Before he became Dominic Toretto, Vin Diesel was Richard B. Riddick, an escaped convict with special eyes that allowed him to see in the dark. The anti-hero was introduced in Pitch Black, an effective B-movie where Riddick and a motley group of survivors fought for their lives on a desert planet. Pitch Black was enough of a hit that Diesel took a larger role in crafting more of the character’s backstory. The result was The Chronicles of Riddick, a gothic space opera with five times the budget of its predecessor. Diesel obviously dipped into his experience playing Dungeons & Dragons to turn Riddick into the last remaining member of a warrior species known as the Furyans. The bloated mythology introduced Elementals, Necromongers, and the Underverse to deaf ears as Chronicles became a critical and commercial failure.
Riddick was put on the shelf, but Diesel believed in the property enough that he negotiated for the rights from Universal in exchange for a cameo in The Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. Diesel’s passion was such that he mortgaged his home to help raise the money needed to complete the third film, simply titled Riddick.
Riddick ditches the elaborate fantasy elements and returns to his roots as a badass killing machine. In a nod to King Conan, Riddick has grown weary of the throne as Lord Marshall of the Necromongers. Betrayed by the ambitious Lord Vaako (Karl Urban), Riddick is stranded once again on a desolate planet populated by a vicious menagerie of beasts.
The first act of Riddick resembles a Heavy Metal version of Wall-E with Riddick raising some sort of Doberman-hyena hybrid while battling H.R. Giger-inspired scorpions. Riddick fights his way across the wastelands to a remote outpost in order to activate a distress beacon. The signal alerts two rival teams of mercenaries looking to cash in on the substantial bounty on Riddick’s head. There’s a skuzzy, patchwork team headed up by Santana (Jordi Mollá) and muscle-bound Diaz (WWE’s Dave Batista) and a sleek, militaristic unit led by Boss Johns (Matthew Nable) and sexy sniper Dahl (Katee Sackhoff). At this point, Riddick plays out like a horror film with the mercs being picked off one by one by a killer hiding in the shadows. Once the third act rolls around, the movie becomes a redo of Pitch Black as Riddick and his adversaries are forced to join forces in order to escape.
You get exactly what’s advertised with Riddick. Writer/Director David Twohy offers up a straightforward action flick with Diesel growling in that deep, booming voice of his. There’s not much in the way of subtlety here. Twohy establishes Santana as a sadistic scumbag by having him shoot a female prisoner (pop singer Keri Hilson) in the back as she flees. Don’t worry the bad guy gets what’s coming to him in the form of the grisliest decapitation outside of a Takashi Miike picture. It’s also difficult to take the filmmakers’ attempts at presenting a strong female character in Dahl seriously when she gratuitously appears in topless or when Riddick charmingly offers to go “balls deep” on her. Thankfully, Sackhoff’s performance is good enough to crawl out from underneath such crude material.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer features picture perfect quality and a ton of rich detail. The colors palette runs towards blacks, browns, and grays, all of which come off bright and bold.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is high quality as well with various channels fully utilized for the action sequences. Dialogue comes in crisp and clear.
The Twohy Touch (6:22) looks at how director David Twohy works on set and how they revived the franchise.
Riddickian Tech (10:14) focuses on how the production designers came up with the weapons and vehicles used in Riddick.
Vin’s Riddick (8:50) is about the actor himself, what it was like to work with him, and how he developed the character of Riddick.
Meet the Mercs (10:44) features brief interviews with the supporting cast as they discuss their roles as the mercenaries.
The World of Riddick (10:50) is a featurette about the studio sets and special effects used to create the sci-fi worlds seen in Riddick.
Riddick: Blindsided (5:29) is a motion comic that bridges the gap between the second and third movies.
Film Value: 6
Riddick is a marked improvement over the second installment and certainly more enjoyable than some of this summer’s bloated blockbusters (The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D.), It won’t be considered classic cinema, but fans of Riddick and Vin Diesel will be satisfied.