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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.89%
Worth A Look35.8%
Average: 28.98%
Pretty Bad: 10.8%
Total Crap: 4.55%

12 reviews, 104 user ratings

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Pitch Black
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Hardly commendable, there are some brief pings of entertainment."
3 stars

In film school, a major block should be spent teaching bigger and more is not better. Or maybe that’s the problem: directors such as of Pitch Black’s, David Twohy skipped out on film school to do it all on their own. There’s nothing wrong from doing it yourself, but as conscious filmmakers, they should use their trained eye to avoid instances which cause the result of something like this. However, as painstakingly textbook as much of this comes off to be, there is still a sense of minimal enjoyment or thrill that Pitch Black emanates.

Pitch Black’s plot is not an uncommon one: a spaceship meandering through multiple verses is struck by some sort of violent force of nature and causes the ship to go down on a planet far away from home. In this case, the purpose of the ship is never disclosed beyond that it was transporting a group of people and a murderous convict. (“That’ll teach me not to fly coach!”) They crash land on what appears to be a planet similar to Saturn, and most all of the passengers are killed, including the captain. Next in command is Fry (Radha Mitchell), a tough girl looking like a refugee from Alien. She narrowly manages to salvage the foremost part of the ship, and including the “bad guy,” a total of 13 have survived. Two or three are quickly eliminated by mistake and/or a mysterious occurrence, and the bad guy, Riddick (Vin Diesel) is missing.

The remaining are Johns (Cole Houser), a bounty hunter posing as a cop; Imam (Keith David) a Muslim priest; Paris (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) an antiques dealer; Shazza (Claudia Black), a futuristic looking Xena Princess Warrior; Jack (R. Griffith), a young impressionable kid, along with two other Muslim followers who aren’t developed enough during the movie to mention names.

Upon the mysterious death of one, Riddick is re-captured and is given the option to join the group in looking for water and possible replacement parts for the ship; after all, they can’t help but see the planet was once inhabited by others. Riddick’s reward for doing so would be his freedom when they got off and out. As they soon find out, the planet has three suns making the midnight sun in the Norwegian Insomnia seem like a pleasure. But as luck would have it for them, they are quickly approaching a rare eclipse in which all three suns will be blocked, hence the title of a planet of pitch black. As if that weren’t enough, it turns out that the planet is still inhabited, but by creatures who are like a combination of bats and pterodactyls, and eat with the jealous voracity of hungry pigeons. Payday for the creatures comes quickly when their vulnerability to light is taken out of the equation due to the permanent dark, and their hunger for flesh and blood creates a process of elimination.

Pitch Black is really nothing more than a number of characters placed in a trying situation where all their strengths must unite to get them out alive. Of course the deviation here from something more pat like Cube is the intervention of monsters. The screenplay, by Jim and Ken Wheat and David Twohy, relies way too heavily on coincidence. It’s one of those movies where it just so happens that this is connected to that, and that it just so happens that here is this, etc. I mean, listen to this: It just so happens that they crash land on a three sun planet that just so happens to be the home of creatures that just so happen to be vulnerable to light, so it just so happens that all three suns are eclipsed out, while it just so happened for them to crash land on the specific 22nd year when this was to occur, pushed to the point that it will occur within the next few hours, and that it just so happens that the criminal has inferred vision. The situations that they chose to explore the possibilities can be summed up to be nothing more than hogwash, and ends up ruining the chance of what could have happened.

The diversified cast of Pitch Black was one of its better assets, making sure to include strong women and minority characters, and actually having them dominate in the interim. The cast doesn’t specifically do anything special, but Mitchell, Diesel, David and Griffith are able to make their characters appealing enough to sit with for 107 minutes. Here, aside from Twohy’s unbalanced script is his unbalanced production. Twohy goes for every big gimmick in the book, from shaky cam to quick cut editing, warped images, bleached photography, big special effects, etc. He worked so much more ably with the 1997 quiet sci-fi piece The Arrival, which had very minimal effects, with them being in fact the weakest link for the film. But in Pitch Black, Twohy again makes it the weakest link, but not by choice. Do filmmakers actually think that the shaky camera effects really enhance or heighten the experience of being shook around? Well, here’s a hint: No! It just makes it difficult to watch and futile to follow. On the other hand, the orange and blue bleaching of the negative when the sun was around did give the movie a unique look and glow. Director of photography David Eggby (Mad Max) achieves a neat effect and isn’t a strain to the eyes. Ironically, the lights in the theater auditorium (the ones along the isle to help you see the seats, the other ones purposelessly glowing on the walls) prevent the theater from actually capturing a pitch black feeling. Even when the screen is all black, the lights are enough to be noticeable and don’t allow the full effect.

