Pitch Black (2000)
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The plot of Pitch Black is quite usual and has been seen several times before in different variations. But what makes this movie shine above others, is it's well-written characters.
The group consists of very different people with few more interesting than the others: Jack, a boy with a secret; Fry, a pilot having hard time with her own conscience; Johns, a bounty- hunter with a drug-habit; Imam, a holy man facing the fact that God is sometimes cruel and Riddick, a convict and a murderer learning to value others, not only himself. Characters start to live in the movie. They aren't only paper like in many other movies of this genre. You start to care for the characters, especially for Riddick though that feels quite odd. He is supposed to be the bad guy. In this movie, the line between light and pitch black is very thin. All characters are familiar with both.
Other thing that works in this movie is the casting. Rarely do actors fit to their roles this well. Radha Mitchell is suitable for Fry. Cole Hauser brings the right amount of cruelness and sense of responsibility for Johns. But the most impressive work is done by Vin Diesel. He does great job as Riddick. In his hands Riddick is quite creepy, definitely very dangerous and also deep character, just as he is supposed to be.
So, how do you survive in Pitch Black? Keep your friends close and enemies even closer.
The one really glaring technical defect in this story is how everyone just gets out and starts walking around, breathing in the air without the slightest concern for differences in the atmosphere, microbes and so on, but this is a common flaw that is often somehow glossed over in many such stories, so I can't harp on that detail too much.
As for Radha Mitchell, she is smokin' hot here, not in a ridiculous or frivolous way, but as her tough, seasoned interplanetary merchant marine ship's captain character "Fry", she nails it perfectly. If anything, she very much reminds me of Andrea Osvart (see her as the Hungarian assassin "Gilda" in the film "Two Tigers").
Now, if these two ladies ever appeared together in a film, I would drop everything and go check that out in a heartbeat . . . but I digress.
In any case, I have no trouble with granting 8 stars to "Pitch Black".
The performances are uniformly superb - Radha Mitchell shows Fry steeling herself for leadership, overcoming her own fears, and trying to prevent further bloodshed, while Cole Hauser, as the man taking Riddick back to custody, shows he has his own agenda and his own idiosyncratic standards. But the film belongs to Vin Diesel as Riddick - he has the most magnetic screen presence I've seen in years. For much of the film his face is in shadow, and he doesn't actually say a great deal, but he draws your attention all the same. Sometimes he draws your attention by not speaking - or by not moving. And Diesel doesn't trivialise the character, as could so easily be done, by giving him a "heart of gold" - Riddick is still one mean and vicious man as they approach the ship - he just lets us glimpse those first tentative steps from caring only for the self to caring for others.
Technically the film is very good. The lighting effects are excellent at both ends of the spectrum - the overbright triple sunlight and the pitch darkness. Special effects showing both Riddick's and the monsters' points of view add to the suspense, as do sound effects of the monsters flying and using ultrasound to "see" (the monsters themselves are anatomically plausible and suitably frightening). Editing is so tight it's almost jarring at times - there is literally no padding in this film, no fades, no time to re-orient yourself.
From the opening shot to the end of the credits you have to keep your wits about you. Every scene, every line of dialogue, every single camera shot is important. See it three times to understand it all.
My only caveat is about the science - the solar system as shown in the model is impossible (planets revolve around suns, not vice versa). However, that doesn't affect the human story, so I haven't taken points off for it.
It opens with a galaxy of stars. Some of the greatest films of all time open with this type of scene - "2001," "Star Wars," "Alien," "Predator." A ship is cruising through space when inside the entire cryogenically frozen crew is awoken. The ship has been hit by something. They crash land on a nasty little planet with three suns. Everyone flocks out of the ship when they find that their prisoner transport, Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel), has escaped confinement. They scan the desert planet in search of him and eventually find him, but they have no way of getting their ship to fly again. They search the planet for water and civilization but it seems that everyone suddenly disappeared from the planet not too long ago.
Then they find out that every 22 years the planets line up in a solar eclipse and the entire planet turns pitch black. There also happen to be hoards of aliens that thrive in darkness living on the planet - what are the chances? They happen to be on the planet right as the eclipse happens - what are the chances? And Riddick has a rare talent - he can see in the dark - again, what are the chances?
