I could actually see everything that happened. Bullshit title.
A transport shuttle carrying more than 40 passengers, main one being a ruthless, sadistic criminal named Riddick (Vin Diesel), finds itself in the middle of a meteor storm, and nowhere left to go but down. They crash-land on a nearby planet that seems deserted with the only things left rummaging, or if they are living, they are deadly creatures that come out in the night. But that’s all fine and cool because the planet they are on has 3 suns which means that there is no darkness, so therefore, no need to worry about their lives being in danger, right? Well, think again, bloody chaps! What just so happens on this fateful day is a lunar eclipse where the planet goes black and leaves the crew left to fend for themselves, with any supply of weapons or light they have, just so that they can repair their ship and get the hell off of the god-forsaken planet. However, the only that can really help them out, is the same said ruthless, sadistic criminal I mentioned before, and he’s more than likely to help, just as long as he’s calling the shots and nobody else. Obviously this doesn’t bode so well with the rest of the crew, considering he’s a criminal and all but they have bigger fish to fry, so escaping from this unknown planet it is!
I never quite understood what the whole “attraction” behind the Riddick franchise was, but two sequels later, what does it matter what I think? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously “nothing”, however, I still wonder how a low-rent, B-movie without any real stars or main attraction going on behind it, made such a killing at the box-office that it was able to spawn two more movies over the course of 13 years. Hell, we still have yet to see the Independence Day sequel we all want and deserve, but we’ve gotten 2 Riddick movies instead? Hmm. Seems strange, and maybe it’s something I’ll never be able to wrap my head around. I don’t know.
What I do know is that despite me being a tad bit interested in what this flick had to offer, I had to say that I got off on the wrong foot with it, as I feel like many others probably did back on their initial-viewing. The movie opens with a chaotic frenzy of shaky-cam, people yelling out total gibberish (aka, “spaceship jargon”), and a bunch of loud noises that consist of “boom”, “bang”, “crackle”, “pop”, and many others of that nature. It definitely got me feeling like I was right there with this crew in this spaceship as it went down, while also having me on the verge of throwing up as well. I know I sound like a bit of a wimp and all, but seriously: The opening-sequence to this flick is just total overkill of the shaky-cam method and had me expecting the worst of what was next to come.
Thankfully, things slowed down and cooled-out after that, but lord did I have a crackling head-ache!
Anywho, the flick does work in a way because of David Twohy’s vision that surprisingly captures a sharp, refreshing glimpse at what it would look like if you too were on the same planet with all of these buffoons. The alien air is is bleached-out, as if the cinematographer sprayed Sunny D all over the camera to give it a cooling, relaxing feel. But while doing this, he also creates a sense of the unknowing, where we too are placed on a world we know nothing about and is most likely filled with all sorts of cool things, creatures, and materials. This aspect of the movie actually had me pumped-up and ready for action, especially when things began to get all dark and tense and for a long while, it was still working.
Twohy knows how to place us in the dark (literally and figuratively) effectively, as he allows us to guess who’s going to get bumped-off next, why, what these creatures are, and just how the hell they’re going to all get out of this planet alive, if at all. It’s very tense at times and it creates an atmosphere where anything that could go wrong, probably will happen, and won’t be “Hollywood-ized” either. This is a B-movie after all, which means that there’s going to be plenty of gruesome deaths, blood squirting out wherever humanly possibly, monsters ripping people to shreds, a slew of curse words that you aren’t supposed to say out in public (unless you’re legally permitted to), and even more corny lines than you could possibly shake a yard stick at, however, there is some bit of fun behind it as well. As stupid as it could be, it did get tense at times and honestly made me wondered who was going to make it out of this hell-hole, even if it was easy to predict one person surviving at the end. Not going to throw away who it is, but if you don’t get it by now, just stop reading. Please.
Where this flick, as well as many other B-flicks of this nature and of this genre fail, is in the character-development process where we are given the standard bits and pieces for things that are supposed to be living, breathing human-beings who are capable of having emotions and feelings; yet, has a script that shows completely otherwise. With this cast of motley characters, we get all of the same conventions we’ve seen before: The head-Muslim who constantly believes that a higher-power is to be blamed for all of this bad stuff happening; the geologist who knows everything about this planet, even if they can’t tell what planet it is that they are on; the morphine-addicted cop who’s all about getting the baddie, at any, and I do repeat, AT ANY cost; the teenage kid who holds an infatuation for the said baddie, but also has a bunch of secrets on his own; and the inspired, yet too-big-for-her-britches pilot who wants to show dominance and force, but can’t help but have a vagina and be criticized and treated harshly for the fact. In case you couldn’t tell, you got every character here that we’ve ever seen before in a movie where a group of random people get thrown together, have to deal with a situation in any way they can, where ego’s and different ideas come clashing together like pans on New Years, and this time, it proves nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before.
With the exception of maybe two characters in this flick, everybody’s pretty cut-and-dry. Either they are sympathetic human-beings that know what is right and feature no gray area, or they are totally and utterly despicable, as if “being humane” was nowhere to be found in their blood-stream. That’s okay and all, but with a talented cast such as this, it does feel like a bit of a bummer to see them stoop to this type of material, even if they do try their hardest.
But like I said, there are two exceptions here in this movie and they are non-other than Radha Mitchell as head-pilot Fry, and Vin Diesel as Riddick, the role that seemingly put him on the map of super-stardom and rightfully so. Not only is Diesel good when it comes to showing that the guy can kick just about anything/anybody’s ass, but also allows us to see a bit of a humane-side to this dude as well that isn’t used in a manipulative manner. We actually see Riddick as a sort of human-being, one that you can’t always trust, but know to trust enough that he will get you out of whatever sticky situation he can or even cares for to begin with. That’s not to say Mitchell is chopped-liver neither, because the gal does her work here and does it well. Her small-ish, frail body works well for her character that seems like she has all the balls, mentally, to carry this crew to safety and get them off the planet, but doesn’t have the physical balls to nut up and shut up when push comes to shove. She’s good with this character and gives her all that she’s got, even if Diesel is the one who steals the show here. Then again, I bet you knew that already.
Consensus: A B-movie in the sense that it’s stupid, cheesy, and thinly-written, but Pitch Black also has a slight bit of fun with itself, especially in the way Diesel commands the screen with every ounce of talent that he’s got, showing us just what was next to come for this uprising star.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!