Let me start by saying that I'm quite fond of Pitch Black and I like the character Riddick (ugh, this review is going to be hard to write so it's not confusing when talking about the previous entries in the series...), so even if this movie had completely ignored The Chronicles of Riddick and just been Pitch Black again I wouldn't have minded too much.
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Chronicles of Riddick because I actually did; the action was entertaining, I liked the worlds they created, and Riddick himself is just fun. However the movie as a whole just didn't quite work. The reason I think is that the scope of the movie was too big for the character. They had a huge galaxy-conquering empire and they tried to make us believe that it was defeated by a guy with a couple of funny-looking knives and better-than-average eyesight.
They lionized Riddick to an excessive degree; while fun at times, overall it just... didn't work. In Pitch Black, Riddick was a tough guy but he wasn't "the galaxy's biggest bad-@$$". He spent much of the film in chains, and even when he escaped the first time he was taken down pretty quickly by just the one guy. No, what Riddick was in the first movie was an unknown quantity; he was unpredictable, dangerous but mysterious.
Thinking about it now, I would say that Riddick was the star of Pitch Black a bit like the Predator was the star of Predator; he's not the character that we follow and empathize with even if he's the one we remember the most; he's the scary and mysterious monster that the audience love even though he's not a good guy. Like the Predator, Riddick is often at his best when you can't see him, but you know he's out there, somewhere. Chronicles of Riddick changed that by making him, well, the Hero.
It's somewhat unfortunate then that this entry in the series inherits some of the problems of the second film even when trying to emulate the first. Chronologically it takes place after Chronicles of Riddick, and yet thematically it tries to go back to the first movie; borrowing so heavily from Pitch Black that some of the scenes are almost exactly the same. Sometimes that works well, other times not so much. Speaking personally at least, I couldn't quite consolidate what I view as two different images of Riddick, which they were trying to present in the same movie. One minute he's standing there challenging the world with a smile on his face, confidant in his invulnerability, the next he's running for his life; five minutes later he's lounging around like he's untouchable again. Perhaps the problem isn't the character himself, but the ease with which I buy into the tough-guy act that Riddick puts on for others?
Having said all that, I enjoyed this movie. I thought the early parts with Riddick alone on the planet worked well, I liked the environment and creature designs, the mercenaries were characterful, the acting appropriate, there were some good action scenes and some nice visual spectacles and Riddick himself is still entertaining.
Overall I give it a 7/10. If you enjoyed Pitch Black you'll probably enjoy this one too... which shouldn't come as a big surprise really.
Ah, now for the obligatory nitpicking! Let's start with the dog. I liked the dog. Riddick liked the dog. There's this fairly powerful scene where Riddick is trying to save the dog - which risked it's life to save him - but fails. The scene would have been better if it hadn't felt as if it should have been possible for Riddick to avoid the situation, but nevermind. My problem is that Riddick passes out to the sight of his dog dying. Then, when he wakes up, he doesn't mourn or grieve or anything, he just slips straight into his "you may think you've captured me, but I'm still in control of the situation" routine, antagonizing his enemies while flashing his pearly whites. Yes, I know that the first thing he did was announce that he was going to kill Santana, but it was still too... quick and easy I suppose. I know he's supposed to be a tough guy who doesn't show his weaknesses, but still, the audience needs to see him react to know that he cares. We don't so we're left with the impression that he didn't really care, that the death of his companion didn't really matter to him.
I enjoyed seeing Batista and Katee Sackhoff, but I felt they were underused. Batista was entertaining when he spoke, unfortunately that didn't happen all that often. Katee's character was so completely unnecessary to the plot that I ended up rather disappointed; it seems she was just there to be the girl, nothing more. Perhaps that's not fair since most of the mercs were pretty much just there to stand around and die, but she's one of only three faces that I recognised so I kinda assumed she would have a bigger role.
I didn't quite get why Diaz betrayed them at the end. Perhaps it was revenge for Riddick killing Santana, or maybe it was to make sure that Johns didn't force them to give Riddick their ship? Also I'm not sure why he sabotaged one of the hover-bikes since he was planning on just killing them there, but that's not really important so never mind.
I didn't quite buy into Johns' change of heart at the end. Riddick says he didn't kill your son but won't actually give you the details of what happened, so you decide to save his life and give him a ship? Eh, I just wish there had been more time for the relationship between Riddick and the surviving mercs to develop, I think it would have been more enjoyable if they'd been forced to work together more.
I really like the design of the scorpion things, but I didn't understand how they hunted without eyes. If it's all by sound then I kinda feel that they would have a hard time picking up on things outside the water when they are completely submerged, plus I don't think they could have homed in on Riddick even when he wasn't moving if they were just hunting by sound. Maybe it was smell as well? There was a lot of noise going on with those tails, were they sniffing the air? Perhaps that coupled with sound would be enough, I don't know, I don't feel it was clear enough (or maybe I'm just thick). It's just that Riddick was being super-sneaky around the humans but the weird water creatures had no trouble spotting him at all times.
I liked the hints of former civilization that we saw on the planet, it would have been nice if that angle was fleshed out a little more. You know, what happened to them, etc. It seems a shame to have a couple of interesting ruins then just change location without anyone even acknowledging them.
I found it a bit strange that everyone was ready to kill Riddick even though he was the only one who knew where their power nodes were hidden. I guess they figured they could find them eventually or that they could send out a call for help - this was before they learned of the scorpion creatures - but he had seemed quite confident strolling up to them earlier so I assumed from his behavior that he should have been safe. I guess he overestimated them?
Santana was... inconsistent. Fun, but inconsistent. He lets Dahl beat the crap out of him without resistance or retaliation, then starts picking fights with her later for no apparent reason. One minute he gets in people's face, the next he shrinks away. Perhaps I'm just assuming that, because he's the villain in a Riddick movie, he's supposed to be a two-dimensional cartoon character, and as a result I'm just not able to accept that he's actually a reasonably deep human being who gets scared or swallows his pride some times but stands up for himself others? Perhaps they just wanted to keep him a little unpredictable?