Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Pitch Black

directed by David N. Twohy

Pitch Black poster  
A passenger ship crash lands in a desert on an unknown planet. Only a handful survive. It's hot, dry, and I recommend you have a drink handy before settling to watch the blazing sunshine beat down on the victims. This planet has three suns, and nightfall comes only once every 22 years.

Then there's Riddick. He's an escaped convict, murderer, hard man psycho. When they land he is in chains, but he soon escapes and the survivors are fearing for their lives. Rather than wait for him to butcher them all they must find water, provisions and the rest of the ship. Whilst they're out looking for water they come across an old settlement. It's well stocked and the previous inhabitants even thought to leave an emergency vessel ready, but what happened to them?

Then someone is killed. It's not the first death, or even the second, but no-one is certain how it happened. Everybody believes Riddick is responsible, but we know otherwise. There are creatures far worse than him lurking in the darkness. They have to fetch some power cells for the emergency vessel so that they can leave, any excuse to get them out in the open and vulnerable. Before they can do that night falls, and the terror starts...

The plot has plenty of twists in it as well as moral theme running through, about redemption or some such thing. It's not preachy, although there is a preacher. In this type of film, much of the fun can be had in guessing who will die next. I was never right, as it doesn't stick to a cliched formula. A pet hate of mine is the type of movie that has me on the edge of my seat yet by the time I reach the end I am wondering why I bothered. All chase and no meaning. Pitch Black however left me satisfied because it's a relatively intelligent film for the genre. That's not saying a great deal though.

The cast is made up of relative unknowns. I had heard of Claudia Black (Farscape), but none of the others rang a bell. This didn't stop them from being believable. Vin Diesel is particularly creepy as Riddick, the psychopath with the soft heart. Sexual tension crackles between Riddick and Carolyn, the pilot who everyone looks on as captain since she's the only crew member left. Cole Hauser plays Johns, Riddick's jailer, and to begin with he looks like being the heroic action-man type. But nothing is ever cut and dried in this film, except possibly some of the victims.

The special effects are reasonably good, apart from one of the deaths, although obviously I can't say whose death. It wasn't a terribly realistic dismembering for the year 2000. Still this is just a niggle, and didn't wreck the story. Inevitably this sf horror draws comparisons with Alien, both of which are slick, dark, suspenseful, and feature bald people. The aliens in question though are completely different, these ones acting more like dumb animals than cunning predators. There are at least two different species, allowing for a greater variety of grisly killings. The gore is mainly responsible for landing this film its 15 certificate.

Quite a lot of shots are seen through Riddick's strange eyes, which he has had enhanced to help him see in the dark. Normal daylight dazzles him, so it strikes me as more of a handicap but it makes his peepers look groovy. This also means that the second half of the movie is at least as visually exciting as the first. We also get to see through the eyes of the predators, for a change.

You might be scared, but I can't see anyone wetting themselves in sheer terror during this film. The plot is unexpected and gets straight to the action without any flab. This does mean that the dialogue is fairly clipped and it is functional rather than sparkling.

It's a good movie but not quite a brilliant one, and never boring to watch.

Film Details

Year: 2000

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

More films by David N. Twohy


chehcko     20th May, 2006 12:47pm

most exellent film. no serious it was o.k i enjoy,ed it and for a fiver on dvd you cant could also say vin diesel at his best and thats not saying much although he suits the riddick charator and you no riddick is one cool mother.

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