Pitch Black (2000)
Pitch Black (2000)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: February 18th, 2000 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Twohy Actors: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, Simon Burke, Lewis Fitz-Gerald

 


 

R

ichard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) can’t seem to remain unconscious in cryosleep like the other 40 or more civilians and officers resting stationarily in their chambers aboard a space transport. He’s the only prisoner of the group, which prompts him to contemplate the many opportunities for escape that may present themselves over the course of the 41-week journey. When a meteor shower causes excessive damage, causing the crew to be automatically awoken prematurely, Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) inherits a command position after learning that Captain Tom Mitchell has perished. And then a tumultuous crash-landing plunges them all into darkness.

With the back half of the ship torn away, it’s obvious that the desert planet (boasting three suns) on which they stumbled will be their new home for some time. William Johns (Cole Hauser) is in charge of Riddick, who poses a conundrum, as he’d previously broken out of a maximum-security prison. Blindfolded and gagged, Riddick is additionally chained to a beam; but it’s not enough to hold the man forever. A handful of survivors scour the wreckage, gather usable supplies, and hope to locate water – but they have more pressing things to worry about as well, such as the ravenous indigenous life.

The sets are instantly amusing, though they’re obscured by a precise color scheme that turns the imagery black-and-white with hints of various tints. Shadowy locales are bluish, while sun-scorched sand dunes are yellow; other colors are virtually nonexistent. If it didn’t feel as if utilized to hide mediocre special effects, the palette might have been more effective. Distorted images, slow-motion in unnecessary moments, repeated camera angles, and rapid cuts also generate visual curiosities, which numb the effectiveness of the cinematography and action-oriented violence. Nevertheless, the exploration of the planet holds additional intrigue, particularly as the unprepared passengers investigate abandoned outposts and encounter other inhabitants.

“All you people are so scared of me. Most days I take that as a compliment. But it ain’t me you gotta worry about now.” “Pitch Black” isn’t smart sci-fi; instead, it’s boilerplate survival horror, preoccupied with death, destruction, and monsters. Likewise, it’s the type of thriller that employs a muscular hero and capable female sidekicks with obligatorily bared midriffs. There’s also a curious subplot about idolizing Riddick’s notoriety, with two teenaged survivors emulating his dress and demeanor – which doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the action. Fortunately, this leads to a couple of surprises (chiefly in the order of demises), which proves a certain level of storytelling bravery from writer/director David Twohy.

The dependence on CG antagonists, however, is a pity, as they doesn’t hold up nearly as well as practical models (plus, inconsistencies abound with the designs, principally when the aliens swarm in the millions yet attack in small groups, perhaps a dozen at a time). This is true of the bloodshed, too, whose creativity suffers from unconvincing executions. The suspense fares better, especially when the characters are hunted down one by one in the inky confines of spaceship corridors or underground tunnels by toothy creatures that fear light. Riddick isn’t the most innovative protagonist for a job like this, but his persona is macho enough to take the place of a more recognizable he-man (like a Stallone or Schwarzenegger). As for the supporting cast, they’re given a dash of humor, credible cursing, and plenty of panicky infighting, generating a group dynamic that is reminiscent of “Aliens” or “The Thing” (Keith David has a role here, coincidentally) – just without a supremely satisfying conclusion.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10