Any movie that starts with a spaceship slowly making its way among the vastness of the universe has got my vote. Pitch Black was one of the biggest science fiction hits of the year 2000 and opens with a spaceship slowly making its way among the vastness of the universe. However, what follows is not so pretty but at least it sets the mood for the rest of the movie. Vin Diesel, using his gravelly voice, starts narrating and telling us why he’s in chains and on his way to a penal colony. This was his breakthrough role and the reason why he was in the Fast and Furious movie just a year later.
I suspect he is also the reason why Pitch Black was so popular back then. Riddick was one hell of a character and an antidote to all those rom-com stars. He’s smart, brooding, snarky, and full of bad-boy charm. And Vin Diesel is a fucking unit here. Showing off huge muscles and a gravelly voice, he’s a bald guy with a perfect hairline. A definition of a perfect storm. The story is a standard one, you’ve got your group of diverse characters trying to survive after crashlanding on a strange planet. And, of course, the planet has enough oxygen for them to breathe.
One of the first things you’re going to notice is the quality of special effects. Granted, it has a certain B movie charm but it varies wildly. And I really didn’t like all those lens flares. However, I encourage you to stick with this one because things improve dramatically in the second half of the movie. Pitch Black is a perfectly paced action science-fiction movie with good character development and cool creature design. This is basically a survival story with a couple of additional elements. I won’t go into details in case you haven’t seen the movie.
Transport vessel Hunter-Gratzner just took a lot of damage from incoming micrometeoroids. Two crew members are quickly awakened from their cryo-sleep but it’s already too late. The ship is hurtling towards the sandy landscapes of an unknown planet. After the crash, only a handful of passengers emerge alive. One of them is a very dangerous criminal Riddick and the other is a tough sheriff escorting him to a maximum security penal colony. However, our survivors will soon learn that there’s a lot more to this strange planet than they initially thought.
I have to admit that I never liked Pitch Black. It felt commercial to me at the time and I really didn’t like Vin Diesel after he became a huge star. I was one of those pretentious science fiction fans who liked a bit smarter, atmospheric and subversive movies. However, there comes a point in your life when you’ve seen all the great movies and it’s time to dig deeper and wider. In this case wider and just a little bit deeper. A definition of digging deeper is a German minimalist masterpiece Final Voyage.
Another thing I didn’t like about this movie is the editing and all the color effects. Clearly influenced by nineties French action movies like Doberman, it messes with the atmosphere and storytelling. The cinematography is good though along with the acting. There will be a couple of iffy decisions our characters will make but nothing on a scale of Alien: Covenant. At least the dialogue is good. And the movie features a classic hero’s journey with the addition of familiar supporting characters.
Pitch Black is above all a very cool and entertaining movie. It’s got both a cool hero and antihero, cool weapons, and cool scenery. Plus loads of action and nasty, indiscriminate kills. It has a certain level of grittiness to it and I’m not just talking about the main character. The sets, plot twists, and character arcs are at times brutal and ruthless. And so was the production deep in the Australian outback. What can I say, I’m a sucker for movies set on distant planets. Just check out the Rabbit Reviews science fiction movie recommendations and you’ll see what I mean.
As you probably know, it spawned two sequels: The Chronicles of Riddick and Riddick. Both of these movies offer a different experience and are definitely worth watching. After watching Pitch Black last night, I felt compelled to check them out. It would appear that director David Twohy struck gold with this franchise. And you can say the same about his second movie, 1996 The Arrival starring Charlie Sheen. I recommend you check out Below, a claustrophobic and suspenseful horror he also directed.
You should know that there’s a fourth Riddick movie in the works. Simply titled Furya it follows Riddick as he reaches his home planet. If you’re looking for similar movies I first recommend you take a look at 30 Days of Night starring Josh Hartnett. Sadly, it’s set on Earth same as The Silence from 2019. It’s a bit moodier and weaker but it features a lot of the same elements as Pitch Black. Plus, the special effects were really cool. And I don’t know why but I feel compelled to mention Ghosts of Mars, an underrated Martian horror adventure.
Director: David Twohy
Writers: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, David Twohy
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Vin Diesel, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith
Fun Facts: The spaceship interiors are still located in the mining town of Coober Pedy, in South Australia. You can visit them free of charge.