Blu-ray Review: Riddick

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For a straight-ahead sci-fi action flick, Riddick gets the job done with striking proficiency. Of course, the series began way back in 2000 with the cult favorite Pitch Black, in which we first met Vin Diesel’s tough-as-nails antihero Richard B. Riddick. As fun and scrappy as that initial adventure was, the franchise suffered a big setback with the gaudy 2004 follow-up, The Chronicles of Riddick. But fans’ persistent demand that the Riddick saga be allowed to continue was answered with this simply-titled third film. Thankfully, it’s a lean-and-mean stylistic return to the first film. Despite an overly conventional climax, Riddick provides strong evidence that there’s life left in this character.

Riddick’s rule over the Necromonger’s (a focal point of the previous film) is mercifully dealt with in the briefest terms possible. Promised by Commander Vaako (Karl Urban) a return to his home world of Furya, Riddick is instead left for dead on a treacherous planet. Taking on the feel of an interstellar Cast Away, the first act unfolds almost entirely without dialogue as Riddick struggles to adapt to his surroundings. Dangerous predators lurk all around, including savage, hyena-like dogs. He manages to raise an orphaned pup himself, developing a surprisingly tender, genuine bond with the canine-type creature. It’s a bravely isolationist approach to an action movie and these early scenes yield some of Riddick’s best moments.

Riddick Vin Diesel.jpgBased on his criminal past, Riddick knows any sign of his whereabouts will send folks running his way. After sending a signal from an emergency beacon, two teams of mercenaries arrive. One of them could be Riddick’s ticket home, he just has to fend them off and steal one of their ships. The rough-and-tumble team is led by crazy Santana (Jordi Mollà), the other by Boss Johns (Matthew Nable). Johns’ son William met a bad end in Pitch Black, lending a bit more depth to Riddick’s relationship with Johns. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) is on hand as Dahl, Johns’ right-hand gal, adding some estrogen-driven ass-kicking to the overall scenario. As Riddick grinds towards the obligatory bombastic climactic showdown, it become increasingly ordinary. Even so, the fun is never snuffed out and that’s what counts.

Riddick may have been produced on a relatively low budget compared to other sci-fi action epics, but you’d never know it from this high definition presentation. Universal’s Blu-ray looks truly outstanding, offering up David Eggby’s digital cinematography in near-perfect detail. Some of the CG animation is, admittedly, a little hokey-looking and the clarity of this transfer only enhances the artificiality. But the gritty, dirty alien environment looks crisp and richly textured. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 is equally impressive, pumping out room-filling audio from all channels pretty much throughout the duration of the film. Much like the movie itself, the less-is-more subtlety of the opening act is the sonic highlight.

Riddick Katee Sackoff.jpgNot a huge amount of extras grace Riddick. The main one is the eight-minute-longer, unrated director’s cut that adds a bit more of Riddick and Vaako. There’s a sequence of six short featurettes, basically all promo pieces, that totals a little less than an hour. Each focuses on a different topic, with the most fun being “Meet the Mercs” (during which we hear from the various actors who portray the mercenaries). It’s a bit surprising there’s no writer-director’s commentary from David Twohy. The main point driven home in the featurettes is that Riddick was intended as a gift for fans of the franchise. They’re likely to be a little disappointed with the brief supplements, but the movie itself it strong enough to warrant another go around with Riddick.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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