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In the 26th century, the transport ship Hunter/Gratzner, its crew and passengers in cryo-stasis chambers, passes through a comet's tail while on autopilot; debris from the comet ruptures the hull and kills some of its crew, including the captain. The remaining crew is awakened and docking pilot Carolyn Fry crash lands on the nearby planet, Hades, despite nearly dumping the passenger compartment; although many survive, the ship is a total loss. The survivors find the planet to be near desert, its orbit around three suns keeping the surface in perpetual daylight. The survivors learn that one of the passengers is a dangerous criminal, Richard B. Riddick, who escaped in the crash. Riddick is chased by a bounty hunter, William J. Johns, before he gets away. Meanwhile, one of the other survivors is killed while investigating a nearby cave. Johns returns with Riddick, who is accused of the survivor's murder and kept under close guard.
A group of the survivors travel to a nearby abandoned geological research settlement to find a supply of water and a spaceship they can use to escape the planet, though lacking power cells needed to start it up. They come to learn that the planet has a native species of deadly bat-like creatures that preyed on the residents of the settlement but only hunt in darkness, staying in the planet's cave systems otherwise. The survivors, discovering a astronomical model of Hades' orbit, realize that the suns will soon become eclipsed from Hades from another planet in the system, plunging the surface into darkness for an unspecified length of time. They quickly race back to the crashed ship to collect the power cells, other supplies and the other survivors before this occurs.
As they begin the journey back from the crash to the settlement the eclipse starts and the creatures begin to emerge from the underground caves and attack the survivors. Riddick reveals that he has had illegal surgery performed on his eyes to give him perfect night vision and the group finds it necessary to trust him to lead them to safety. After Riddick realizes that Jack, a young runaway disguised as a boy, is female and on her menstrual cycle, Riddick tells the others that her blood is attracting the creatures. When Johns suggests leaving Jack behind to lure the creatures away, Riddick instead wounds Johns and leaves him as the bait. Soon the group is whittled down to Riddick, Fry, Jack and the Muslim Imam; Riddick has the other three wait in a nearby cave with bioluminescent worms that will keep the creatures at bay while he proceeds with the heavy power cells. Concerned, Fry follows Riddick and finds him ready to take the escape craft by himself but manages to convince him to help rescue Jack and Imam.
Returning to the cave, Riddick and the others proceed to the ship; Riddick is taken by the creatures, but is saved by Fry's sacrifice. As they prepare to take off, Riddick waits for the last possible minute to kill as many of the creatures as possible in the ship's engine blast. As they are leaving the planet, Jack asks what they should say if they run into bounty hunters or other law enforcers asking where to find Riddick. Riddick responds:
Pitch Black is a suspense story, first of all; a horror movie based on achluophobia (fear of the dark) secondly; and a science fiction movie third. It places a group of stellar traveling humans on a brightly lit planet with three suns in a crash/survival mode. Every 22 years the suns align with the planet and cause an eclipse plunging the planet into total darkness. It is then that the bat-creatures of the planet come out: hungry, and ticked-off.
Enter Vin Diesel as Riddick, who is written into the script without any explanation of how he became a convict (a story that is told in the Prequel/Sequel: “The Chronicles of Riddick.”) Riddick has the unique ability to see in the dark due to his ‘highly polished’ eyeballs. OK….it strains the imagination, but that’s Holly-Weird for you. This movie breaks all kinds of scientific laws, and for that reason alone shouldn’t be lumped willy-nilly into the science-fiction genre by itself. Somehow we know that Riddick’s ‘good side’ will emerge and save this group of people who are stranded. The survivors of the crash find a short-range spaceship left behind from the previous miners who have been devoured by the carnivorous bats.
Ignoring all the scientific improbabilities of the movie, the script still carries tremendous tension and suspense without the groans of disbelief. This was the movie that launched Diesel as a household name. He is by far the most interesting character, but without explanation of ‘who he really is’, the viewer doesn’t really know which side of Riddick will eventually emerge. (well, we do…but we ignore the obvious conclusion of the movie and get sucked into the story-telling anyway.)
“Pitch Black” is an entertainment movie and does that exceedingly well. Kudos for not going down the severe‘gore’ path (like “Starship Troopers” did), or throwing in gratuitous sex to draw late-teens. Wherever there is a shadow on the planet, a potential Predator lurks, and the viewer never knows what is around the corner. The element of surprise and folks’ natural fear of the dark build the terror in each viewer’s mind, making the experience of the movie quite personal depending upon the viewer’s own fears.
If you haven’t seen this movie, buy it, rent it, whatever. It’s worth the price of admission. Get the wide-screen version only because 1/3rd of the movie or more is hopelessly clipped out in regular-screen format.
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Jeff Feezle of Macafeez
This is one of those movies that wasn't as successful in theatres as it was in DVD. I watched it for the fist time on cable and at that time I wasn't familiar at all with Vin Diesel. He's not my favorite actor, and the movie had a few cliche'ed scenes with him, but his portrayal of Riddick was good overall, and the movie has an interesting concept, being stranded in a seemingly desolate planet in the eve of a major eclipse, and having to deal with creatures that unfortunately go out to feed when it is dark, and light actually harms them.
We also have a prisoner with the crew, who fortunately has an advantage over everyone with his surgically-implanted night-vision, something necessary for his survival, not only in the dark prison where he used to be, but on the planet he is now, with the impending eclipse.
The deadly creatures are also armed with night vision, they are airborne, have razor-sharp teeth, work together (and sometimes against themselves) in flocks, and have a acute sense of smell, especially for blood. The stranded crew have to figure out a way to cross the dessert and carry some heavy cells that could power up an abandoned ship they found in what apparently was a scientific research base. The problem is to keep the hungry nightly creatures away from them.
Tension grows between the survivors as light sources are few and don't last for long, and there's the question of Riddick's ultimate intentions, is he capable of leaving everyone else stranded to ensure his survival, is anyone willing to put their lives in a criminal's hand?
At first glance, Pitch Black plays like a B-side version of Alien. A group of people crash land on an unknown planet, they find some barron remains of life, then as the darkness sets in, something is stalking them one by one. Even the creatures look like the 'alien' from Alien. Just smaller. This is also the movie we get introduced to Riddick. A character that seems out of place for such a action/horror sci-fi movie. Even in the second Riddick film they go a whole different direction. Needless to say, Vin Diesal created an iconic character that fans want more of. Let's hope the next chapter in Riddick's chronicles gets made sooner than later. Universal's blu of Pitch Black looks good. Not as crisp as one would hope, but there is some grain in a few of the darker night scenes. the rest of the film plays well. AQ seems a bit muffled and not as loud as one would expect from a DTS-MA code. All in all this is a good movie with a good transfer for our beloved
Vin Diesel stars as Riddick, a convict who is one of the last of a race that was destroyed shortly after his birth. In this movie, Riddick has been captured and is being returned to prison, he is traveling along with a group of settlers. Along the way the craft they are traveling in wanders off course and is hit by a micro-meteor shower. They crash on an uninhabited planet and thus begins the adventure where they fight to survive and escape from the dangers of "Pitch Black".
Also starring in this film are: Cole Hauser, and Radha Mitchell.
This is a must see for an Vin Diesel fans and for anyone who loves a good science fiction space adventure.