There seems to be a lot of coincedence in this movie, but a film like this isn't out to get Oscars for originality or believability. It's there to entertain the audience - it does so with ease. Vin Diesel is a big gorilla of a man with no acting talent whatsoever. But I've got to say if there's anyone who can fit the part of a trashy, homicidal felon it is Diesel. Listen to him mutter, "He did not know who he was fu**ing with." Great stuff.
The aliens in this movie are a mix between hammerhead sharks, those from "Alien" and Predators. They've got long, horizontal heads like a hammerhead, the quick-moving agility of the aliens, and the stealth of a Predator. I assume David Twohy (director and writer of the movie) didn't expect audiences to believe his creatures were truly something never seen before. At least I hope not.
"Aliens Redux" might be a better name for this movie, but then again, it is better than both the second and third "Alien" films put together. In a time when apparently ended series are getting revived - "Terminator 3," "Alien 5," "Predator 3," "Alien vs. Predator" - "Pitch Black" stands out as a new series altogether. Two more sequels are planned. Let's just hope they don't get carried away. I can just picture it twenty-five years from now: "Aliens vs. Predator vs. Pitch Black Aliens: *The Fight of the Year."
*Fight of the Year title may be shared with the upcoming film "Freddy vs. Jason vs. Michael vs. Leatherface vs. Norman Bates vs. Alien vs. Predator vs. Terminator vs. James Cameron vs. Barny the Dinosaur."
This is not an art film, not an independent, and its not entirely original, but where it fails to break a lot of new ground, it utterly succeeds in providing interesting, realistic characters, hard-driving action in the medium of a compelling but simple plot, and non-stop entertainment; an absolutely beautiful environment with tastefully rendered special effects. Sound to good to be true? Don't take my word for it... see it for yourself.
The film also highlighted the charisma of the now somewhat iconoclastic Vin Diesel, introducing the character of Richard Riddick. Diesel would go on to star in the somewhat Riddick-ulous Chronicles thereof (which I also enjoyed, though recognizing its rather huge flaws) and is now something of a legend. Diesel is so charismatic, so big, and so interesting to watch that it is easy to ignore the fact that he is not only a talented actor, but a smart one too. Checking out the DVD version of Pitch Black, with the audio comments on might just blow you away.
The film is about the crew of an inter-system transport ship stranded on an unknown planet after a crash-landing in which their captain was killed. The new commander is inexperienced but bright and heroic (Mitchell), but she is caught between two dominant and dangerous personalities - a bounty hunter with secrets (Hauser) and a dangerous criminal who has been surgically altered to see in the dark (Diesel). Is that all? Of course not - the planet is inhabited, and the inhabitants are hungry.
As unoriginal and improbable as some of this may be, Pitch Black is beautifully filmed, well told, and very nicely performed. Don't expect to learn anything, and don't expect to have to think a whole lot, but do expect to have fun with this modern sci-fi action classic.
The look of the movie is breath taking, the contrast of blues, yellows and oranges due to the three different suns is amazing. Followed by the complete darkness of nightfall. I would truly recommend any lover of the ALIEN movies or Radha Mitchell (which is why I went to see it) to check out this film. I'm sure by the end you'll look at the dark in a whole new way.
The alien creatures sent shivers up my spine; the individual(s) who designed them have a twisted but brilliant and creative imagination to come up with something so impressive and grotesque.
I loved how the writers gave each main character a history and showed their flaws and strengths without much confusion.
Riddick's (Vin Diesel) gift for escaping out of any impossible situation and putting up a hell of a fight was jaw dropping. At first, you figure him out to be a coldly intelligent villain but in some brief moments, you can see something humane behind his animal side. But as soon you discover it, he does something maliciously devious. He certainly keeps you guessing right up to the very end. I didn't know whether to despise or admire him... he's definitely a love/hate type of character.
Johns (Cole Hauser) was a perfect example of a character that puts up a good front but through a need for greed, shows his real intentions and what he's willing to do to survive. John's knack for knowing what buttons to push and the right words to say makes him as devious as Riddick.
Fry (Radha Mitchell) is a character who, as Johns so nicely expressed, looked to her thine own ass first before considering the consequences. But what's endearing about her is that she quickly realizes the errors of her ways and tries desperately to pay penance, even while endangering her life when others discarded all human values and went for the dark hills running.
Jack (Rhiana Griffith) simply wanted to have a hero and was the first one out of the whole group to look for that hero in Riddick; through a child's eye, good can be seen through the thick clouds of evil. I thought it was absolutely priceless when Jack shaves his head in ode to Riddick; you know what they say: Imitation is the best form of flattery.
