Riddick may look like a sci-fi flick, talk like a tough-guy actioner, and walk like a late-summer, low-budget CGI blockbuster, but it's a prison film. And too often it either makes you feel trapped yourself—by laborious scenes, glare-downs, and an over-long story—or it seems to be catering to grizzled, hardened convicts, with its scuzzy, nasty view of women and, for that matter, men.
If this third movie in the franchise—following the same director's Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick—had stayed with its Castaway-meets-Aliens setup, it could've actually been a daring addition to the pantheon of guy-fights-ET-critters flicks. Ex-convict and murderer Riddick (Vin Diesel), a Furyan warrior, is left to die on a strange planet and the first half-hour's a nearly wordless, nature doc-like tracking of his efforts at survival, especially as he fends off hyena-like dogs and a scorpion-like venomous alien (that will even eat its own disemboweled guts). The predator's become a prisoner of his nastily alien environment, but then some bounty hunters arrive, and the film has to go all talky and human on us.
Vin Diesel's gravelly voice, it turns out, foreshadows how low-down and dirty the ride's gonna get. There are plenty of fizzling one-liners, brutal behaviour and drawn-out slag-offs that lead nowhere. The one woman, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), it soon becomes clear, is just there to be a sex doll—sure, she can punch and talk tough, but she's threatened twice with rape (including by Riddick) and, worse, the camera slavers over her gratuitous nudity in the shower (though we're told, apropos of nothing, that she's a lesbian). A general scuzziness and dinginess starts to creep over the picture like a mould … soon, it's hard to get your heart-rate up over whether or not the coming wave of scorpo-aliens kill these scowling, sneering bags of man-meat.
After a while, the slo-mo action shots seem more and more affected, while the landscapes seem more and more like Spartacus-meets-a-Creed-music-video on the green-screen. If only Riddick had avoided spending time on snakey, creepy non-characters, it could have ended up as something more than just a desert-planet variation, with space-lizards, on Predators (2010).