DVD Review: Riddick

By Jamie Ruby

RiddickRecently Riddick was released on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. Riddick is the third film in the franchise (following Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick) that follow the adventures and ordeals of the title character, played by Vin Diesel.

At the end of the last film, Riddick was the new Lord Marshall of the Necromongers after defeating their leader. However with a wish to return to Furya, he makes a deal with Vaako (Karl Urban) for him to help him reach the planet. Unsurprisingly, Riddick's betrayed.

Riddick finds himself stranded on a sun-scorched planet, and needing a way to escape he announces his arrival at a mercenary station by activating an emergency beacon, prompting two groups of mercs to go after him for the bounty on his head. The mercs aren't his only problems though, as the approaching storm is waking up some nasty alien predators.

Can Riddick convince the mercs to work with him to survive or will he have to trick them and follow his own agenda? As a connection to his past emerges, Riddick must decide how best to play his cards in order to make it off of the planet alive.

RiddickIf you are a fan of the franchise, the film has a lot to offer: kick-ass action sequences, gruesome deaths, stunning visuals, great one-liners, and of course Vin Diesel. However, that being said, if you aren't a fan of the franchise, this film probably won't convert you. In my opinion Pitch Black is still the best of the three - it's more of an intense thriller, whereas the sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, is more of an action adventure, and this newest edition falls somewhere in between the two. The script is interesting, but it's a lot more of the same as what fans are used to. It doesn't really bring anything new to the franchise.

That's not to say that the movie isn't enjoyable as a standalone film, it is, and action buffs I'm sure will enjoy it, however there were a few things that didn't seem to fit properly in the overall picture to me.

First of all, most of the first half of the film is Riddick in a voice over while he roams over the planet. And although Diesel has both a creepy and sexy voice and the visuals keep you interested in his surroundings, it feels like something is missing. It's all about Riddick coming back to his own and training a jackal to be his faithful ally as he learns how to battle and survive the mud demons. I do have to say that those scenes were often cute and funny - yes I said cute - of man and his best friend. It's also interesting to get a look into how Riddick's mind works to solve problems. However, something is still lacking, and to me it felt like the film didn't really start until the mercs arrived. The whole time I felt like I was waiting for something. Once the action starts the film moves fast, and I can't complain, other than to say I would have liked more of that.

Riddick is up to his usual antics and he has some interesting ways of disposing of the mercs, though I will say that something about it felt partially disjointed to me. It may have been because it has been years since I have seen the first two films, but as much as Riddick has always been a murderer and antihero, for some reason I found him more redeeming previously then I did during part of the new film. It may just be that Riddick is different in that way from most characters, but to me for some reason it felt kind of strange, because I was essentially rooting for the bad guy to murder everyone else, including the good guys. Riddick doesn't kill without reason, but he does so without remorse. Though, I have to admit, that and his sick sense of humor are part of what often makes the films kind of fun in a crazy way. I just felt a bit like some of his humanity was missing through the first three fourths of the film. I will say, however, that that was on first impression watching the film in the theater. When I watched the movie again on Blu-ray to write this review, I didn't really have the same reaction. Whether it was because I knew what was coming, I can't say.

A big part of the film is of course the action scenes. There were a few such scenes that stood out to me. One is probably Riddick battling the mud creatures. He's in his own element. Another scene that's great is when Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) and Santana (Jordi Mollà) fight. She totally has the upper-hand. My other two favorites are probably two of the death scenes: one is a creature attack, and with the other, Riddick gets his due in a very satisfying way.

Many of my other favorite moments are less about the action. As much as I felt it slowed the film down a bit too much, I did really enjoy the scenes with Riddick and his jackal, probably the best being when he was sharing food with it. It was lighthearted and comical which is rare for the character. I also enjoyed Riddick's stealthy moments, such as when he snitches Dahl's compact.

Overall I very much enjoyed the look of the film. The color palette and light played a big part once again in the movie. The design of the planet was interesting.

Of course the special effects were stellar as one might expect. I enjoyed the hover bikes, and the deaths were quite gruesome. As usual most of the deaths were meant to stand out, especially the one death scene that involved a complicated move with a machete, which was choreographed really well.

The cast fit together really well which helped the film. Even though some of the characters didn't survive long, they were fun characters. The supporting cast that to me most stood out were Katee Sackhoff, who was one tough chick, and Jordi Mollà, whose self-destructive actions and eventual downfall were a lot of fun to watch.

All in all Riddick was an enjoyable sci-fi thriller. It was for the most part what I expected, and I was pleased with the result. I also enjoyed the second viewing and didn't feel bored on the second time around. Riddick is a kick-ass action movie and definitely worth the ride.

