(Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Mollà, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, et al / R / 158 mins)
Overview: Vin Diesel's Riddick character gets a new lease on life in this third film from writer/director David N. Twohy. Katee Sackhoff and Bokeem Woodbine head up a group of assassins out to kill Riddick, who lures them to a desolate planet when confronted with a hostile alien species.
Verdict: Richard B. Riddick—Dick to his friends, if he had any—is an intergalactic meathead who's glowered through three movies, two video games, and a cartoon. He's both the luckiest and unluckiest man alive: lucky because he's impossible to kill, unlucky because everyone keeps trying. In the opening, near-silent sequence of Riddick, the laconic sequel to 2004's overblown schlock opera The Chronicles of Riddick, our hero (Vin Diesel) is nearly slain by a space vulture, a space hyena, and several space eels.
"There are bad days, and then there are legendary bad days," he growls. Eh, in his earlier flicks he's already survived an asteroid accident, nocturnal monsters, some baddies called the Necromongers, a broiling sun, a subterranean prison, and a front-row seat for Dame Judi Dench's most regrettable role, as an Air Elemental named Aereon. On his scale, a killer space eel is just an excuse for sushi.
Pitch Black, the first Riddick flick, is guilty of launching Diesel's career. It's a curious accomplishment. Diesel has managed to steer one of the most solid franchises in contemporary Hollywood (not this one, if you have to ask) despite being the oddest movie star since Danny DeVito. A man made from two potatoes and a nose, Diesel is a charismatic lump whom the camera flattens into mush. When allowed to smile, his movies make $786 million. Yet most directors—including three-time Riddick helmer David Twohy—mistakenly equate macho with monotone, forcing him to spend the film lumbering around with his lips pursed like a peevish librarian.
To further handicap Diesel's acting, Riddick is saddled with CGI night-vision eyes that are as capable of emotion as two blue marbles. And when the sun is up, which in this adobe-baked landscape is most of the time, his eyes are so sensitive that he hides them with goofy goggles that, combined with his broad shoulders and shaved scalp, make him look like the universe's most bitchin' diver.
Stripped of eyes and mouth, Diesel has nothing to act with but his fists. Luckily, he doesn't have to bother. After Chronicles flopped, Twohy rightly realized that audiences don't care about Riddick's backstory. If you dodged the first two movies, here's all you need to know: Riddick is a wanted killer in search of his home planet, Furya. His current location: a planet he calls Not Furya. (Curiosity isn't his strong suit.)
To escape, Riddick reveals his location to a global network of bounty hunters—here, mercenaries are as commonplace as pizza deliverymen—and waits until he and some other bad things can kill off enough of his would-be killers to steal their ship. Behold, the entirety of the plot.