You’re not going to see better sci-fi CGI this year, period. The film just looks glorious. (My favourite bit was the coronal loops around the sun on Crematoria.) The plot is also well structured, with a solid introduction, and a classic three-act arc beyond that. The character of Riddick is built up into more than just a hero: he is the archetype incarnate. And the ending has a delicious little twist that promises more and even better to come.
And yet…throughout the whole film I was wondering, “what the hell is actually going on here?” Much is shown, but very little is explained. Riddick’s background is only hinted at. The socio-politics of the future environment are essentially a blank slate. Who or what are the elementals? Even the Necromongers, whose quest for the Underverse provides the central conflict for the film, remain shadowy and underexplained. It might seem like a triumph of style over substance, but it always gave the impression that the substance was there–the filmmakers just chose not to make much of it.
What this adds up to is a very pure sci-fi action flick that satisfied all my cravings for heroic escapism, and left me wanting more of the characters and universe, but not disappointed by their absence here. It’s a good trick.