*. All things considered, I liked Riddick better than the first two films in this series. Which feels like a strange thing to say, given that (1) I don’t think it’s a good movie, and (2) things aren’t usually better the third time around. But all such judgments are relative. Pitch Black was just OK and The Chronicles of Riddick was garbage, so the bar wasn’t set that high. And since Riddick is basically a remake of Pitch Black with better production values they weren’t going to go far wrong.
*. It’s actually quite remarkable how similar the plot here is to Pitch Black: a bunch of people stranded on a desert planet inhabited by ferocious monsters (this time they look like giant scorpions) have to recover some fuel cells in order to power up their space ship and escape.
*. You may be wondering how Riddick found himself in this situation after being made king of the Necromongers at the end of the previous movie. Well, long story short, they turfed him out and marooned him on this planet, leaving him for dead. So much for all that time spent building up the Riddick mythology. Not only is this movie a retread of Pitch Black, it’s almost as though The Chronicles of Riddick never happened.
*. There are other similarities as well. For some reason Riddick is always being tied up with his arms spread out wide behind him. I can only assume this is done to show off Vin Diesel’s musculature. Also par for the course is the unimpressive CGI. The scorpion creatures don’t look too bad, but Riddick also has a pet hyena-thing that doesn’t look remotely real.
*. It’s weird how inconsistently these films deal with Riddick’s eyes. These were surgically augmented (or “shined”) while in prison, allowing him to see in the dark but requiring him to wear dark goggles during the day. Or at least some of the time. And then some of the time he wears dark goggles at night. Despite his eyes being his most distinguishing feature, his night vision only plays an incidental part on a couple of occasions in these movies. And when we’re shown what he sees with his RiddickVision it just looks blurry. As super powers go it isn’t very super and serves no purpose.
*. The film has an awkward sort of feel to it, breaking into different narrative chunks. There’s Riddick and his dog alone on the planet. There’s the arrival of a couple of very different gangs of mercenaries (a word that means “bounty hunter” in this universe). Then there’s Riddick vs. the mercs, and Riddick and the mercs vs. the scorpions.
*. The Riddick vs. the mercs section is typical of that awkwardness I mentioned. It takes the standard SF-horror idea of visitors to a planet being hunted by a monster, only the monster (Riddick in this part of the movie) is the hero and the people being hunted are the bad guys. It’s like you’re cheering for the Predator, even as you know he’s going to win.
*. Despite all the potential such a plot has for thrilling action, it doesn’t deliver much. As noted, the dog looks silly. The first group of mercs are played as comic baddies, despite including Dave Bautista in the mix. The next bunch of mercs have a shoehorned connection to Riddick in that their leader (Matt Nable) is actually the father of the merc who got killed in Pitch Black. Most of the tension between Riddick and the mercs is created through various cool-contest stare-offs, complete with lots of eye-rolling tough-guy dialogue. Some of this hints at self-awareness, but nothing is particularly funny. Meanwhile, Riddick’s preternatural ability to call in advance exactly what’s going to happen next defeats any sense of suspense (not to mention being pretty silly too).
*. So, no, it’s not an SF adventure classic. But I would rate it the best Riddick movie (yet), and much better than the previous entry in the series. Riddick himself, however, still seems underdeveloped and underplayed, as though no one is really interested in where he came from or how his eyes are supposed to work. Instead he’s just a superhero who goes around flexing his muscles and kicking ass in various fantasy settings. Nothing we haven’t seen hundreds of time before. This is too bad, as the concept would seem to have lots of room for development. After three movies, I’m pretty confident that the combination of Vin Diesel and David Twohy aren’t the guys to make it happen though.