One of the better contributions of the screenplay –or more actually, lack of contributions, is the neglected and hokey explanations movies of this genre usually offer to rationalize the existence of such creatures. No one there knows what they are or why they are there, where they came from or how they were created other than the fact that they are susceptible to light. It eliminates a huge implausible chunk of superficiality and ambiguity. Never the less, there are still big plot conveniences, like how when Diesel throws away his goggles which prevent too much light getting in his eyes, and then later on how he suddenly has them in a completely different area. Or how when there was light and lots of it, there was no hint of a cloud for millions of miles, but yet only after hours of darkness there’s a huge rain storm that doesn’t let up, considering how the planet had no bodies of water to have it gathered from. You see, little things like this (along with the big ones like the “it just so happened…”) are what detracted from the suspense and creepiness of the movie. (Wouldn’t carrying around a glass bottle fueling a fire begin to burn your hands?) But yet throughout, you still couldn’t help but have a little fun along the way, and the action was able to sometimes cultivate a certain amount of suspense at our brain’s account.

Final Verdict: C+

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 03/20/00 07:41:00
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2016 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell i dont hate u scott ur right its derivative cool but derivative 4 stars
10/13/13 David H. didn't make sense to me 2 stars
2/01/13 jcar a very good scfi flick with good effects, acting, action, and diesdel kicking butt! 4 stars
1/29/12 hurdygurdy man Plot on thin ice, c'mon frosbitten and didn't cover gloveless hand?? Left me cold. 2 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 A rip off of Alien, but still well done. Cole Hauser gives a great performance, 5 stars
6/09/10 Harvey Scott Great introduction to the Riddick character. LIked it! 4 stars
8/30/09 CTT Nicely realized sci-fi 4 stars
2/17/09 Samuel NIce aliens(called biorapters) awesome movie 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner This one was kinda boring. 2 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Diesel's best movie so far 5 stars
10/13/07 Carlos Vin Diesals best movie hands down... 5 stars
8/11/07 TheRealNapster I loved this Film. It made it into my collection 5 stars
8/08/07 TigerSlap Erik Childress is so full of shit! This movie is great entertainment! 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega Fun action thriller, but they could do a bit better than expected. 3 stars
1/18/07 David Pollastrini great action, great gore 5 stars
6/08/06 William Goss Shameless sci-fi rehash that is loads more fun than it has any right to be. 4 stars
3/10/06 Dk A poor mans Alien it never really gets going 2 stars
3/05/06 chris f brilliant film way better that the trashy sequel 5 stars
1/02/06 cody a alien ripoff but a cool scfi action flick with cool characters, but ending stunk 3 stars
12/08/05 JM Synth Mr Diesel's only genuinely good film 4 stars
8/12/05 ES Better than its piece of garbage sequel 4 stars
5/27/05 Jake Great, sci-fi fun 5 stars
12/31/04 Max Without Vin this movie would of bombed! 5 stars
11/14/04 Rachel I love this movie. Great script (for the most part) intensely funny moments, good acting 5 stars
9/04/04 alisha vanmaanen wierd but i was still held captive to the end 3 stars
8/17/04 Herolder Yeah, it's an Alien rip-off, but a good one 5 stars
7/26/04 Vince Totally agree wth Star-Crosser : great cinematography + Vin Diesel. Excellent. 5 stars
6/10/04 Ali Hbous A fine piece of Sci-Fi 4 stars
3/01/04 Star-Crosser The cinematography and Deisel's suprising charisma make it worthwhile. 5 stars
12/09/03 John Bale Like an old Saturday Arvo Serial but the imaginative photography makes it watchable. 3 stars
11/12/03 Twenty-Two YUMMMmmmmmm........ Vin Diesel! 5 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess Extremely dull clone of Aliens. 1 stars
10/03/03 Timmy Best movie since "Aliens" 5 stars
7/08/03 Shawn Great Movie! Watch it a couple of times and it gets even better. 4 stars
5/28/03 Alana This film is awesome - Vin Diesel's best performance to date& excellent cinematography. 5 stars
5/27/03 mr. Pink An Alien rip-off, which isn't even a good one at that. Really dull! 1 stars
3/24/03 Sugarfoot I need no more proof, when I say that Scott Weinberg is a dumbass. 4 stars
12/31/02 Bob Hardcore Boring commercial crap. 1 stars
11/24/02 Sweetgrrl1972 It's super fun fantastic! Who goes to a movie like this to think anyway? 5 stars
9/23/02 Eloise i enjoyed the blood'n guts, the birdy monsters and Vin, yummeee 5 stars
7/05/02 KMG The little girl looked like Leaf Phoenix when he was in "Space Camp" 3 stars
6/11/02 Zefram Mann What would have been a throwaway flick is made great by the dynamic Diesel's character adds 5 stars
3/03/02 Butterbean Great Movie!!! I'm looking forward to the sequel! 5 stars