Special Features:

RiddickThe Unrated Director's Cut –
The main differences with the original theatrical version and the director's cut have to do with the Necromonger scenes. The Necromonger scene from the original version towards the beginning of the film is different and extended in the alternate cut. There is also an extra scene added to the very end of the film dealing with them.

I think if you watched The Chronicles of Riddick, the early scenes might be of interest to you, because they show you what happened to bring Riddick to where he is at the start of the film. A new viewer, however, I think might be more confused by watching them, especially with the extended cut. It's really not necessary to understand what is going on, as it's not related to the storyline of the new film. I think the original scene was a compromise between putting nothing in for new viewers and using the extended cut for the fans, and it worked fine.

The scene at the end of the film that was added, however, was a bit more interesting. It isn't really necessary but it puts a nice cap on the earlier scene and changes your outlook on one of the characters.

The Twohy Touch –
This behind-the-scenes feature is about the development of the film and shows writer and director David Twohy and the cast and crew talking about the filming process a bit, including things such as the fans response to wanting a third installment, making the film with a low budget, and how it was for the actors collaborating with Twohy.

Riddickian Tech -
This one is a really great feature. It starts out talking about designing and building the spaceships, which are made mostly of plywood and Styrofoam and have working doors and ramps, the hoverbikes/jethogs, and the world. The feature also shows how they filmed the principle actors on the bikes to take into post. Then there is a fairly lengthy set tour by production designer Joseph C. Nemec III showing different parts of the ship and the merc maintenance station, which even included a barbecue and rec room. The feature really shows how the filmmakers and effects team brought the film to life with the amazing props and sets.

Vin's Riddick -
This feature is obviously about Vin Diesel. It tells how he feels about the role, but also how the others working on the film feel about working with him and about Diesel as the ideal Riddick. The actor, who was the one who actually secured the rights from Universal in launching the third film, also talks about fans of the franchise and things such as the journey of Riddick getting back into shape in this film.

Meet the Mercs -
In this feature the actors talk about the different mercenaries in the film, and some of what they brought to the characters. There is also some information on weapons and costumes, such as how Sackhoff's costume differs from that of the men's, and other things, such as how Diaz (Dave Bautista)'s mohawk came to be. This feature is about the mercs, but it also includes Santana's prisoner, played by Keri Hilson, and talks about how Twohy added her to the cast.

The World of Riddick -
This feature talks about visuals in the film, including the look of the planet, and how Twohy began with real astronomy when creating the look for each film. The cinematographer David Eggby is also featured, and the feature includes how he filmed part of the planet in an old train depot in Montreal, as well as how he utilized colors in his work. There is also information about the research they did for the badlands look where they took thousands of photos in New Mexico where they couldn't shoot on the protected land. They also talked about how they used Styrofoam rocks, green screen, and such to create the environment.

Another part of the feature focused more directly on the visual effects and talked about how they filmed the jackal scenes using puppets as well as a ball on a stick. The mud demon design was also discussed, as well as how they filmed one of the creature attacks.

Riddick: Blindsided -
This feature is a motion comic of a prequel of the film that explains what happened to everyone since the end of the previous film in the franchise, The Chronicles of Riddick. It's essentially the alternate Necromonger scene in the director's cut of the film, but not live action.


Riddick castThe film is in a regular clamshell case with slip cover. The set contains a Blu-ray Disc, which contains both the original theatrical version and the unrated director's cut. All of the features listed are on the Blu-ray, however, "The World of Riddick," "Riddickian Tech," and "The Twohy Touch," are exclusive to the Blu-ray. The DVD version is also included, and I assume that the DVD only version of the film has the same features as the DVD in this combo pack. Also included is the code for the film in Digital HD. It works with both iTunes and Ultra Violet.

The discs themselves are fairly plain. Surprisingly it is the Blu-ray which is devoid of artwork, whereas the DVD has a silhouette of Riddick and his jackal.

The features are not listed on the discs, nor on the inside of the case or insert; you have to look at the back of the case or the slip cover. The only insert is for the digital code and it has an advertisement for NBC's upcoming series Crisis on the back. No other promotional materials are included.

I definitely think if you are going to buy the film that you should pay the extra and get the Blu-ray. The behind-the-scenes features that are exclusive to Blu-ray are the best ones. If you want to learn about how the film was made, you definitely want to watch those; however if you aren't interested in those kind of features, the DVD does at least include the motion comic. The Blu-ray is also the only way to get the unrated uncut version. The difference in the two film cuts isn't huge, but it's a cool addition if you are a fan of the franchise.

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