Imam (Keith David), like Jack, has the ability to see good in any evil. He uses philosophy to carry him through the hardships that he meets and when time permits, he rationally grieves his losses and then soldiers on. In a way, he served as a morale booster for the survivors even though most of the characters acted as though they weren't listening.
The casting for this movie was positively perfect. Each actor shined brightly in their role and their talents blended wonderfully on-screen.
This movie may have had a small budget but the director's leadership and the actor's performances made the movie work and allowed the audience to use their imagination instead of letting some outrageously expensive Special Effects do all the work for them. This movie is a definite Sci-Fi classic. Watch it and judge (with an open mind) for yourself. It will be well worth it.
This is a very stylish film, with the colour of the sky changing scene by scene, giving it a very strange look. Vin Diesel is brilliant as Riddick, truly menacing but forced to help people who otherwise would only see him as a threat. There is also an underlying humour in his performance as well, which adds another dimension to the character. This is the sort of role that Vin excels in, the anti-hero, whos character is not as one-dimensional as first appears. I can imagine no-one else in this role, it could have been written specifically for him.
Roll on Chronicles of Riddick!
The critters are fantastic (although I have to wonder what they eat when there are no hoomins around).
As with all films like this, there are a couple of troubling plot holes, but far fewer per running foot of celluloid than the average George Lucas movie, and far, far fewer than average. The direction is taut.
Quibbles. Soundtrack is very derivative in spots. To keep the George Lucas comparison going, it's partly dumbed down John Williams. That said, the score has some great creepy parts too. Science quibble.. Low oxygen results in non existent flames and complete inability to run. Character quibble... Vin Diesel's character Riddick's unusual skillset is not explained enough for my satisfaction.
But heck, none of this was enough for my willing suspension of disbelief to get more than a few spare cables cut. If you don't normally watch SF movies this is definitely one to consider, and if you like SF horror this is a must see - in fact true horror buffs might find it tame.
I am variable in how squeamish I am. Some days I can handle pretty disgusting stuff and other days I can't. This movie has a couple of pretty scary scenes, but I didn't find any of it particularly disturbing, and Vin Diesel made the whole trip worthwhile, in this, his breakout role.
After sixteen years, "Pitch Black" is still a great B-movie that may be considered a new-classic in the present days. The story is engaging with good special effects. But the most amazing is the direction and the perfect casting of unknown actors and actresses. "Pitch Black" brought the attention of the audiences to Vin Diesel in his first success; Radha Mitchell, from "Everything Put Together" of the same year, is perfect in the role of Carolyn Fry; and the always efficient Cole Hauser and Keith David have also great performances. The noncommercial conclusion is also a plus of "Pitch Black". My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil) "Eclipse Mortal" ("Mortal Eclipse")
But then things take a turn. I can't exactly pinpoint the moment, but soon the movie gets a lot better. It also feels less chopped - the scenes actually begin to follow each other with a consistent narrative, and Vin Diesel becomes much less annoying and soon he is a show-stealer. By the time the first monsters appear, the film is actually quite enjoyable. By the time night falls, it is great. Thrilling, horrifying and exciting. And even the character development of most main characters is well-done. If you can just sit through the poor bits at the start you're in for some GREAT entertainment.
Besides, the visuals are eye-candy, and I honestly admit: I love the colour and the tone of this movie.
7/10 (could have been 9/10, if only....)
At first, Diesel is considered the biggest threat to the survivors because he is a convicted killer of many and an escape artist; but a quick exploration of the planet with three suns reveals terrifying creatures that lurk underground in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to go above ground...and that moment will come soon when a lengthy eclipse takes place.
My most memorable, movie moment of "Pitch Black" is the scene when Diesel kills a large monster easily, then says "Did not know who he was fucking with." Maybe Diesel is the biggest threat on the planet.
"Pitch Black" is a low-budget, sci-fi/horror movie that definitely delivers. The story, direction, acting, pacing, and special effects are solid. The three main characters - of Diesel, Mitchell, and Hauser - have enough depth to them to add extra layers of complexity to the story. There is one bit of shenanigan that I will address: the numerous creatures are starving, and there aren't enough people to feed on, so they start feeding on each other, and one is so crazed by hunger it doesn't fly away when light - which hurts the creatures - is shined on its body as it attacks a survivor. Why didn't this happen more, especially when the light source of the survivors were weak and few?
