Pitch Black (2000) was that it looked like just another excuse for a horror flick, albeit a good one. Who hasn't been afraid of what lurks in the dark at some point in their travels? It was just a teaser trailer that was mostly a black screen with people screaming and a few quick shots of creatures jumping at you. That was the last thought I gave it for several years until I saw it in a rental store and decided to give it a shot. The cover seemed to indicate it had a science fiction element to it. What an understatement that turned out to be!
Pitch Black is first and foremost an extremely well written and well directed science fiction thriller. Yes, there is a lot of scary monsters and situations to keep you on edge for most of the film, but the context in which it takes place gives everything a reason that makes good sense, rather than just an excuse to make you jump. Still, I would not recommend it for kids or the faint of heart. << spoiler warning >> Set in the future, it begins with a space craft crashing on the surface of a desert planet and killing most of the people on board, including the captain. If you really want to see how a crash landing should be done on film, you'll be blown away by this one (an impossible clip to find on the web, but this link will show it to you with commercial breaks). Right from the start, we are provided with at least two reasons to be nervous. First, there's an underground monster that causes some trouble and second, one of the few survivors is a dangerous convict who escapes. The convict is Richard B. Riddick, played very nicely by Vin Diesel who seems made for the part. In fact, this is the film that allowed Vin Diesel's career to take off.
There is a huge population of voracious creatures that live underground because they cannot stand the light. I suppose it represents some type of underground ecosystem because there are several types of alien creatures. The ones that give them the most trouble are the flying types, including bat-like swarms and very large bird-like creatures. When the darkness hits, they all come out like a swarm of locusts looking to eat everything in sight. The CGI is a bit disappointing with regard to the creatures, especially when various survivors get eaten by them, but it is still effective.
All these people must learn to work together to stay alive and I think how they do that is the most redeeming aspect of the script. They end up having to rely heavily on Riddick for two reasons. The first is that he is the most survival savvy of the bunch. The second is that his eyes have undergone a special operation that allow him to see in the dark, a remnant from his days in solitary confinement.
The Chronicles of Riddick. The sequel is also a very good science fiction adventure film in its own right and was directed by the same guy, but it has very little connection to the first film except that it involves Riddick and a few of the other prior cast members. I'll mention what I thought were the most enjoyable aspects of the sequel. First, some of the best scenes in the film are the ones in the beginning involving Riddick's recapture and subsequent time spent in the jail from hell. It really establishes him as the true bad-ass of them all.
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