Pitch Black

Pitch Black shows what happens when confronted with a mortal danger a human pack starts falling apart. It is a story about the simplest of facts - kill or be killed!

Review by SAndman
July 12, 2008

Pitch Black Movie

Director: David Twohy

story: Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat
screenplay: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat and David Twohy

Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick
Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Fry
Keith David as Abu 'Imam' al-Walid
Rhiana Griffith as Jack
Cole Hauser as William J. Johns

Released: 2000

Riddick: All you people are so scared of me. Most days I'd take that as a compliment. But it ain't me you gotta worry about now...

Pitch Black is a movie for which I've had a strange fascination ever since I first saw it a couple of years ago.

  • Maybe it's the desert backdrop - I just love deserts, though I'd think twice about vacationing on M6-117 - that's the name of the planet the characters in Pitch Black crashland on;
  • or the extremely nasty aliens-the worst kind; description: non-verbal, mental functions limited to hunting and feeding, and damn fast and efficient at disposing of humans like you and me;
  • or it could be the multi-faceted bad-ass protagonist, Richard B. Riddick, an escaped convict and murderer.

The little group of passengers find themselves stranded on a desert planet with three suns. The group is a cross-section of humanity: couple of prospectors, a flying officer, a few pilgrims, a businessman, a cop and a convict. At first the planet shows little sign of life except for the rundown base, which looks like it was abandoned a long time ago.

Oh yeah, and there are some pretty big and unidentifiable skeletons scattered around the countryside. That's usually a cue for some lame comment like:"Gee…What could have killed such a big creature?" Sure enough, the script doesn't let us down. I have never understood why this question has to be so laden with meaning. Why can't the answer simply be old age or a virus?

Anyway, these and other clues give them something to think about until things really start getting tense. Meanwhile Riddick escapes. They mount a watch and begin looking into ways of getting off the planet. One of the prospectors disappears while on watch and though everybody thinks he was killed by Riddick the truth soon turns out to be far more sinister.

Yeah, I'm sure you've seen it all before. Aliens vs. humans, hostile planet, typical antihero. Yet all these familiar elements are tied in a pretty well-crafted movie so we tend to overlook the clichés and immerse ourselves in the atmosphere soaked up in blood (not too much of it anyway), testosterone (fairly played down) and the primal fear of the dark and of what's in the dark.

I have a penchant for the SF movies which show human beings under duress. You could easily argue that basically all SF movies are about human beings pushed to the limit. But there's an extra kick to it if they're forced to get by on what scrap of civilization they got left. When they have to improvise to make do for the lack of basic necessities, or when they have to rely on their musclepower and smarts for survival, or simply fight for their lives regardless of the ethical considerations. (That last bit always makes me jumpy next day in the office!)

For better or worse, we can all relate to Riddick. A criminal is that part of us which we fear the most. That is the unpleasant truth we take from Pitch Black. There is a dialogue in Pitch Black which sums it up.

Johns: "Battlefield doctors decide who lives and dies. It's called 'triage'."

Riddick: "They kept calling it 'murder' when I did it."

It's all in where you stand.

So moral relativism against the backdrop of extremely hostile environment and relentless pursuers in the form of man-eating aliens. You add to that some clever directing and you will pretty much get the feel of Pitch Black.

The cast did a fine job of bringing the characters to life. Vin Diesel is convincing as a as-tough-as-they-get convict. Radha Mitchell is my favorite as a fallible human being who is struggling with guilty conscience. Cole Hauser can be trusted as a drug-addicted cop. The rest pass muster.

I already complimented David Twohy for his directing. Additional compliments to the director and scriptwriters for starting a Riddick saga, which proved to be one of the better SF story arcs in the past few years.

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