on November 14, 2000
Hell has surely frozen over. That's the only way to explain how David Twohy, writer-director of the so-bad-it's-hilarious Charlie Sheen skydiving epic "Terminal Velocity," has made a movie this good. It's not high art, but "Pitch Black" is a triumph within its genre: a suspenseful, intelligent monster movie with surprisingly deep characters.
A damaged spaceship loaded with cargo and cryo-sleeping passengers crash-lands on an alien world where three suns create perpetual daylight. At first, the survivors think their biggest problem is the vicious convict who's escaped from the wreckage. Then they discover the light-fearing predators lurking beneath the planet's surface. And then comes the total eclipse...
"Pitch Black" is a Diesel-powered movie-- Vin Diesel, that is. As the menacing convict Richard P. Riddick, Diesel gives a ferociously intelligent and charismatic performance, backed up by Twohy's surprisingly nuanced script. You'll come to root for Riddick as the movie wears on, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll like him.
Radha Mitchell is also fine as the novice pilot Fry, battling inner and outer demons as she tries to hold the survivors together; Cole Hauser does a nice turn as Riddick's captor; and the fine supporting cast includes Keith David as a Muslim cleric (a refreshingly positive portrayal of Islam) and "Farscape"'s always-excellent Claudia Black.
"Pitch Black" is an embarrassment of riches for sci-fi fans: characters who continually surprise you, creepy creatures left mostly up to your imagination, and a stripped-down story that moves at a breakneck pace. Perfect popcorn entertainment-- just be sure you don't turn _all_ the lights off before you watch it...
on November 14, 2000
This is a damned good sci-fi horror flick. Okay, it isn't really scary (more tension inducing than terror inducing) and you do have to take it with a grain of salt, but in general, it is a very decent movie for the genre. I would say it is a fair bit like Aliens - same sort of feel, though not so humorous. (Well, they don't have a Hudson, so you know).
The beasts are great - sort of like dragons or basilisks with a bit of Starship Trooper bug thrown in. More straight predators than anything else, but with a genius for seeking out prey. The hardest part of the plot to accept is that anyone makes it out alive. Especially as the beasties dislike for light seems to fade when they get really hungry (see Johns with gun torch scene).
The acting is pretty cool by all actors, but yes, Vin Diesel is great as Riddick with his awesome "shine-job" and Cole Hauser has to come in for a mention with his fantastic portrayal of the morally ambiguous William Johns, bounty hunter. It was Cole Hauser who was the scene stealer in my opinion - Riddick was the central male character so he didn't have to steal scenes - they were already his. Riddick and Johns were excellent characters and both actors gave talented portrayals. I was really surprised to learn that Cole Hauser was 25 in real life - he made me believe his character was a jaded 30 at the very least.
The 3 central characters (Radha Mitchell as Carolyn, Cole Hauser as Johns, and Vin Diesel as Riddick) were used to explore the theme of courage with interesting results. Personally, I would consider all three characters as brave beyond belief but I wonder whether the movie intends me to think that way - after all, all three of them do some questionable things in the name of survival.
The director of this film has a bright future - it was well done and convincing. You could see that some effects were low-budget, but they were used so well that it didn't matter. The opening scenes could be described as awesome - the lighting, Riddick's voice over, the look and feel of the pilots area - all brilliant. All in all, a great movie and definitely worth watching more than once.
on October 29, 2000
Pitch black is easily one of my favourite sci fi films, as it combines more than just the typical 'kill/run from the aliens' scenario, it actually has good characters, and a few surprises. The plot is as basic as any other sci fi flick: a ship crash lands on a deserted planet. It's passengers include a dead captain, the pilot forced into command, a cop, a religious man, a few children, and a deadly prisoner, who makes a hasty retreat from the ship shortly after the crash. During their search for water while bearing the heat of the 3 suns that scorch the planet, the group comes across many skeletons and a tiny ship, that only needs a bit of fixing up to leave. But the escaped convict and whatever lives underground in the darkness has other plans. This movie has a lot going for it, especially the great acting from it's stars Vin Diesel, the underrated Keith David, and the beautiful Radha Mitchell. The special effects are great as well. The violence is a little weak (although women and children are not spared), but it's enough. As for the dvd itself, i was very surprised. Most of the time movies set in darkness are very fuzzy looking (like the horrible transfer of The Relic), but there were only a few moments in Pitch Black where it looked mildly grainy. The special features of the disc aren't very special, but i'm happy with what was included. It could have been worse, and had just a trailer with it. Bottom line: awesome movie, awesome transfer, and good dvd features.
on June 7, 2004
With the release of The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) aka Pitch Black 2, Universal Home Video has decided to try and squeeze a bit more juice from the original film, releasing a Special Wide Screen Unrated Director's Cut edition. Is it worth it, for all of you out there who've already bought one of the numerous previous releases? I'll answer this question later. Pitch Black (2000) was directed by David Twohy, better known to me for his writing credits, specifically the Kevin Costner suck fest Waterworld (1995). Despite that particular credit, he did write and direct The Arrival (1996), which I did enjoy, but when the hole you're trying to exhume yourself from of is Waterworld, you have a lot of digging ahead of you. The most notable star in the film is Vin Diesel as Riddick, and, while not his first film, this is probably the one that really got him and his bald head noticed by the public. The film also stars Cole Hauser as William Johns, an actor I most recall from the 1993 film Dazed and Confused and sometimes get confused with Ben Affleck, who was also in that movie. Also appearing in the film is the delicious Claudia Black, a woman that any sci-fi aficionado would recognize as Aeryn Sun from the popular Farscape television series and Keith David, popular character actor I recognize mostly from John Carpenter films like The Thing (1982) and They Live (1988).
