• Riddick (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: January 14th, 2014.
    Director: David Twohy
    Cast: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    Directed by David Twohy, the man who brought us Pitch Black and The Chronicles Of Riddick, 2013’s third film in the series, simple title Riddick once again stars Vin Diesel in the titular leading role. The intent here was to get back to the character’s darker, more sinister roots. Things went a little too off target in the second film, the intent was there but it never quite hit the levels it should have. Pitch Black remains the better of the first two films by a large margin and Diesel and Twohy wanted to recapture some of that fire. Did it work? Yeah, for the most part.

    The story catches up with Riddick as he leads a group of survivors on a distant planet that calls themselves the Necromongers. Riddick is the man in charge, but there’s the presence of Commander Vaako (Karl Urban) to deal with. Vaako insists that the planet they are on is Riddick’s home planet of Furya, but Riddick knows this is not true. Before long, there’s a betrayal most foul and Vaako and the others leave, assuming their former leader dead. Of course, he’s not. He heads out across the harsh landscape of the planet and finds a mercenary outpost. It’s completely empty, not a soul to see, but the power is on and he triggers an alert that should bring a team of mercenaries to the planet in search of profit.

    The first ship shows up carrying a team of gun toting tough guys led by Santana (Jordi Mollà) and his massive right hand man, Diaz (Dave Bautista), and then a second team of more experienced types arrives led by Boss (Matthew Nable) and his right hand woman, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff). So with two teams of mercenaries now running around trying to figure out what to make of all of this, what does Riddick do? He sets in motion the plan he had the moment he triggered that alarm: he starts killing off the mercenaries in hopes that he’ll be able to commandeer one of their ships and make it off this hostile planet (complete with death dealing alien inhabitants) in search of greener pastures.

    This one doesn’t beat around the bush, it pretty much hits the ground running and keeps the pace solid until the finish. It lets Diesel do what he does best in this role as he skulks around stealthily taking out his opponents and mutters random bits of creepy tough guy dialogue while he’s at it. This is a good role for him, he has the physical presence to pull it off but also seems to really get into the character, taking it seriously enough to make it all work. The rest of the cast are decent here too. Katee Sackhoff goes a little over the top at times but she’s fun to look at and a decent actress too. Nable isn’t as memorable but he’s fine, as is Mollà and while Bautista won’t win any Oscars, he plays big tough guys well and as such, he works in the part.

    The action is tense and slick, the settings are dark and appropriately gritty and the violence in the film is quite strong for a project bankrolled by a major studio like Universal. Indeed, Twohy and company get much of what was lacking in Chronicles completely right here, but somewhere along the way they lost sight of trying to differentiate this one from Pitch Black. It’s really similar at times, in fact you could pretty much swap out the mercenaries and Necromongers with the survivors in that first movie and not notice a whole lot of difference. Giving Riddick more human opponents to tackle in addition to an alien menace helps a bit, but yeah… there are a lot of similarities here. With that said, this is still a good time at the movies, overt familiarity or not. It could and should have been better, there’s potential to do more with the character (though maybe the lackluster performance of the attempt to do that in Chronicles put them off), but they never really do that here. He goes into killing machine mode early on and stays there until the end, but hey, it’ll at least provide plenty of cheap thrills along the way and if there’s one thing we like around these parts, it’s cheap thrills.

    Note: This Blu-ray release contains both the one hundred and nineteen minute long theatrical cut of the movie and the one hundred and twenty-seven minute long director’s minute cut of the movie. In the longer cut we learn a bit more about how Riddick ruled the Necromongers and we get a bit assorted moments of nastiness. The background information on the Necromongers portion of the storyline improves things quite a bit and makes this cut of the movie the better one.


    Riddick is reissued on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.40.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Colors really light up here and the transfer really pops but at the same time, the colors don't bleed, they stay really well defined and distinct. Black levels are nice and deep, while shadow detail stays strong throughout. There were no obvious compression artifacts to note and skin tones look lifelike and natural, though sometimes the contrast is dialed up a bit for artistic effect and they look a bit hot – some of the desert scenes show this. Detail impresses in pretty much every frame of the movie and all in all, this is an excellent transfer, reference quality stuff.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, though a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks is provided in English. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French Spanish. The 5.1 mix is just as aggressive and impressive as you could hope. The action scenes have plenty of amazing directional effects and the track is consistently using all of the channels in the mix, either for bombastic chaos or subtle background noise, to really create an enveloping soundscape. The score is fast paced, well defined and when the movie calls for it full of strong bass, all of which is replicated really well here. At the same time, all of the bombastic score and effects work doesn't bury the dialogue or the more discrete sound effects used in the movie. This is an excellent lossless track, one that does not fail to impress.

    Extras start off with a six minute piece called The Twohy Touch in which the writer/director of the Riddick films discusses why he made a third picture in the series and what he feels has made it successful in addition to what the various cast and crew members brought to the production. Riddickian Tech is a ten minute featurettes that examines the weapons and gadgets that are used in the movie while the nine minute Vin’s Riddick is a segment in which we learn how both the character and the actor who brings him to life have evolved since his debut in Pitch Black. Meet The Mercs spends eleven minutes discussing the different mercenary characters that pop up in the movie. Last but not least we get a five minute Riddick motion comic entitled Blindsided.

    Animated menus and chapter selection are also included and as this is a Combo Pack release, you also get a DVD version of the movie and a digital copy as well. The Blu-ray case fits nicely inside a slipcase with identical cover art on it.

    The Final Word:

    This latest installment in the Riddick franchise is a lean and efficient mix of sci-fi, action and horror, a step closer to Pitch Black than to Chronicles, and that’s a good thing. Granted, it doesn’t really reinvent anything, it gives you pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to, no real surprises… but the entertainment value is there. We get some solid suspense, some creative gore and monsters and a genuinely cool anti-hero front and center throughout. Universal’s Blu-ray release is hardly stacked with extras but the audio and video presentations are both excellent. This isn’t a masterpiece but it’s fun.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!