the film - from practical to CG creations.
Review By: Dave Warner