Most movies that screen after press deadlines should never have made it to screens in the first place. Riddick is a rare exception.

Critic's Grade: B+

Pitch Black
The Chronicles of Riddick

Riddick’s first twenty minutes or so, which feature no dialogue but abound in man-versus-nature imagery, immediately signal that this a welcome return to bare-bones form. Our nocturnal antihero, who made himself known as an animalistic predator in Pitch Black’s very first moments, re-establishes himself as a primitive survivalist via a series of revitalizing acts: braving the elements, evading (and even taming) the wildlife, living off the land. Once a group of bounty hunters touch down on the planet in hopes of claiming him as their prize, he slinks off into his original comfort zone—the shadows—and Riddick begins to feel like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie in which we’re meant to root for Freddy Krueger. Storm clouds loom, venomous creatures spawn and Riddick’s dog lures the would-be hunters out into the open. This is all as awesome as it sounds, if not more so.

Part of the problem with Chronicles (and, to a lesser extent, Pitch Black) was that it never established a credible foe for Riddick, who was constantly being underestimated by disposable baddies whose fates were sealed the moment they opened their mouths. Riddick does something neither of its predecessors bothered to: It puts its antihero into a situation we genuinely believe, however momentarily, he might not be able to get himself out of. This, to say nothing of the brooding tone and claustrophobic interiors, is part of what makes it the high water mark of the series thus far—not to mention the best action film of the year.