** (out of four)
It’s been nine years since the “Pitch Black” sequel “The Chronicles of Riddick,” probably because that’s how long it takes to recover from the sight of Vin Diesel holding a knife to Judi Dench’s throat. Actually, my eyes could use more time to heal.
Alas, here comes “Riddick” to follow 2000’s dull “Alien” rip-off and 2004’s dull sci-fi/action epic that makes less sense as it goes. Surprise surprise, the third installment’s a bore too, and Diesel’s terrible performance goes without saying. This guy specializes in franchises that don’t know what to call their sequels—the next “Fast and Furious” movie will probably be “The Team That Is Both Furious and Fast”—and when tasked with carrying “Riddick” alone, he delivers the charisma of a rock. Well, that’s not true; on this underpopulated planet with a urine-colored sky, he’s surrounded by rocks, and those do a better job of holding the screen.
It appears the civilization-controlling power Riddick possessed at the end of “Chronicles” lasted only a few days, as the ex-convict with built-in night vision must again defend himself from a variety of CGI monsters and two bickering human crews well aware of the hefty bounty on Riddick’s bald head. Diesel says he leveraged his house to make the film, which is about as essential as a prequel about Riddick’s college days. Safe to say he was a ruthless hazer, but always had your back in a bar fight.
This time, director/co-writer David Twohy adds welcome/unfunny comic relief, and “Battlestar Galactica” cult heroine Katee Sackhoff (as one of many in pursuit of Riddick) single-handedly increases the film’s watchability and badass factor. Yet this monotonous search for an unlikable anti-hero amid giant, deadly insects made me long for the fun of “Starship Troopers,” particularly during incessant voiceover in which Riddick says things like, “The whole damn planet wanted a piece of me.”
Franchises don’t work if the movie improves when the main character is offscreen.
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