The Riddick franchise is an unusual beast. Originating with the anti-hero in David Twohy’s modest budget 2000 sci-fi film Pitch Black, its success was a pleasant surprise for all involved. The amoral convict Riddick was an instantly alluring character so expectations were high for the big budget The Chronicles of Riddick, slated as the first part of a trilogy. Sadly it proved grossly underwhelming and to most, myself included, it seemed the franchise would die there.
Yet in a bizarre twist of fate, it was a videogame adaptation that kept Riddick alive. Trouncing the rule that all movie-to-game adaptations are universally rubbish, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was one of the best first-person action games of its generation. Eschewing the film’s plot it instead focused on its greatest strength, Riddick’s character, and placed him in a triple max prison from which to escape. At least in its opening hours it is the closest you can get to playing the first season of Prison Break. It kept the gameplay varied as the pace shifted between gritty melée combat, stealth sequences and larger firefights.
Above all, it nailed Riddick’s predatory movements accompanied by Vin Diesel’s unmistakable gravelly growl. Vin Diesel was clearly aware of how well the role of Riddick suited him, and he has thrown himself as fully behind the games as he has the films. He actually founded developer Tigon Studios who produced Butcher Bay with Starbreeze (sorry girls, but Vin is very much one of us geeks — he’s an avid gamer, and even used to play Dungeons & Dragons…).
And so years later, Riddick’s return is not in film but a videogame sequel. Assault on Dark Athena is a stunning looking game with some incredible digital acting: good voices coupled with very physical performances from its characters, using body language rather than merely moving lips. This aside, and much like the Chronicles film, it fails to live up to its predecessor, with generic action and highly derivative gameplay. However that is only the half the package. The real gem, and easily worth the price alone, is a full remake of the original Butcher Bay in stunning HD. That the game does not show its age at all speaks volumes about the quality of the original as much as hinting at stagnation in modern releases.
So now, at last, we have a Chronicles of Riddick trilogy. It’s definitely not the way Twohy would have envisioned it, and his film could yet surface, but it is a trilogy nonetheless. Given Riddick’s character, it seems fitting that his franchise too would take any route to survive.
Blogging in bed is definitely the way forward. My silence this month has been more due to lack of a good stretch to write as those keeping an eye on my Twitter feed will have seen from the fairly regular stream of updates to which they have been treated. Its succinct 140-character limit also provides a useful basis for summarising what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks. Let’s have a look at the key tweets…
Let The Right One In: beautiful, bleak and very Swedish. Sarah D and I saw this at the Odeon Covent Garden and both loved it. On the back of its critical reception an American remake is already in the works. Capturing the sense of isolation without the curt Swedish dialogue and permanent blanket of crisp white snow will be a challenge. Despite similarities in its setting with 30 Days of Night, this is no horror film, but rather focuses on the relationship between the young Oskar and the strange girl who enters his life. “That was weird,” commented a girl behind us as the film finished. “It was a Swedish vampire film, what did she expect?” Sarah wondered aloud.
Finally making proper use of toptable.com – Sarah and I will be checking out Bloomsbury Bar & Restaurant at 50% off tomorrow eve. Prior to the film we had a pleasant, unhurried dinner at this posh-looking restaurant with its black leather and subtly aloof staff. The food was great if not particularly inventive — it’s very standard “Modern European” fare. At half price and with a good bottle of wine, however, it’s easy to recommend. I am told the toilets are quite a sight too. I’ve been meaning to use toptable for the past year and a half and now it seems like a good way to realise my current resolution to take better advantage of London’s restauranting scene. If you feel like helping, let me know.
Going to one of the Science Museum Lates events this evening – http://bitly.com/1PVkV – it better not be some swingers party for scientists. I hadn’t even heard of this until Rachel N mentioned it, but it’s a great idea: late evening access for adults to the entire museum, with alcohol, without kids, and could even be a rather social experience. I’m certainly keen to go back.
Finally shifted Casablanca from the pile of shame. In fairness, owned it for a while but was prevented from watching by earlier promise. As a film fan this was undoubtedly the biggest title I should have watched but never did. Alissa and I agreed a while back that we would watch it together and since she and Chris found themselves at our house for a barbeque with the other guests MIA, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. The delay arguably built it up into something even more special, and it certainly lived up to our expectations. And on the subject of great films: Some great new subtle film reference t-shirt designs at Last Exit To Nowhere: http://bitly.com/TDsC.
Last week work became slightly more eventful, with a big project that resulted in leaving the office around 11pm one evening, and working on Saturday afternoon, though thankfully from home (read: comfortable with lots of good music). A slightly calmer week with my supervisor returning would actually be appreciated!
Meanwhile my new laptop arrived. As a secondary machine for travel and general use in the living room, I start off by deciding on 13″ (I briefly considered a netbook but for usability I still prefer a larger screen and keyboard) and worked from there. The Dell Studio XPS 13 (a merging of the stylish Studio line with their high end XPS line) won out. They have certainly been learning from Apple in the consumer market since this came wrapped in a cloth slipcase and packaged in a sleek black box. The machine itself is arguably slightly over-styled with a few more glossy surfaces that I would like, because of the fingerprints they immediately pick up. Its sleek lines and backlit keyboard mean it compares favourably with similar-priced Vaio’s while not being quite as impressive as the top-end.
I decided the best way to remove all the junk software that inevitably ships on a new machine was clearly to wipe it and install a Windows 7 beta. Mac users will be disappointed to hear that, despite all the unusual integrated laptop hardware, everything just worked. Particularly interesting about this machine is its ability to switch graphics configurations on the fly using nvidia’s hybrid SLI technology. This means it generally runs cooler on a lower power setting, switching only when high performance is required. This massively extends it battery life in general usage. I also took the option to upgrade to their white-LED screen which, aside from being thinner than the old CCFL screens, also means it shouldn’t dim over its lifetime. And since it was selected for its portability/travel use, I’ve named it Daedalus. Which hopefully means it’ll be intelligent enough not to overheat.
So with a newly kitted out laptop (with a working M key and everything!) and new lens, I’m now ready for the trip to the States in May. The plan is to head to Kentucky, via Nashville, with family out there. Caves, waterfalls and (inevitably) the KFC museum apparently await, although the finer details have yet to be arranged. Though with the cousins, the kids and a camera, anywhere will be fun!