2/19/02 Katie Sheppard I loved it!!!! Vin Diesel is sooooooooooo sexy and he plays and awesome killer!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/14/02 Chris Bradford Im a big fan of Vin Diesel 5 stars
1/29/02 Gracy Lionheart Predictable, but fun to watch if you're in the right mood. Better than The Patriot any day. 4 stars
1/27/02 Andrew Carden Pretty Good For A Movie That Was In Theaters For Only 1 Month. 4 stars
12/11/01 Jim Reasonably suspenseful, cool cinematography, nasty aliens, and Radha Mitchell in a tank top 4 stars
10/31/01 Sumixam Not too bad, the creatures aren't overly exciting but a promising flick nevertheless 4 stars
10/04/01 Mark Conway Can i just say this is one of the crapest movies i have ever seen in my life. 1 stars
10/01/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good! but the ending was unexpected?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 stars
8/14/01 Kitty It's an original movie plus Vin Diesel is in it! 4 stars
8/03/01 KC Au Pretty forgettable flick. Not scary. 3 stars
7/31/01 Robert best sci fi movie ever 5 stars
7/08/01 officer 412/l nice looking sci-fi on a low budget 3 stars
6/21/01 Beth The movie kicks ass Vin Deisel is a major hottie in it 5 stars
6/19/01 jessica ohh Vin, baby 4 stars
6/15/01 M Hatfield Wow! Wot a bod! 5 stars
6/14/01 Elaine Lewis Fucking Awesome 5 stars
6/11/01 ReeRee757 Mmmm...... Vin Diesel. Ay papi. Oh yeah, loved the movie too. 5 stars
5/29/01 Desire' Vin , baby you are sooooo fine!!! 4 stars
4/23/01 TigerDream Cool effects and all but still a crappy story to go with it and very dull 2 stars
2/06/01 Trashstar I liked the colour scheme of the movie, liked the charecters, almost awesome,bad ending. 4 stars
1/07/01 Toni That movie kicked so much ass I loved it! Vin ,baby you are hott! 5 stars
12/08/00 jetcat punchy, tidy script with cool filming style 4 stars
11/20/00 Matthew Bartley Thoroughly enjoyable 4 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin Made Deisel a rising star. 4 stars
11/14/00 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Pointless, derivative, and DULL!! I can't believe people actually dug this. 1 stars
11/13/00 Neil Not a bad movie with good effects and very origional 4 stars
10/18/00 terry c compared to anaconda this one shines 4 stars
6/08/00 Jaime N. Christley Underrated sci-fi actioner; fast, well-made, and SHORT 4 stars
6/01/00 Keiros Shoulda spent an extra coulple of million to make Alien5 2 stars
5/21/00 mellemel BORING! Why did I waste my money! 1 stars
5/19/00 MR joel harwood VERY DRY 4 stars
5/10/00 The worst killer alien movie I think I have ever seen. 1 stars
4/18/00 Brien kidna sucked 3 stars
4/12/00 Dr. Rev. Krule, MD Decent movie, well worth seeing Diesel, good special effects 4 stars
3/24/00 malcolm had some nice shots. too coincidental. Diesel eats up the screen. 3 stars
3/22/00 Adam Fun, that's it. 4 stars
3/21/00 bonedaddy what was with the glow worms 4 stars
3/21/00 El Tigre Turn off you brain and enjoy the ride. Vin is awesome. 4 stars
3/11/00 brentley Very entertaining, but script & FX could have been better. 4 stars
3/10/00 Kyle Broflovski I liked this movie better than it liked me. 4 stars
3/07/00 yankee this movie was tiring. Special effects was all there was. No plot what so ever 2 stars
3/03/00 Michael Thompson Decent fun Sci-Fi Fare 4 stars
3/01/00 PhilmPhreak Any sci fi is better than no sci fi 3 stars
3/01/00 DarkNyt Not as good as I expected, but much better than what it could have been. 4 stars
2/29/00 Captain Highcrime I've seen better; but on the up side, it could have been ALOT worse (Supernova, anyone?) 3 stars
2/26/00 Alyssa What Alien 3 SHOULD have been. Vin Diesel is incredible. 5 stars
2/26/00 Drano Cool as Fuck!! Vin Diesel kicks ass! 4 stars
2/25/00 Crispin Fully disagree with illiterate Erik. This is a well made and paced movie. 5 stars
2/25/00 Cheaps Never, ever complain about Star Wars again ! 3 stars
2/24/00 notspork are you crazy??? vin diesel is a fucking SUPERHUMAN. every female should see this movie. 5 stars
2/24/00 Wyatt Earp Way better than I expected 4 stars
2/23/00 Overflow Bitch Not bad. Expected more. 3 stars
2/23/00 Zensmile A pretty good movie. I thought the creatures were a bit hokey...but great scifi graphics. 4 stars
2/23/00 Kman Either an underfunded A film, or a well done B movie. Well worth seeing if you liked Aliens 4 stars
2/22/00 Louis Pretty good if you're bored on a saturday afternoon. 4 stars
2/22/00 Obi Wan Fucking Phat!!! Vin Diesel ROCKED in this flick. Loved it . ..expected nothing got plenty 5 stars
2/21/00 Judy Alan KICK ASS ACTION AND PRETTY DAMN SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/21/00 majawat could have been much worse 4 stars
2/21/00 Jerck Mehoff awsome 5 stars
2/21/00 Jason Kallelis Nothing special. Aliens with a few new twists. See it matinee if you want a cheap thrill 3 stars
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  18-Feb-2000 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jun-2004



Directed by
  David N. Twohy

Written by
  David N. Twohy
  Jim Wheat
  Ken Wheat

  Vin Diesel
  Cole Hauser
  Radha Mitchell
  Ric Anderson
  David Keith

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