“Maybe I went and did the worst thing of all: I got civilized.” So muses Richard B. Riddick early in the new film bearing his name. He’s ostensibly explaining how he’s come to find himself stranded on a desolate planet with a figurative knife in his back. Really, though, his words read as a self-aware statement on the downward trajectory of the first two entries in writer-director David Twohy and star Vin Diesel’s sci-fi franchise. Where Pitch Black
was a simple story told well, The Chronicles of Riddick
made a sincere but uneven attempt to expand said tale into a fully realized universe full of warring planets and nuanced mythos. Riddick
’s first 20 minutes or so immediately signal that this a welcome return to bare-bones form. Our nocturnal antihero 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 into the open. This is all as awesome as it sounds, if not more so. Riddick
is the best of the series thus far—not to mention the best action film of the year.