One of my all time favorite movies is the first Arnold Conan movie. Perhaps the best example of it's this-is-so-macho-it’s-gotta-be-a-joke-but-then-again-it’s-also-super-badass vibe is when Conan is crucified to the Tree of Woe and a vulture tries to dine on his neck. Conan is nearly dead, but he ain't about to take no shit from no vulture, so he rips the vulture’s throat out with his teeth. He’s so quick to bite that he catches it before it can fly away! His teeth are so sharp they can instantly eviscerate a living animal! To steal a line from another movie, for Conan pain clearly don’t hurt.
So what were the filmmakers thinking when they decided to start Riddick with a scene where a pterodactyl comes up to nibble on Riddick’s fingers to see if he’s dead, and he chokes it to death with one hand? They had to have done it as an homage, but were they thinking that since dinosaurs are cooler than vultures their scene was more bad ass? Because there is no way the math comes out in Riddick's favor: being crucified and accomplishing anything at all - much less self defense - is so ridiculously bad ass that it just isn't going to be topped. Get out of here with your nearly-dead bullshit, Riddick.
The rest of the movie continues in a similar vein, where Riddick is supposed to be a space Conan, but he keeps coming up short of actual Conan. He can stab things, sure, but stabbing a CGI monster is less impressive than sword fighting another living human. Riddick talks in a gravelly voice, but he never tries to the kind-of-profound-but-not-really philosophizing that made Conan so great. But most importantly, Vin Diesel is no Arnold. He definitely has some sort of charisma, but Arnold was a singular talent; he managed to seem like a bad-ass even while he was wearing a furry loin cloth, while Riddick often comes across as a 5th grader's idea of a bad ass.
Still, that Conan movie is three decades old, and I'd rather have an okay knock off of it than nothing at all. Yeah, this movie doesn't have a scene as great as the "what is best in life scene", but it does have a scene where Riddick uses his one unchained leg to kick a machete at a guy’s head so hard that his head comes clean of. That has to count for something, right?