Directed by David Twohy
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
When we last left Richard B. Riddick, he had just been set atop a throne that made him one of the more powerful men in existence. The intriguing antihero of Pitch Black, a convicted murderer who couldn’t give a damn about the universe, now found himself in charge of it. Of course, he also found himself at the mercy of the studio that had bankrolled that film (The Chronicles of Riddick), a shoulda-been blockbuster that tanked at the box office and helped to cool the career of the actor tasked with bringing Riddick to life.
Cut to nine years later, and we finally have another follow-up featuring the space-faring badass, played again with icy cool by Vin Diesel. But was it worth the near decade wait for this latest installment?
The film begins as a direct sequel to Chronicles, picking up with Riddick acting as Lord Marshall to the Necromongers (the powerful, Gothy warriors who served as the villains of the last piece). The power and pampering that come with being king do their part to make Riddick soft, allowing his nemesis Vaako (a briefly returning Urban) the opportunity to betray Riddick and leave him stranded on a planet seemingly devoid of life – save for any number of dangerous alien species ready to make Riddick their next meal.
The following forty minutes are fantastic, as Riddick takes center stage in this tale, nursing himself back to health and finding various ways to survive and adapt to his environment – even going so far as to adopt an alien jackal-pooch as a companion. It’s just a boy and his dog for the first act of the film, traversing the dangerous planet and taking out all manner of creepy alien creatures in their way. It’s a blast to watch and easily might’ve sustained an entire feature if franchise spearheader David Twohy only had more confidence in his protagonist.
Instead, Riddick eventually uses a homing beacon to call down a pack of mercs in the hopes of commandeering one of their ships and making it off the planet. When two different sets of bounty hunters arrive on the planet, the groups must form an uneasy alliance with each other in order to track down their prey, even as a larger, much more monstrous threat looms in the distance for every human on the planet.
If that final bit sounded like Pitch Black, that’s only because it plays out very much like Pitch Black. Like or hate Chronicles, I applauded Twohy’s ability to stray from his initial entry and create a wholly different tale for his lead character to romp around in. Unfortunately, while this newest effort starts off strong, Twohy seems to lose faith in the story he’s telling in favor of retreading previous events (right down to revealing one of the mercs as a relative of a Pitch Black character – a revelation that makes little sense when considering the age of both men involved). By the time the end credits roll, Riddick has made little progress as a character – ending the film very much in the same place he started out.
Still, for all that, the movie is quite a lot of fun. Diesel seems to have settled comfortably into the character, the mercs are portrayed by solid actors, and the action setpieces are quite good. In addition, the creature designs are all very cool (particularly the alien jackals and the film’s major alien threat).
Unfortunately, the visual effects are a mixed bag. Curiously, most of the creature stuff is solid (the jackals are occasionally a bit dodgy, but they’re mostly a convincing enough creation), while the backdrops look fake and flat more often than not (a couple of sequences involving jet bikes riding against the horizon are astonishingly bad for a studio movie of this scope). But again, if you enjoy the character and the world that’s been created over the course of this franchise, you’ll likely be able to forgive this film’s faults in favor of enjoying what it does get right.
Universal has brought Riddick to disc with a machete-sharp image and thunderous 5.1 DTS audio track. In addition to providing both the theatrical version and the unrated director’s cut of the film, there is also a decent selection of featurettes to be found. Included on the Blu-ray are: “The Twohy Touch,” a look at the filmmaker’s directorial technique; “Riddickian Tech,” which is concerned with both the technology found in the film’s story and the craftsmen and effects employed to bring them to the screen; “Vin’s Riddick,” which has the actor discussing his most iconic role; “Meet the Mercs,” an intro to the various characters sharing the screen with Riddick and the actors who portray them; “The World of Riddick,” which focuses on the various elements needed to create the film’s isolated planet and all the creatures that populate it; and “Riddick: Blindsided,” a Flash animation version of the film’s first act flashback sequence which finds Riddick betrayed by the Necromonger characters under his rule. This final feature is interesting, in that it features a major fight scene not included in the final version of the film. Overall, a decent package for a decent film.
As for the aforementioned director’s cut additions… the new cut adds around eight minutes of footage to the flick’s 119-minute theatrical runtime. Gorehounds will be pleased with some added gore and splatter here and there, but the real meat of these add-ins is found at the film’s beginning and ending. We don’t want to spoil it for you so let’s just say Riddick’s time spent with the Necromongers is more fleshed out than it was in theatres. Overall this is a far better cut of the flick, and you Karl Urban fans out there will be happy to hear that he gets a bit more screen time.
If you’ve never been a fan of the franchise, Riddick will not likely win you over. But if you dug either of the previous installments, chances are you’ll find enough to enjoy with this most recent adventure. If you wind up giving Riddick a shot, here’s hoping you enjoy.
…and here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another decade before the next sequel arrives.
The Twohy Touch
Meet the Mercs
The World of Riddick
3 out of 5
3 out of 5