Anyhow, the film opens on a giant ship traveling through space. We see a number of people in cryo sleep, as since we all know, space travel takes a long time, so in order to pass the extended periods of time, people must be partially frozen, like green peas, and then thawed out when needed. Well, something goes wrong with the ship, and various peoples begin popping out of cryo sleep, as the computer, who probably screwed things up in the first place, now needs people to fix matters. But there's no fixing these particular matters as the ship makes a crash landing on a pretty crummy desert-like planet. As the surviving members of the ill-fated cruise extricate themselves from the wreckage, soon begin to learn more of these individuals. There's the Skipper, Mary Ann, the Professor...wait, that's not right...ah skip it...anyway, we do get to meet Riddick, the only passenger chained and bound during cryo sleep, who manages to escape his bonds, to which Johns begins to run around looking for him. As the others begin looking for water, a couple stay behind, one in particular to begin burying those who didn't survive the landing. As he's digging, he finds a hole, decides to stick his head inside, and poof, he's gone, leaving an awful lot of blood behind...where did he go? We see Riddick standing over the hole, to which everyone assumes he killed the man, but we learn pretty shortly afterwards that's not the case. An investigation turns up some pretty hideous (and hungry) creatures that can only venture out when the sun (or suns, as there's three of them on this world) is down. The stranded individuals eventually find water, in the form of a deserted mining camp. Also in the camp is a space skiff, a small ship capable of getting them off the planet and into space shipping lanes where they would most likely be picked up by a passing freighter. Only problem is the skiff needs power to operate, so heavy power cells from the crashed vessel must be transported to the skiff, and the distance is more than a hop, skip and a jump. Oh yeah, night is falling, causing the indigenous inhabitants to stir, and stir they do...by the millions...by the way, did I mention Riddick has some strange modification to his eyes that allow him to see in the dark? You can see where this might come in handy in the darkness of a planet inhabited by big, hungry, scary, carnivorous nocturnal creatures...
So, is this film any good? Being so inundated by B-movie flicks over the many years of my movie viewing existence, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was actually a very good film with better than average special effects. Okay, originality isn't its' strong point, but certain elements within the story makes it better than most, the key being that there is a coherent story throughout. And real, honest to goodness character development, to the point where I became unsure who was actually going to make it to the end of the film. The presentation of the character of Riddick, the anti-hero, was fun, and the notion of fighting evil with evil, as the tag line states seems a misrepresentation, as I really didn't see the creatures as being evil, only doing what they would normally do...the one character I found most annoying was that of Jack, given his whining and such, and sacrifices made to accommodate him. The element about the story I enjoyed most was that very little seemed to be what it appeared to be, specifically with the major characters and plot lines. Things get a bit topsy-turvy as revelations are made.
So, is it worth buying this version if you've already bought a previous DVD release of the film? Probably not...the special features included are commentaries by the director and stars Diesel and Hauser, additional commentaries by the director, the producer, and the guy in charge of the special effects, which were available on previous releases. The list of new features is listed on this website, but I found very little of them really worth my time, so if you already own a previous version (I didn't), you're not missing much. There was a free movie pass included in the DVD case, one for the new movie The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), so that's pretty sweet, give that going to the theater to see a new film has gotten so expensive.
By the way, did they rename this film The Chronicles of Riddick - Pitch Black? Was this done to help people remember it was the first film with the Riddick character? If so, it was a daft manuver...it will always be Pitch Black to me..
on April 3, 2004
In a world of cheap knock-offs, bad scripts, and assembly-line plots, Pitch Black shines. Arguably an Alien derivative, this film could have been another sci-fi, big effects, lame catch-phrase waste of 120 minutes, but it found quality where other films of this genre find crap. Pitch Black did not need to be this good. Instead of flat, cliche characters, Pitch Black delivers suprisingly human, unique, diverse, sympathetic survivors. Instead of a reaching, ridiculous tale filled with pathetic attempts to spark a sense of morality, it delivers a solid sci-fi/horror punch and lets the character development reveal its humanity. And instead of over-dramatized, over-used, commercial direction, it pulls the viewer into a beautiful, haunting, frightening world where the nightmare creatures are just another hurdle for our heroes (and anti-heroes) to survive. Granted, the story had some holes big enough to drive a truck through, but they were truly lost in the overall feel of this new sci-fi classic. Pitch Black is a staple in my collection, because it is far better than it had to be.