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.