Pitch Black (2000)

May 05, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Everybody loves the villain, usually because he’s a rebel, he always has something entertaining to say, and because it’s easier to relate to him than the hero. Riddick is a villainous animal that we instantly love the moment we see him in his cage in David Twohy’s Pitch Black. The film is a morality tale about selflessness, and also a Sci-Fi thriller with two types of villains clashing in heavyweight match. Twohy conjures up a visually appealing, gripping Sci-Fi adventure, and Vin Diesel plays one of his most engaging roles to date, as he becomes Riddick: a sly, dangerous convict in transport.

Twohy’s film is a wonder to look at because the cinematography makes  the film tangible. The audience feels the dryness of the planet, as the atmosphere of the film is lit with hot white light that sizzles, and is also occasionally layered with a fire-blue tone. The film is shot in gritty fashion, giving a sandpaper feel to the screen. When night falls, the neon lights, and flares are used effectively to build tension, as the surrounding darkness is a constant threat. There are also creative POV shots, from the viewpoints of Riddick’s night-vision eyes and the creatures’ illuminating eyes as well. The fights, when they come up, are quick and slick, coming with a satisfactory amount of gore.

Vin Diesel, as the big and bad Riddick, is darkly humorous, dangerous and wholly engaging. His hardened physique and deep, rough voice fit perfectly into the shoes of the character. Diesel has a cool, imposing presence, and his character arc from dangerous to courageous is subtly cheer-worthy. Riddick is the anti-hero, and there’s no doubt about that, but he proves that no man can be absolutely evil. There are moments of worried strain in Riddick’s glowing eyes, where you know that he does have a heart, and that he’s not invincible. However, when Riddick is kicking ass, he does so with deadly precision and praiseworthy style. Cole Hauser, as Johns, is Riddick’s equal, as a drug-addicted merc that is just as deadly and always in Riddick’s way. Their confliction with each other carries a lot of the film. Radha Mitchell, playing Captain Fry, is the protagonist of the film with a heavy guilt lying on her shoulders as she tries her best to lead the group to safety.

Pitch Black is a film that has been influenced by many great Sci-Fi films before it, but it does hold up and make a name for itself. There is a theme of selflessness that runs throughout the film, as opposing characters find a sense of comfort with each other facing a common enemy, and that moral tension grips the audience strong enough throughout. Riddick is an iconic Sci-Fi character that is a humanized badass–he’s dangerous, darkly funny, precise, yet he also bleeds and breaks down at times. The film works because of it’s character arcs that simply show change is possible.

Potential Drawbacks:

The CGI of the creatures is a bit dated, however they are mostly hidden in the dark. Twohy could have used a tangible creature in close confrontations, and keep the CGI usage even lower.

The characters  of Riddick, Johns, and Captain Fry are interesting, but Riddick outshines them, so when he’s off-screen you end up wondering where he’s at. Thankfully, he’s never gone for too long.  In addition, there are some cheesy lines that are delivered poorly, and the script has some scratching their heads. For example: the evolution of the creatures  that can only see at night, living on a planet where sunshine is extremely abundant.

Film Recommendations:

The Chronicles of Riddick

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