What works here is the writing and character development. Vin Diesel is surprisingly good as the clever and philosophical Riddick. He's a dangerous convict turned reluctant savior. The supporting cast does a great job of bringing dimension to characters that could easily have been overly simplistic. What drives the movie is the constant uncertainty about the main characters' true motivations. Riddick is particularly hard to figure out and in the end it's hard to say he's really a "good" guy. His character is far more complex than that.
The special effects are strictly mediocre, but the director seemed to understand this. So the creatures are mostly kept in shadows, helping to avoid those, "That looks so fake!" moments. The actual design of the bat-like creatures is clearly "inspired" by Giger's design for the movie Alien. They certainly could have been more original, but they get the job done. At least the special effects people decided to rip-off an all-time classic movie monster design.
The story moves along at a good pace, never feeling too rushed or too slow and keeps the viewer on edge. It's usually pretty obvious who the survivors will be in this type of movie (where characters are being picked off one by one), but this one surprised me a little at the end. Overall, this is a good effort and far better than a lot of big budget sci-fi action movies.
I also saw Iron Giant and Vin is perfect. (The snowmobile movie - oh yeah, it's called "Triple-X," or "xXx" - was a weak example of his work.) In Pitch Black he plays an anti-hero to the max. I don't think you can go wrong when Vin stars in a movie. Unfortunately, Hollowood might type cast him as an adventure action movie star - wrong! I think the script for "XXX" was weak for which Vin couldn't act down to it.
Anyway, Pitch Black is a great scifi - see it!
The year 2000 was awash with sci-fi movies, not all were stellar of course, but siting at the top end of the scale was this, Twohy's super slice of action/horror/sci-fi cake.
Right from the off we are thrust on board the cargo ship Hunter- Gratzner, which as it happens is plummeting through space. The ship has been hit by meteorite debris and junior officer Caroline Fly (Mitchell), after coming out of hyper sleep, manages to crash land on a nearby planet. Only a handful of passengers survive the crash, including infamous convict Richard B. Riddick (Diesel), but as the survivors struggle to cope with the threat from within the group, it becomes apparent that there's a bigger threat soon to join the party, a deadly alien species, a species that can only operate in the dark. Pity, then, that an eclipse is due...
Okies, so lets get the obvious out in the open right away, Pitch Black is a variant of Alien, one of a ream of films that grabbed the coat tails of Ridley Scott's game changer. Yet this is still a fresh movie, a lesson in low budget film making with grace, style, blood, brains and balls - the execution grade "A" from those involved.
It's maybe surprising given the synopsis, to find that it's a very character driven piece, with Twohy continually building his characters even as the carnage and terror is unleashed - and these are a very diverse bunch of characters. One of the universe's baddest criminals, a spunky lady officer having to take command, a morphine addicted bounty hunter, an Islamic priest and his young companions, a camp alcoholic and a couple of strays. It's the not so wild bunch, but everyone of them are afforded chance to impact on the story before and during the inevitable picking off one by one at the claws of the beasts.
The narrative strength comes via Diesel's hulking convict, he's double jointed and has had optical surgery so he can see his enemies in the dark! The group must come to rely on him for he is clearly their best hope of survival, but can he be trusted? What is his ultimate ulterior motive? Riddick is the épée to Fry's foil, it's at times like a devil and angel trying to become one in the simple name of survival. These crux characters lift the simple premise to greater heights, that Mitchell (sexy/vulnerable/hard/smart) and Diesel (moody/beefy/gravelly/menacing) are bang on form helps no end. As does the work of the tech department.
The setting created here is a splendid veer from one of the curses of sci-fi films, that of an unbelievable world. Twohy, Eggby and the art department achieve a world of 3 suns, of a scorched barren landscape, with the photography switching between bleached and metallic filters for maximum sci-fi impact. While the effects work belies the budget, check out the pre-eclipse sequence. What of the creatures themselves? They are legion, a sort of pterodactyl nightmare who let out high pitched bleats, they smell blood and move at high speeds, and like Riddick they have special vision in the dark, it's the light that they are afraid of, thus this gives our survivors a glimmer (ahem) of hope in how to stave them off...
The science and logic is hokey, but so what? This is a classy and taut sci-fi film brought about by a very under valued director, one that puts many a bigger budgeted Hollywood production to shame. Come the finale, where there's still time to have your draw dropped, you may be minus nails and on the edge of your seat. 9/10