Pitch Black (2000): The Beginning of Riddick


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Pitch Black was the first film I ever “googled.” One afternoon while hunting for a new film to watch (new as in one I’d not seen before) I had a vague memory of something I’d seen on the telly. The setting was very dark and these giant “bat-like” things were flying around and killing people.

If I remember correctly, I typed the phrase ‘film with giant bats’ in the search engine and the first thing that showed up was Pitch Black with Vin Diesel. The VHS video had been out for quite a while by the time I finally got to see the entire film. When I found it, I got it from one of those Video Rental Vans that used to deliver weekly to your house.

When it came out on DVD it was one of the first films I bought. We watched it again last night. It seemed like a good idea, what with Riddick  part 3 coming out September this year. I found, to my delight, that I still enjoyed the hell out of the movie and I noticed something at the end of the film that I’d never noticed before. A nice surprise for me on top of my usual enjoyment of the story and the characters.

The Creators:

Directed by David Twohy  – who also co-wrote the screenplay with the creators of the story Jim and Ken Wheat – Pitch Black was a film that boasted a unique “anti-hero,” a cast that was equivalent to an actor’s smorgasbord of talent, and story that had a great blend of action, science fiction, and horror (or as IMDb categorises it, thriller, which I suppose it is to a huge degree).

The Story:

The spaceship Hunter-Gratzner is transporting goods and people as part of its cargo. A meteor storm causes severe damage to the ship and the pilot, Frye has to set the ship down on an uncharted planet. After jettisoning most of the cargo and passengers, the captain forces her to keep the last two sections of the ship as it crash lands. The tiny amount of survivors include a bounty hunter, two settlers, a holy man and his three sons, an antique collector/dealer, a 14 year-old-boy, Fry and the incredibly dangerous and homicidal Riddick.

The planet appears to be a barren waste. Full of desert and it features an empty mining community. With no sign of where the miners are or where they went, the group begin outfitting a smaller spaceship  to escape this alien planet with three suns. As the “law-abiding” members of the crash keep an eye out for Riddick and try to move supplies a solar eclipse cuts off all the light from all three suns.

The dark is full of death and danger and it will be the longest and last eclipse that many of them will face.

The planet before the eclipse.
The planet before the eclipse.

The Device:

The planet with three suns has an eclipse that allows carnivorous creatures access to the planet’s surface. Riddick has had his eyes “polished” by a doctor to enable him to see in the dark.

The Twist:

Riddick becomes the group’s reluctant saviour along with the pilot Frye.

The Characters:

Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David
Lewis Fitz-Gerald
Claudia Black
Rhiana Griffith
John Moore
Simon Burke
Les Chantery
Sam Sari
Firass Dirani
Ric Anderson
Vic Wilson

*Cast list courtesy of IMDb*

It has to be said that every actor in this film performs brilliantly. Whether this is down to the cachet of talent that had been cast or whether it’s down to the writing of the characters, they all shine in this film. The dialogue as written by Twohy and co is snappy, funny, and ironic. Riddick has the best lines obviously, but Frye also has her fair share of pithy remarks as well.

Out of all the characters, Riddick, Fry and Johns have the best character arcs and their interactions are a treat to behold. But one of my favourite characters was Jack, who has such a case of hero-worship for Riddick that it’s truly funny and touching. But as I said, all the actors knocked it out of the park in this intimate small cast film.

The Verdict:

For it’s time this was a kick-ass movie that entertained and kept you on the edge of your seat. The CGI on the creatures was brilliant and the whole thing was impressive in its presentation and its originality. It made  household names of Vin Diesel and Radha Mitchell and it was only Twohy’s third time at bat as a director.

A great entertaining Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror Action film that does not disappoint and one that can be watched again and again and again. I’d give it a solid 5 out of 5 stars just for having a powerful female character in Fry the pilot and for the decision to use Radha Mitchell.

Neat Fact:

Pitch Black opens with Riddick talking about cyro-stasis. Avatar opens with Jake Sully talking about cyro-stasis.

Riddick invading Frye's personal space.
Riddick invading Frye’s personal space.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

24 thoughts on “Pitch Black (2000): The Beginning of Riddick”

  1. Love this movie but it’s not Vin Diesel’s only good one. He’s great in Find Me Guilty (2006), his own film Strays (1997) and he voices The Iron Giant (1999) perfectly. Also in his short film Multi Facial (1995) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBeuyjlbes8

    Diesel gets a lot of respect from me for writing and directing his own first feature film – the guy has genuine talent. Nobody was offering him roles so he made his own. Takes a lot of skill and hard work to get something off the ground like that and it’s actually one of his best films. Let’s not sell Diesel short, he has more going for him than a lot of guys in Hollywood when he gets the right role and has actually worked hard to get where he is.

    He has also got to have one of the best most distinct voices in Hollywood. Speaking of, he does the voice for Riddick in the games Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena which are both pretty great video games too. He even helped get the games made with his own video game production company Tigon Studios.

    This guy is a hero. 😛
    (can you tell I love Vin Diesel yet)

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    1. Believe it or not, I am a huge fan of Diesel. I fell in love with the man’s enthusiasm for the film industry after watching a couple of featurettes where he displayed an immense passion and knowledge of films and technique, et al. I just think he’s allowed himself to be trapped the in the F&F verse! LOL

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      1. You could be right, it seems these big crowd pleasing movies like the F&F series can be a trap for actors.

        People flock to see them then hate on the actors for doing them. Then when the actor does a really good movie like Diesel’s Find Me Guilty, next to nobody goes to see it, it only made around a million bucks!

        It’s a lot like the case of Adam Sandler – people revolt against his big dumb comedies that make lots of money but then ignore his smaller movies like Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love where he gives really great performances.

        These actors really can’t win and it’s really not their fault – they are just giving the people, apparently, what they want.

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      2. And so it has been since Hollywood has had “stars.” Eastwood departed from his norm in the splendid gothic film The Beguiled and audiences stayed away in droves. 😀

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    1. She is in this household! LOL For a while there she became very well-known, she was already fairly well known in the UK after her stint in the afternoon soap Neighbours. 🙂

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  2. I need to revisit this movie. I also need to develop a set format for how I write and present my reviews as appears that you have done, Mike. Sometimes it takes me so long to figure out how I’m going to say something that I forget what I was going to say in the first place.I need structure. I need discipline. I need Mr. Miyagi. Wax on wax off wax on wax off…

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  3. Great review of a great film, is this a new style of review you’ve adopted?

    I’ve still yet to see Chronicles (one day!) and I was completely unaware of the third one being in the works.

    I’ve always like the first film though, it was pretty much the only decent sci-fi/horror at the time and it had, as you said, a great cast and a decent premise.

    Twas funny seeing Miss Mitchell pop up though, as I’ll always remember her from Neighbors for being ‘Stonefish’s’ Girlfriend =>

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