Riddick: Why isn't his catch phrase "It's time to get Riddick-ulous?"
The first half hour or so of Riddick is a straight-up space barbarian movie. You don't need to know anything about the character Vin Diesel has played twice before, in 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick and 2000s Pitch Black. (Pitch Black is a great, pulpy sci-fi thriller. The less said about Chronicles, the better.) All you need to know is he's been left for dead on a deadly desert planet, where every animal sees him as its next meal. It's like Cast Away starring Conan the Barbarian—a series of scenes featuring Diesel beating various CGI creatures to death with giant bones. (One of the monsters is pretty much an H.R. Giger Alien rip-off glued onto a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rex legs, which is its own moronic kind of genius.)
Once that first sequence is over, Riddick shifts gears entirely. Two bands of bounty hunters land on the desert planet to catch Riddick, and Riddick basically disappears from the movie for a while, sneaking around and becoming an off-screen tormentor. The bounty hunters are your standard array of paramilitary cliches, though Matt Nable plays the leader of the pack with a nice been-there-done-that weary aura, and Katee Sackhoff is basically playing an R-rated version of her turn as Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck, which is always welcome. The effects are pretty and mostly tolerable—to get the movie made, Diesel and director David Twohy reportedly had to agree to a tiny budget—and the movie doesn't seem to take itself too seriously most of the time.
Riddick isn't what I'd call a good movie, exactly, but it's still a welcome change from most of the the sci-fi action flicks we've seen so far this year. The fate of the universe, thankfully, doesn't hang in the balance. While some of the fight scenes are too choppy to follow, the movie displays remarkable patience and a willingness to build a creeping sense of dread. It embraces its R rating with some pleasantly gratuitous nudity, swearing, and violence. It feels a lot longer than its two-hour runtime, and it ends a little abruptly, but if you're looking for a dumb movie featuring a muscular, tough-talking piece of cardboard taking on a team of finely tuned paramilitary goons—the kind of thing that TBS used to call "movies for guys who like movies"—you probably won't come away from a matinee of Riddick hating yourself.