Picking up where the last chapter of the “Riddick” franchise left off, we learn that protagonist has tired of sitting upon the throne of an otherworldly planet. He makes a deal, trading this nice — but restrictive — life for a ride to a comfortable planet where he can do as he likes. Riddick fails to see that the deal is a sham.
In a smooth-as-honey voice-over, he tells us, “Don’t know how many times I’ve been crossed off the list and left for dead.” In this case, he’s abandoned on an unnamed, desolate planet.
As we learned in “Pitch Black,” Riddick had his eyeballs polished while imprisoned — the better to see danger lurking in dark places. At night, his vision is advantageous, but during the day, without his black-lensed goggles, Riddick perceives wispy purple and white shapes.
Thankfully, when this muscle-bound fellow is dumped on a parched planet, he’s wearing the goggles that allow him to see, evade and, when necessary, put down its predators. Think “Survivorman” on steroids amped up by an array of strange perils and augmented by Riddick’s prodigious combat skills and keen survival strategies.
In time Riddick rescues and raises an orphaned killer that resembles a tiger-hyena hybrid. It becomes his constant companion, allowing us to imagine Riddick living there somewhat contentedly — until he discovers that an epic impending storm threatens to unleash unstoppable predators.
Because he’s a wanted man, Riddick’s one chance of survival lies in activating an emergency beacon that will broadcast both his identity and his location. Two small ships respond to the beacon, each competing to capture Riddick.
The first is captained by Santana (Jordi Molla), a ruthless, but comical, murderer planning to collect a double bounty for bringing in Riddick’s dead body. His first mate is the wily Moss (Bokeem Woodbine). The second ship belongs to Captain Boss Johns (Matt Nable), who chiefly relies on tough-girl Dahl (pronounced Doll and played by Katee Sackhoff).
Several others crew the two vessels, providing bodies for Riddick and the others to kill in a deadly game of cat an mouse. Riddick warns that the planet hosts more fearsome killers than he that are soon to be released from their long hibernation, but it’s a lesson the bounty hunters must learn the hard way.
The film is a keeper because writer-director David Twohy allows his story’s mysteries and surprises to unfold in due course, and Riddick is an iconic character who remains true to his principles. He may be a brutish everyman, but he’s hard to kill and even harder to forget.