At a time when the budgets for sci-fi films are, like the universe itself, expanding at an astronomical rate, Riddick decides to go small. The franchise’s third entry shrinks back from the baroque, byzantine space opera of 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick, placing Vin Diesel’s interstellar criminal in a story that’s more similar in scope to the series’ first film, the smart and stylish Pitch Black (2000). Abandoned on a sere, hostile planet, the laconic antihero subsists off the meager landscape like a muscle-bound Robinson Crusoe until an ensemble of bounty hunters and soldiers (including Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff) arrive looking to put his head — with those superpowered, see-in-the-dark eyes — in a box.
Riddick, co-written and directed by David Twohy, scavenges a variety of genres for parts, morphing over the course of its run time from survival story to slasher film (as Riddick hunts his hunters one by one) to a climactic Aliens-esque siege by slithery, slavering creatures. Twohy succeeds in staging moments both tense and funny, but they’re fewer and farther between than one would hope, and the dialogue is served up with a heaping helping of cheese, especially when delivered in Diesel’s low-frequency growl. Still, by aiming more for suspense than bombast, the modest intentions of this threequel make its failures appear more modest as well. C+